This year, Oregon regained its reputation for environmental consciousness and environmental leadership.
Oregon became a model for national efforts to address global warming and the looming climate crisis in 2007 when the legislature passed and the Governor signed HB 3543. This established a greenhouse gas emissions reduction trajectory achieving 75% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Unfortunately, that program was purely voluntary. As a result, polluters who were expected to reduce their emissions declined to make a serious effort to do so. Thus, by the middle of the next decade it was clear that voluntary efforts were insufficient and regulations were necessary. Unfortunately, numerous proposals were resisted by those industries expected to reduce emissions. They countered with the false claim that regulations would torpedo the economy despite the evidence from other states with similar emissions reduction programs who boasted growing economies.
Republicans in the legislature repeatedly pushed back against proposals to establish a greenhouse gas emissions reduction program, finally walking out in 2019 and 2020 to prevent action. It was only then that Governor Brown released Executive Order 20-04 charging state agencies to develop programs that would reduce emissions, promote sequestration in natural and working lands, and address the social injustice that plagues our economy. Subsequently, some 16 state agencies embarked on the development of programs to reduce emissions within their authority.
Through an arduous process involving extensive public engagement and input, the Department of Environmental Quality responded to its charge by drafting rules for a state Climate Protection Program (CPP). Following a public comment period when 7,620 comments were received, mostly urging a stronger program than that proposed, DEQ returned with a more rigorous proposal.
Approved by the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) on December 16th, this proposal demands suppliers of fossil fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas) reduce their emissions 50% from their 2017-2019 average by 2035, and 90% by 2050. Meanwhile, stationary industrial sources individually emitting greenhouse gases totaling over the equivalent of 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide are required to adopt Best Available Emissions Reduction procedures. These polluters are also expected to reduce pollution 50% by 2035.
With the adoption of this program, Oregon again moves to the forefront among states in addressing the climate crisis. It is little surprise that the same forces of opposition previously defeating legislative action are emerging to undermine the program and offer nonsense about how it will bankrupt Oregonians. Across the country, states have adopted greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs amid fearmongering from industry that they would undermine state economies. None has! But an Oregon Business & Industry spokesperson instantly pulled out the old deception and misinformation campaign arguing that the program will cost Oregonians, without acknowledging either the huge economic and health benefits that will accrue to the state or the immeasurable cost of ongoing unabated climate change.
Many Oregonians, rural and urban, know that, if left unchecked, climate change represents a crisis of alarming dimensions that will likely undermine our natural systems and biodiversity, as well as our agriculture, forests and fisheries. We know that our future depends on nations across the planet addressing this problem and also that Oregonians cannot demand others address their emissions unless we address ours. Despite these realities, Oregon Republicans and major industries seem steadfastly committed to steering us collectively over the climate cliff. They have not offered a reasonable proposal to address the problem, only providing criticism of efforts proposed by others or actually undertaken.
The CPP may not be all that we wish it were. We know, for example, that achieving the targets established via science and international agreement, require the 2050 goal become net zero emissions. We also question several components of the CPP such as the focus on increasing the biofuel content of transportation fuels, or replacing deceptively labeled natural gas with the equally deceptively labeled Renewable Natural Gas. Nevertheless, the program developed by DEQ and approved by EQC represents a huge step in the direction we need to take if we wish to leave future generations a livable planet.
When we combine establishment of the CPP with the demise of the Jordan Cove project, we can end 2021 feeling Oregon is once again at the forefront for environmental protection.
Southern Oregon Climate Action Now