By Lucy Vinis and Kitty Piercy
Oregon is on the verge of the biggest climate protection legislation in state history: the Clean Energy Jobs bill (House Bill 2020). We’ve followed its evolution for years to make sure it is good for Eugene and our greater community. We believe it is and it should pass soon.
It was disheartening to read The Register-Guard’s March 31 editorial criticizing HB 2020. After years of supporting bold climate action, the new direction of the RG opinion page is disturbing. The editorial does not represent the facts on the ground or the values of this community.
We overwhelmingly support the Clean Energy Jobs bill as well as local efforts to reduce greenhouse gases with a transition to more affordable, clean energy. Our communities stand to gain from opportunities in a clean energy economy. And conversely, it’s terrifying to think about what we stand to lose if we allow climate impacts to unfold unabated.
Having worked to reduce pollution for years, we’ve heard the same tired arguments repeatedly, usually from large polluters and the oil industry. They use false and misleading information to scare people into inaction, while they continue to pollute our air for free. The RG’s editorial repeats many of these claims of economic doom, with little data to back them up.
The truth is 10 states with similar laws in place are experiencing growing economies while reducing pollution. University of Oregon professor Greg Dotson explained the history of successes in these very pages (Viewpoint, Sept. 20, 2018).
Clean Energy Jobs will be a benefit to our environment and our economy. A nonpartisan economic analysis of the bill shows income levels for all Oregonians will rise over time because new, good-paying jobs will be added across the state, and energy saving upgrades at homes and businesses will lower energy bills.
Since 2010, Eugene has worked to incorporate sustainability with the Community Climate and Energy Action Plan. Despite our best efforts, meeting our ambitious goal to reduce climate pollution without larger state policy likely isn’t possible. Clean Energy Jobs could get us within 5 percent of our goal and help pay for many of the improvements our community needs.
A transition this large can seem daunting. The bill is rightfully designed to look out for those who can least afford disruptions. Drafters have introduced an amendment to direct half of all investments to rural, low-income, Tribal and communities of color in Oregon. Millions in investments will go to help people put solar panels on their homes or schools; upgrade heating, cooling and lighting to save on bills; improve irrigation equipment for farmers; hire Oregonians to sustainably manage forests to prevent wildfire; and build sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes in the city.
In Lane County alone, there are already 3,428 clean energy jobs like construction workers, electricians, engineers, and salespeople. These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced because they’re done in the community.
Oregon must do its part. We owe our children a better world, and the science is clear: just 11 years to reduce emissions that cause global warming and stave off the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. With Clean Energy Jobs, our state will be a leading example as states and countries work together to stop climate change.
Lucy Vinis is the mayor of Eugene. Kitty Piercy was Eugene’s mayor from 2005 to 2017.