There is probably not a single sentient being in all of Oregon who has not followed the drama of HB2020’s demise. Some bemoan its loss. Others celebrate its doom. It was a cumbersome chunk of legislation. Lengthy and obsessively detailed in some portions, excessively vague in others, its 100 page carcass—bloated to about 160 pages if you add the amendments, budget analyses, and other addenda — was weighty and complex. It neglected—in fact, protected—two significant sources of greenhouse gasses and pollution: Aviation fuel (read: airlines) and diesel locomotives. It added layers of bureaucracy as though it was building a hero-sandwich of regulations. Its pages detail how to distribute the largess from purchased carbon credits--mostly to committees who will then figure out what to do with the funds, and who might benefit most from the rewards.
But now that we have wept or celebrated our goodbyes and thrown roses or bull-thistles on the freshly mounded grave, it’s time to move forward on action to curb greenhouse emissions and move toward a cleaner, greener economy. We need to view the future with 2020 vision. For, despite its fatal flaws, this now-defunct legislation had many good ideas. They included cleaning up our single coal-fired power plant located in Boardman, as well as ensuring that natural gas-powered plants are also clean. The bill offered the following priorities for the “investment of monies from the Climate Investments Fund”—the moneys collected by the Trade part of Cap and trade: protect sources of domestic drinking water; reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to agriculture with a priority given to replacement, repowering, or retrofitting non-road equipment to reduce emissions. Invest in natural and working lands that provide carbon sequestration services, that serve to reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, wildfire prevention, efficiency projects, and soil health, to name a few.
If anyone should be leading the way and benefitting from carbon sequestration and clean energy it should be agricultural producers and rural communities. Managed well, our soils, forests, wetlands and deeply rooted bunchgrasses are exemplary carbon sinks. If we have 2020 vision, the next go-round of carbon legislation should reward those stewards of the land and agro-entrepreneurs who are sequestering carbon and lowering atmospheric carbon through careful management of working lands. That should be us.