Oregon governor says cap-and-trade bill is her top priority

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that passing legislation aimed at stemming global warming was her top priority when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month and she was “cautiously optimistic” something could pass despite Republicans saying there could be another walkout by the GOP to thwart the effort.

A draft bill to implement a so-called cap and trade program in Oregon was unveiled this week. Its authors say it will be tweaked during the 35-day session of the Legislature that begins Feb. 3. It reportedly maintains the commitment to reduce greenhouse gases 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below that level by 2050.

“We can do this, we have to do this, we must do this,” Brown said at The Associated Press legislative forum.

Last June Republicans in the state Senate staged a nine-day walkout, preventing a quorum in the chamber and stalling debate on a cap-and-trade bill. The GOP fled the state under threat of being arrested by the Oregon State Police to compel their return. They returned to the Oregon State Capitol only after Democrats announced the bill was dead because they lacked votes to independently pass the measure.

The Democrat Brown said Friday that her party, which controls the Legislature, had addressed the GOP’s two main concerns about last year’s legislation: that rural Oregonians would have to pay more for gas and worries about the impact on rural manufacturers.

’’What is really important is that we went out and listened,” she said.

Earlier this week Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., R-Grants Pass, said the measure being considered now is similar to the one that provoked the walkout.

Like its predecessor, the draft bill would force big greenhouse gas emitters to obtain credits for each ton of gas they emit, and create an overall cap for emissions allowed in the state. However rather than have uniform statewide regulation of automotive fuels, the new proposal splits the state into three geographic zones that would be phased in separately. That approach is designed to address concerns that cap and trade would hike gas prices statewide, disproportionately affecting rural communities where distances between homes and towns are great with residents having little option but to drive. Beginning in 2022, the Portland metro area would see its fuels regulated first.

Brown said she hoped the GOP would work with Democrats on the legislation.

“’I don’t think that waking out is a productive method,” she told reporters.

Brown said other top goals for the 2020 Legislature were spending up to $200 million to help reduce the impacts of devastating wildfires and improving the state’s earthquake preparedness.

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