Gov. Kate Brown

Gov. Kate Brown has directed state agencies to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed an executive order directing state agencies to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions through more stringent standards for fuels, new buildings and consumer appliances, imposing by fiat what she was denied by Republican legislators.

Opponents of the ill-fated Senate Bill 1530 — the cap-and-trade scheme foiled in the recent session when Republicans walked out — should not be surprised. The GOP played the only cards they had to block the measure, now Brown has played hers.

Republican legislators who walked out wanted the Democrat majority to put their plan on the ballot so Oregonians could give it an up or down vote. We agreed that a measure that would radically impact the economy while having an infinitesimal impact on the climate should be put to a vote.

SB 1530 would have imposed measures to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To meet those goals, large emitters of greenhouse gases would be forced to buy allowances, the supply of which would be reduced over time.

The idea was to incentivize industry to find replacements for fossil fuels, and to use the proceeds from the sale of allowances to fund weatherization programs, jobs training and green energy projects.

The proposed bill would have increased the cost of gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas and electricity. The millions of dollars spent on allowances would most certainly be passed along to consumers of the goods produced by regulated companies.

Democrats said the bill is too complicated for Oregonians to give a simple up or down vote.

Unlike the legislation, Brown’s order doesn’t take an economy-wide approach and instead gives direction to specific state agencies.

“Significant change doesn’t have to take the form of a single step,” said Brown at a press conference. “It can happen with several separate actions. And that’s what I’m doing today.”

The 14-page order directs the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to reduce emissions. The order directs the department to expand the state’s existing low-carbon fuel program, which is designed to gradually reduce emissions from gas, diesel and others.

The order seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks 20% by 2030 and 25% by 2035.

It’s impossible to say how much this will cost Oregonians. The order has none of the cut outs for various industries and regions that existed in SB 1530. We expect no shortage of lawsuits once the rules are written.

It is likely that the expansive order was meant to draw Republicans back for a vote.

At the time of their walkout, Brown accused Republicans of “being against the democratic process.” She has said legislators using the tactic were “stifling democracy.”

Where direct democracy is burdensome and messy, executive action is expedient and neat. It carries none of the risk of rejection by the voters.

Brown is all for democratic processes, just not the ones that give you a vote.

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