We acknowledge that our representatives in Salem are confronting serious problems this legislative session. Among these, we argue, none is more serious than the threat posed to life in our fragile corner of the planet by global warming and its climate change consequences.

As a recent economic analysis noted, global warming is already costing the state billions of dollars. This means our interests are best served by addressing the root cause. If we fail to do so, the future is not bright either for life across the planet or for life in our corner. Fortunately, we can do our part: Oregon can pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill (SB 557) that:

Caps climate pollution stemming from the state’s largest polluters.
Stimulates local job creation in the clean renewable energy sector.
Assists dislocated workers as we transition to the clean economy.
Addresses the concerns of communities disadvantaged by the current situation or by measures designed to address it.

Across the nation, states that have adopted climate pollution caps similar to the SB 557 approach have exhibited continued economic growth. Clearly, cap-and-trade programs do not compromise economic growth; passing SB 557 would provide a win-win economic and environmental solution.

During early conversations about capping climate pollution in Oregon, Sen. Alan DeBoer indicated to a Southern Oregon Climate Action Now delegation that he was committed to clean energy and public transit, opposed to the local natural gas pipeline / LNG export project, and supported an increase in the gasoline tax to fund transportation. We await evidence that he is taking action to promote these positions.

However, we were disappointed to read Sen. DeBoer’s guest opinion in the Mail Tribune on March 26 in which he argued that claims of inadequate oversight in the administration of the Business Energy Tax Credit program should lead to caution regarding SB 557. The jury is still out on the BETC issue, but even if there is found to be a lack of oversight that led to fraud and millions of dollars of badly spent taxpayer money, the conclusion that SB 557 is therefore compromised is totally false. Essentially, the BETC is completely irrelevant to SB 557.

The Business Energy Tax Credit program, not to be confused with the Residential Energy Tax Credit that encourages domestic solar and other renewable energy installations, was administered by the Oregon State Department of Energy until its sunset in 2014. The BETC offered an Oregon tax credit against personal and business income taxes and served the laudable goals of encouraging businesses to invest in such efforts as energy conservation, recycling, sustainable construction, and renewable clean energy, or reducing their emissions of climate pollution.

If we discover mismanagement or weaknesses in a government program that is designed to achieve socially beneficial goals, the solution is not to eliminate the program; the solution is to remedy the weaknesses. By the same token, if it is perceived that weaknesses exist in the oversight structure proposed for SB 557, the solution is to strengthen that oversight, not reject the proposal.

We note that nowhere in Sen. DeBoer’s column does he suggest that there are flaws in the principles embodied in SB 557. From this we infer that Sen. DeBoer has no problem with the goals of reducing climate pollution while stimulating clean energy jobs (especially in rural areas such as Southern Oregon) and doing so while protecting disadvantaged or dislocated Oregonians. Presumably, he judges these to be laudable goals.

We therefore urge Sen. DeBoer, and all our regional representatives, to focus their attention more on the positive aspects of the Clean Energy Jobs Bill and less on what they judge to be potential problems. We suggest that denying climate science does not serve Southern Oregonians. Speaking for ourselves, and — we suspect — other climate conscious Oregonians, we welcome any suggestions our representatives have for strengthening the bill such that oversight avoids any of the problems suspected for the BETC program.

— Kathy Conway of Jacksonville is co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now. This opinion was also signed by Lorraine Cook, Sherrill Rinehart and Julian Bell, all of Ashland, and Deb Evans of the Greensprings.