On Wednesday, the Oregon House voted to expand a 1997 law designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. On a 38-17 vote, twelve Republicans joined the chamber’s Democrats to pass the bill.
In 1997, Oregon passed the nation’s first law (House Bill 3283) regulating and attempting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A carbon dioxide emission standard was established by HB 3283; it applies to baseload gas plants, non-baseload (peaking) power plants using any type of fossil fuel, and non-generating facilities that emit carbon dioxide .
The standard is set 17% below the “cleanest” known plant in the country, and it is periodically adjusted to remain 17% below the state-of-the-art plant. Therefore, a regulated facility cannot ever comply with the standard, no matter how emission-efficient the facility’s processes are.
When the unattainable standard is not met, the regulated facility is required to offset excess carbon dioxide emissions. This means funneling millions of dollars into an organization called the Climate Trust.
Cascade Policy Institute conducted a thorough audit on the Climate Trust in 2009. A closer look into the Climate Trust’s offset portfolio showed there are numerous problems that undermine the quality and effectiveness of The Climate Trust’s projects. Lack of additionality and accountability of funds, inaccurate assumptions, difficulty in verifying and monitoring results, lack of permanence and leakage issues are most of the problems that plague the analyzed offset projects.
Now legislators want to expand the program by allowing the Climate Trust to offset more than just carbon dioxide. The passage of House Bill 3538 will open the doors for even more fraud, waste and abuse by the Climate Trust.
The majority of fraudulent carbon offset projects have stemmed from greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. Massive fraud on the international scale has been attributed to the destruction of trifluoromethane (HFC-23) a greenhouse gas byproduct of manufacturing refrigerant gases. The carbon offset credits that sold to reduce HFC-23 are twice as valuable as the refrigerant itself.
A study found that almost three-quarters of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) registered offset projects were already complete at the time of approval, and thus, didn’t need carbon credits to be built. An estimated 40 percent of CDM projects registered by 2007 represented “unlikely or at least questionable” emission cuts. Between a third and two-thirds of CDM offsets don’t represent actual emission cuts.
Even the Federal Trade Commission warns of a high risk of fraud in offset projects.
Expanding Oregon’s carbon tax is not the direction the state should be moving in. We should be talking about repealing the 1997 law that has resulted in millions of Oregon ratepayer dollars being wasted in carbon offset projects across the world.