Oregon's carbon tax bills contain lots of twists
By Lee van der Voo
Sen. Mark Hass backs the idea of a carbon tax for both its environmental and revenue virtues.
Oregon utilities and fuel suppliers could be paying a carbon tax on fossil fuels if one of two bills passes the Oregon Legislature by June.
The likelihood of either clearing that hurdle, however, is low. Instead, the bills have spurred a lively conversation about the potential for carbon tax in the state, paving the way for future proposals, and perhaps a future tax.
"My interest this session was to advance a conversation," said Rep. Jules Bailey, a Portland Democrat who introduced one of the two carbon tax bills in the Oregon House.
Bailey said he also wanted to get people talking about the relationship between regulation and market mechanics.
His proposal, House Bill 2792, would institute a carbon tax while repealing the state's renewable portfolio standard - the rule that requires utilities to generate 25 percent of power from renewable resources by 2025.
The proposed bill would also eliminate energy siting assessments paid to the Department of Energy and modify Oregon's gas tax downward by steering revenues to ODOE and the State Highway Fund, among others.
It illustrates how, if the state discouraged greenhouse gas emissions, markets for renewable energy generation could kick forward absent incentives and regulation.
It targets only fuel suppliers and utilities, who would be taxed on the amount of carbon-based fuel sold to consumers or used to produce electricity for consumers.
HB 2874, proposed by Democrat Rep. Phil Barnhart, of Central Linn and Lane counties, similarly targets fuel suppliers and utilities that sell or combust fossil fuel for consumer use, though the bill does not repeal or modify other programs. Both allow the rate of tax to be determined.
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