Oregon businesses sue to stop new climate package

AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File

For several years, Democrats in Oregon attempted to implement some form of “cap and trade” program at the state level, intending to reduce carbon emissions. Even in a blue state like Oregon, however, they couldn’t muster the votes to pass it. So last year, Governor Kate Brown established an administrative panel to study the situation and come up with a plan that could be put in place. The resultant “Climate Action Plan” turned out to be an expensive mess, incorporating some of the worst ideas from the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and placing expensive limitations and requirements on nearly every aspect of business being done in the state. This week, a coalition of trade groups representing a dozen industries went to court to stop the plan, claiming that the state had overstepped the bounds of its authority. (Associated Press)

A coalition of businesses wants a court to block Oregon’s plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the state’s new Climate Action Plan administrative rules, passed in December, target a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels and natural gas by 2050.

In a petition for judicial review filed Friday, 12 industry trade groups say the rules “hold fuel suppliers directly accountable” for the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The groups in this coalition represent a large swath of all of the employers in Oregon, including farmers, ranchers, loggers, fuel suppliers, and even retail business groups. It’s a disparate collection, but they all share one thing in common. If they are forced to comply with these new rules, their costs will rise dramatically and many will likely need to start laying off workers.

The new plan would place an immediate cap on estimated carbon emissions by any business and the cap would continue to become more stringent over the coming decades. And we’re not just talking about gasoline. The cap applies to virtually all commonly used fuels, including diesel, propane, kerosene and natural gas. Anyone surpassing the cap would be forced to purchase “carbon credits” from the state to make up the difference. This is almost identical to the RIN credits that employers need to purchase to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard at the federal level. (A system that has turned into a black market for government permission slips.)

Any companies that fail to meet the cap or purchase the carbon credits would face significant fines from the state. In other words, the cost of doing business would be going up significantly for virtually everyone except the state government, which would be pulling in an entirely new source of revenue. Isn’t that curiously convenient?

If this court challenge doesn’t succeed, how long will it be before large numbers of employers conclude that Oregon is simply not a viable place to do business? Just as we’ve seen in California and New York in recent years, some of these companies will almost certainly take their operations (and all of the jobs they create) to a more business-friendly state like Texas. And if the newly unemployed workers are smart, they will follow them out the door.

So congratulations to Kate Brown and the Oregon state government. You’re saving the planet… one shuttered employer at a time.