In the face of perhaps the most extreme manifestation of climate change in Oregon's history, Democrats are dropping what has been a yearslong quest to pass cap-and-trade legislation.
Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie), a longtime champion of a cap on carbon emissions, says she is not preparing a new cap-and-trade bill for the 2021 session of the Oregon Legislature.
That decision comes after Republicans walked out of a special session earlier this year to block the legislation by denying the Democratic supermajority a quorum. And thousands of Oregonians have lost their homes in what is arguably the state's worse fire season since before 1900. (State Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton) was among the Republicans who denied Democrats a quorum, and saw his house consumed in flame.)
Power tells WW the decision is not an indication of walking away from a climate agenda. Instead, she says the most urgent emissions policies were created by executive orders issued by Gov. Kate Brown shortly after Republicans blocked carbon-cap legislation.
"There has been no request from the stakeholders" for a new bill, says Power. "The governor's executive order covered many of the subject areas."
Power says that much of the impact from the proposed cap-and-trade legislation would not have come for five to 10 years, because of the amount of time the bill allowed most industries to start to abide by the rules.
Yet it remains surprising that Democrats wouldn't use their overwhelming majorities to pass bills restricting carbon emissions at a moment when the effects of climate change are turning the air unbreathable.
Business groups have challenged Brown's executive order in court, but expressed surprise Democrats were not working on a compromise version of cap and trade.
"We are surprised that Democratic leaders are so comfortable ceding their legislative authority to the executive branch, especially given the clear constitutional issues associated with the governor's executive order," says Preston Mann, vice president of public affairs for Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce.
"Rather than work with Republican lawmakers and stakeholders to develop a program that accomplishes our shared goal of protecting the environment and growing our economy, lawmakers have apparently chosen to abandon cap-and-trade legislation altogether."