Nov 20, 2018

Tom McCall doesn't have his name on a Portland park, and at least two Oregon schools, because he was soft on the environment. The former governor, a Republican, is revered because he bucked special interests and signed legislation that made Oregon what it is today. He protected our beaches, conserved our farmland and cleaned up our cherished Willamette River for all to enjoy -- resident and visitor alike.

If McCall were with us today, I'm confident he would support the Clean Energy Jobs bill. This bill continues the tradition of environmental and social stewardship McCall started. In the spirit of his legacy, we Oregonians have the opportunity -- even duty -- to press our lawmakers to stand up for the health of the state and its people the way McCall did.

A Real threat to Oregon

Climate change is a real threat to Oregon. Ask our oyster farmers, salmon fishermen, and those growing food in the Willamette Valley or Eastern Oregon. Ask the business owners who depend on tourists who come to ski in the winter and hike in clear Cascades air in summer. Ask the farmers who depend on a clean air, access to water and temperate weather to produce their harvests. More carbon means more heat. More heat means more drought, fires, and smoke, followed by flooding, erosion and landslides when fall rains begin. On the coast, it means ocean acidification, rising seas, and stronger storms. And everywhere in Oregon, it means a threat to our economy, communities and natural resource heritage.

The Clean Energy Jobs bill would reduce carbon emissions by bringing Oregon into a tested and established cap-and-invest system, which asks the biggest greenhouse gas emitters to pay modest fees to incentivize a change in their business practices. Proceeds collected will be invested in training for well-paying jobs, projects to bring more clean energy to Oregonians and businesses, and valuable transportation infrastructure. This bill is well-conceived, tested and has been proven to work in other jurisdictions around the world.

Legislation to create change

What can a lawmaker do that I cannot? They have the power to create broad, systemic change to permanently transition our economy away from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy. To do that lawmakers will need to rebuff special interests in favor of the common interest. In the spirit of Tom McCall, I hope they do.

We can all gain hope when we notice iconic brands commit to the low- or no-carbon economy. Companies like Apple, Nike, Intel, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, eBay, Facebook, and WalMart have made public commitments to take responsibility for their carbon footprints. These companies have learned that reducing greenhouse gas emissions saves money. They have also learned that sticking to old, polluting ways of doing business alienates customers.

A policy that works

It may be comforting to some that we are not first: in fact, we are following the lead of California, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, all of which passed pioneering legislation years ago and their robust economies haven't suffered a bit. Nine states in the Northeast use a similar system to reduce pollution from their utilities. It's working so well that two other states are in the process of joining them. Washington state is also considering requiring large emitters to pay for their greenhouse gases.

Oregon's work to cap and price pollution will surely qualify as major leadership on both a national and global scale.

Lawmakers may have said that the short session wasn't the time and that 2018 wasn't the year. But they clearly stated that 2019's longer session is the time to pass the bill. Let's hold them to that promise, and in doing so continue McCall's legacy of environmental stewardship that spans across party lines to accomplish what's best for our state.

Guest blog post by Al Jubitz, a retired Oregon business leader who lives in Portland. This originally appeared in The Oregonian as a guest opinion piece.

Contact Your Legislator