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Hundreds of people protest in February 2019 in favor of cap-and-trade legislation at the Oregon Capitol in Salem. For the third year running, Oregon leaders say they’ll take a crack at regulating the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

The Oregon Senate’s Interim Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has unveiled the Legislature’s latest version of climate change legislation.

Unfortunately, it’s not much different than the bill that tied the Senate in knots at the end of the 2019 session.

Last year’s attempt to cap carbon dioxide emissions and force many businesses to purchase “allowances” to cover existing emissions was the measure that spurred a nine-day walkout by Senate Republicans in late June. They returned two days before the session ended.

Democrats say the proposed measure contains a variety of concessions aimed at easing its impact on rural Oregon. At least one Republican who took part in some discussions of the new proposal, Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, disagrees. Some climate change activists, meanwhile, believe the bill has been so weakened it may do more harm than good.

Some of the changes come in the manufacturing and utility sectors, and are designed to create fewer impacts for rural Oregon. Those tweaks are largely centered on how automotive fuel suppliers and big industrial players are treated.

Rather than uniform statewide regulation of automotive fuels, the new proposal splits the state into three geographic zones that would be phased in separately. That approach, which Democrats have been telegraphing for months, is designed to address concerns that cap and trade would hike gas prices statewide, disproportionately affecting rural communities that have little option but to drive.

Among other things, the proposal, LC19, would phase in taxes on transportation fuel providers, with those in the Portland area being hit first, and those in rural Oregon being required to pay at some future date. Instead, Girod argues, fuel importers will end up paying the tax, and pass it on to distributors who would, in turn, pass it on to retailers across the state.

That’s one scenario that both rural lawmakers and some climate activists can agree on.

In the end, it appears that what’s being proposed in LC19 is largely what was defeated in 2019’s House Bill 2020. This new version, however, may face criticism not only from Republicans and rural Oregonians but from environmentalists, as well.

Lawmakers are, apparently, unable to find a shade of lipstick that makes the old cap-and-trade pig beautiful.

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