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Oregon Cap And Trade Bill Sees Big Changes

<p>Hundreds of people protest in favor of cap-and-trade legislation at the Oregon Capitol in Salem, Oregon, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. The bill&nbsp;aims to limit carbon emissions.</p>

Dirk VanderHart

Hundreds of people protest in favor of cap-and-trade legislation at the Oregon Capitol in Salem, Oregon, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. The bill aims to limit carbon emissions.

The “Intel exemption” is out, low-income drivers are in and a mess of freebies are on the table for some of Oregon’s largest polluters.

Those are a few key takeaways from a massive set of amendmentsstate lawmakers unveiled Monday, as they work to adopt a cap-and-trade system to curb Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Long awaited by interested parties on both sides of the debate over cap and trade, the 130-page amendment package would largely replace a first draft of House Bill 2020 released in January. Since that release, lawmakers have toured the state, sitting through hours of testimony from people who alternately pleaded with them to urgently address climate change and begged them to hold off on the hefty regulatory scheme.

“One of the things we heard in all of these public hearings was a lot of fear,” said state Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, a co-chair of the legislative committee working up the bill. “Fear about the consequences of climate change ... but we also heard fear from employees that are concerned about the possibility of losing their jobs.”

Under a cap-and-trade plan, the state's largest greenhouse gas emitters would be required to purchase credits, known as “allowances," for every ton of emissions they put out each year. A cap on overall emissions allowed in the state would decrease over time, eventually ensuring Oregon hits reduction goals by 2035 and 2050. Money from the program would be used to help the state further reduce emissions and deal with the effects of a changing climate.

The package unveiled Monday keeps many original provisions in place, adds more specificity to others, and completely reworks some key sections. Here are key changes:

The amendment package signals the priorities of Democratic leaders, who are confident they’ll be able to pass a cap-and-trade bill this session after years of debate. But the proposal is just one of dozens of amendments that have been floated in recent weeks — many of them from Republican lawmakers who oppose the idea.

Most of those proposals are not yet public. How many of them will be taken up for consideration as lawmakers meet in coming weeks to hash out a final product is uncertain.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Dirk VanderHart is JPR's Salem correspondent reporting from the Oregon State Capitol. His reporting is funded through a collaboration between public radio stations around the Northwest called the Northwest News Network.