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Golden highlights revisions to climate proposal at Medford town hall

State Sen. Jeff Golden said many critics of controversial legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon don’t understand the latest revisions, or the latest economic impacts behind it.

If Senate Bill 1530 passes, the cap-and-trade proposal that’s prompted demonstrations in Salem and proclamations of opposition from Jackson County’s Board of Commissioners among other counties would be years away from going into effect locally, might never impact eastern Oregon and wouldn’t dramatically change the costs of fuel and natural gas once in place, the Ashland Democrat told an audience of roughly 100 people Saturday afternoon at a town hall at the Medford library.

The proposal has drawn proclamations of opposition from Jackson County’s Board of Commissioners among a half-dozen other Oregon counties over concerns it the proposal would burden locals already struggling with rising costs of living, and prompted truckers in Salem to rally against the proposal for fear the legislation would affect their livelihoods.

Golden provided a flier on the proposal which reads, in part, that “Passage of SB 1530 will result in greater energy efficiency and is likely to help significantly offset any future cost increases.”

Golden said that he and other legislators supporting the legislation “don’t have a precise number” on how much the proposed permits to emit more than a metric ton of greenhouse gases would actually cost because the price is set at auction, but said numbers from California’s cap-and-trade program provide insights into how much the proposal would actually cost Oregonians.

“Based on the track record, the most objective information we have is that at the beginning, in places where the law applies in Oregon, the increase in gasoline prices will be in the order of 17 cents, and then in following years we can look for an increase of a penny or two per year,” Golden said. “That’s not certain, but it’s a fairly conservative estimate.”

A major change to the proposal compared to earlier drafts is that the proposed legislation would now be implemented in stages, Golden said.

The legislation would start with the Portland metropolitan area in 2022, the bulk of western Oregon — including Jackson County — in 2025, Coos and Curry counties and the cities of Klamath Falls and Bend in 2028.

No date has been set for eastern Oregon, but Golden said there are incentives for the eastern Oregon counties to participate because the proposed legislation would generate a “fair amount of money” for transportation and water improvements, among other programs.

“If your county isn’t part of what’s in the program, you don’t get much of that extra money,” Golden said. “That money goes to counties that are in part of the program.”

In the handout, Golden said “Oregonians should see no change to their electric bill until after 2030,” later adding that, “passage of SB 1530 will result in greater energy efficiency and is likely to help significantly offset any future cost increases.”

Golden also touted Senate Bill 1578, a companion bill that would work to address the economic impacts for low-income people.

“The other thing that 1578 does is exempt off-road diesel equipment for logging and forestry,” Golden said, touching on concerns he’s heard from members of logging industry.

Last year, the issue prompted a Republican walkout. When asked whether there will be another one, Golden said he doesn’t “have the faintest idea.”

He said “horse-trading” has always been part of the negotiation process, but never before has it been necessary “just to keep the other party in the building.”

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

State Sen. Jeff Golden talks with constituents during a town hall meeting at the Medford library Saturday afternoon.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune