Courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry
SALEM — Oregon’s forestry and environmental regulators would study “sequestering” carbon as a possible alternative to penalizing emissions under a bill before the House Agriculture Committee.
Lawmakers are currently debating a controversial and prominent “cap-and-trade” proposal under which companies that exceed a ceiling on carbon emissions could buy credits from those that fall below it.
Timber companies and several lawmakers are advocating for a less publicized carbon-related bill that would require the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Forestry to evaluate using “natural ecosystems” to absorb and store carbon while promoting economic development, as well as using tax incentives for companies to reduce carbon emissions.
Under House Bill 4109, the study would also examine “regional approaches” to reduce carbon emissions “other than adopting or participating in a greenhouse cap-and-trade system.”
Oregon’s annual wildfires emit more carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, fine particulates and volatile organic compounds than industrial sources or vehicles, said Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, the bill’s chief sponsor.
Supporters of HB 4109 argue it would encourage discussions about thinning over-stocked federal lands that are prone to catastrophic forest fires.
There’s also an opportunity to direct harvested timber toward novel products such as “cross-laminated timber,” or CLT, which is used for larger-scale buildings.
These objectives can be accomplished without sacrificing “viewsheds” or native fish — otherwise, projects would just wind up in court, said Ken Humberston, a member of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.
However, the bill encountered some mild criticism from the Nature Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit.
While the group supports carbon sequestration to fight climate change, the science isn’t yet conclusive as to the best return-on-investment for carbon sequestration, said Catherine Macdonald, its Oregon conservation director.
The study should be expanded to include Oregon State University and to examine the most effective methods to increase carbon sequestration, she said.
A work session on HB 4109 is scheduled for Feb. 15, which is the legislative deadline for the proposal to be approved by the House Agriculture Committee.