Oregon’s New Climate Protection Program Helps Move Governor Brown’s Climate Pledge to Policy, But Gaps Remain

EDF statement from Pam Kiely, Associate Vice President for U.S. Climate

December 16, 2021
Chandler Green, (803) 981-2211, chgreen@edf.org

(Salem, OR – Dec 16, 2021) Today, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission adopted the final regulations for the Climate Protection Program (CPP), which will cap and reduce emissions from transportation fuels and natural gas usage starting in January 2022. The program represents a key outcome from a 2020 Executive Order by Governor Brown directing Oregon’s administrative agencies to develop regulations to cut pollution in line with the state’s climate goals.

Emissions covered by the CPP’s caps, which represent half of Oregon’s overall climate pollution, will be cut 50% by 2035 and 90% by 2050 from a 2017-2019 average baseline emissions. The new regulation complements Oregon’s clean electricity standard passed over the summer, which requires an 80% cut in carbon pollution from electricity use by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040. While these policies will help Oregon cut pollution, EDF analysis shows that Oregon’s economy-wide emissions will still fall short of the level of ambition necessary, as the U.S. has committed to securing at least a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

“The Climate Protection Program is a major step toward turning Governor Brown’s climate pledges into concrete policy that curbs harmful pollution,” said Pam Kiely, Associate Vice President for U.S. Climate at EDF. “Despite significant setbacks in the legislature, Gov Brown demonstrated climate leadership at a critical time by directing state environmental regulators to use strong tools already in the toolbox to put in place enforceable, declining limits on climate pollution. Other governors should take a page out of her book.

“As a key pillar in Oregon’s strategy to slash climate pollution, the Climate Protection Program will help protect communities, businesses and ecosystems across the state from even worse climate damages. Thanks to thousands of Oregonians who engaged in the public comment period, DEQ strengthened the ambition of the program to require faster and deeper pollution cuts.

“While an important step forward, there are still critical gaps in the program that fall short of the vision Governor Brown outlined in her Executive Order to cap emissions economy-wide, including from the state’s large stationary sources. And there is still a need for increased ambition to ensure that Oregon’s statewide emissions decline at a pace consistent with U.S. targets over the upcoming decade. We look forward to working with Gov Brown and Oregon regulators to fill these gaps and fully deliver a strong, equitable Climate Protection Program.”

More on the Climate Protection Program:

  • The program puts a cap on emissions from fuel usage, requiring that emissions decline consistently over time. A consistently declining emissions budget for pollution from these covered sources will improve cumulative performance of the program, helping constrain the total amount of climate pollution emitted in the atmosphere over the lifetime of the program, which is critical for curbing climate damages.
  • These covered emissions are subject to a binding limit with enforceable, quantifiable, and definite results.
  • However, the program does not yet have sufficient guardrails in place to ensure that alternative compliance instruments issued by DEQ actually result in cuts in climate pollution and benefits for communities most impacted by climate change and air pollution, adding an unnecessary element of uncertainty as to whether the program’s pollution targets be will be met on time, or whether emissions could be up to 20% higher than envisioned.
  • Moreover, the program does not regulate emissions from the power sector, including electricity from natural gas power plants that is sold directly to private, non-utility buyers; these direct purchases of natural gas power are also not addressed by the state’s clean electricity standard, leaving a major gap in emissions coverage. This gap also leaves nearby communities exposed to pollution and its subsequent impacts on their health and livelihoods.
  • Emissions from the industrial sector are also not covered by the declining limit.

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