Clean Energy Jobs

Oregonians have not only seen ash from wildfires fall from the sky, but we’re feeling drought, the loss of snowpack, increases in allergies and that nagging question: Are summers going to be like this from now on?

Climate disruption means a change to our food and water systems, our health, and our prosperity if it goes unchecked.

We know there is a temptation to say, “Well, climate change is already here, isn’t it? What more can we do?” It is critical that everyone understand that we can absolutely change the arc of history by acting now to prevent the worst impacts in the future.

More than 800 Oregon businesses and 15,000 individuals agree. They have signed petitions calling for a transition from polluting energy to a clean energy economy. Our partners at Renew Oregon have garnered support from more than 50 organizations.

Why propose legislation in 2018? Because 12 years is long enough. Click here for a brief history.

We have solutions, and they boil down to two simple things:

  1. Stop doing the bad stuff.
  2. Accelerate doing the good stuff.

In 2018, our state leaders will be reviewing legislation, a decade in the making, called the Clean Energy Jobs bill. For climate change, this means four simple things for Oregon:

  1. Slowing down our use of  fossil fuels
  2. Putting a limit and  price on pollution
  3. Investing in and amping up clean energy
  4. Using nature to soak up climate pollution

Put the brakes on using fossil fuels

First the Clean Energy Jobs bill puts a limit, or cap, on pollution. In fact, it’s like putting speed limits on roads. Large polluters are fined if they go over the limit. Other policies like our renewable energy standard, Clean Fuels Standard and building codes are like traffic signals and road signs to accelerate and direct us toward a clean energy economy.

The cap applies to the largest emitters, who each release more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year. That’s about the equivalent of burning 133 train cars full of coal. So we’re not talking about your favorite restaurant, florist or corner store.

The cap declines gradually from now until 2050. The gradual reduction over time allows us to change systems that pollute. Most importantly, the cap means we stop making the problem worse.

Puts a limit on pollution

Oregonians are expected to do their part to reduce pollution. We pay to have our trash picked up, get our cars inspected when required, and obey burn bans to protect air quality. We should expect major companies to show the same level of responsibility for reducing pollution they put into our air.

The Clean Energy Jobs bill puts a price on climate pollution because when something is free — as climate pollution is right now — we use too much of it. When something has a price, we think about it differently, we factor it into our decision-making, and we make more efficient use of our energy.

Every year, to enforce the cap on pollution, the state will issue a number of permits to be purchased by the state’s largest polluters. The price is stable and adjusted over time to ensure the cap is not exceeded, giving emitters incentive to cut emissions and allowing flexibility to do so efficiently and at least cost. The number of permits will drop annually resulting in a reduction in greenhouse gases. And eight Oregon city and county governments have passed resolutions supporting a statewide cap and price on climate pollution.

Invest in clean energy and amp it up

The Clean Energy Jobs bill requires that we reinvest the fees paid by large emitters into reducing climate pollution. No dollars would be placed in a general fund for lawmakers to spend on unrelated purposes.

As currently written, the legislation would generate about $700 million a year, providing a substantial opportunity to fund projects that benefit communities throughout Oregon. That means the potential for more solar panels on homes, efficient affordable housing and job training. Proceeds would build up communities hit first and worst by climate change, such as low-income, rural and underrepresented communities.

The policy is particularly important for rural Oregon. In agriculture, grants to farmers for more energy and water-efficient irrigation technology will not only cut GHG emissions but save billions of gallons of water. Renewable energy projects are located in rural areas, such as Sherman County where wind turbines have already added to the tax base and helped build a new school. Or in Lake County where geothermal is heating schools and hospitals. Other projects could help with irrigation efficiency.

Since the first large wind farm was built, more than $9.8 billion has been invested in renewable energy in Oregon, with more than 5,300 jobs created directly and many thousands of additional jobs supported.

Oregon is home to more than 130 wind and solar companies and suppliers alone; poised to be a natural leader in the national clean energy job market.

Energy efficiency retrofits and construction can create good paying jobs while making energy bills more affordable and reducing pollution.

Give nature a boost

Finally, the Clean Energy Jobs bills creates opportunities for our land to do more to soak up carbon. There are opportunities in agriculture, forestry and livestock for more projects that capture additional greenhouse gas reductions. These projects could be funded through “offsets” or potentially through proceeds from the sale of permits to help small farmers or small woodland owners adopt practices that absorb climate pollution. Many of these projects create other benefits—such as protection for watersheds and salmon runs.

Clean Energy Jobs legislation shows we are ready

We’re on the cusp of passing ambitious climate legislation—the Clean Energy Jobs bill—right now. In 2017, the Clean Energy Jobs bill garnered 31 co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. The Governor has come out in favor and legislators are holding working groups from September through November to prepare a bill to pass in 2018.

In early 2017, the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute issued its third assessment showing Oregonians are concerned and ready to act. The study shows two-thirds (67%) of Oregonians believe that climate change is happening. A majority (57%) are worried about global warming.

At Oregon Environmental Council, we have worked diligently with our partners to research successful programs within and outside our state boundary. We have helped develop groundbreaking policies to protect our families and community. We were the first state in the union to pass a law to transition off coal and double renewable energy. Four other states have since passed similar legislation.

Oregon has been working for nearly a decade to establish caps on pollution. We have taken the torch, and our journey continues. Other areas of the country have shown success.

In 1990, a bipartisan federal law was passed to cap fossil fuel emissions causing Acid Rain and put a price on the pollutants. The program was an overwhelming success, reducing the pollution by millions of tons and costing 75 percent less than initial estimates. Polluters responded with the least-cost, most efficient methods for cleaning up and it worked.

In 2006, California adopted a cap-and-trade program that was extended in 2017. California has collected more than $5 billion from polluters and reinvested in communities. That includes $496 million for public transit, affordable housing and bike and pedestrian projects in low-income communities. Around $174 million were also designated to weatherize low-income homes and community solar project, and another $62 million was designated for rural dairy digester projects and research to turn farm waste into valuable, clean energy.

Since 2007, nine states in northeastern areas of the United States joined in partnership to cap greenhouse emissions from the utility industry. Known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the partnership has received $1.3 billion from the program. During the same time, the program has reduced more than $618 million in consumer energy bills while dropping the cost of electricity by 3.4 percent.

Now. Today, Oregon is staged for innovative leadership that’s proposing a program to improve our communities while fighting hotter days and climate disruption.

Public opinion makes a huge difference for our elected officials, but also for the businesses that have an impact on our environment. Sign up for our Grassroots Action & Information Network (G.A.I.N.) to stay in the loop! You can help protect Oregon from unchecked pollution. We’ll alert you to opportunities to be an advocate for Oregon.