CLIMATE VICTORY! Oregon Climate Protection Program sets the path for a healthy climate future

Oregon just took one of its biggest steps ever toward reducing climate pollution and delivering a stable climate for the future.

Oregon just took one of its biggest steps ever toward reducing climate pollution and delivering a stable climate for the future. The Climate Protection Plan adopted by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) today mandates a 50% reduction in the pollution from burning oil and fossil “natural” gas that is a primary cause of climate change. 

The decision came after a robust year-and-a-half long rulemaking process, extensive advocacy from OEC and our partners in the Oregon Climate Action Plan (OCAP) Coalition, and over 7,600 comments from the public, including OEC supporters like you!

Climate and equity activists in Oregon are celebrating the EQC for adopting a strong program that holds polluters accountable and prioritizes community benefits. Key highlights of the Climate Protection Plan (CPP) include:

  • Science-based emissions targets for oil companies, fossil “natural” gas utilities, and major industrial facilities to cut their climate pollution in half by 2035.
  • Improved public health and resiliency for communities in Oregon most harmed by burning fossil fuels and climate change, saving billions of dollars annually in avoided health impacts
  • Investments in clean energy projects to support job creation, economic vitality, and cleaner, cheaper, healthier energy and transportation options in communities of color, tribal, low-income, rural, and coastal communities across the state.
  • Opportunities for technological innovation and advancement that will benefit Oregon’s workers and consumers by transitioning to a clean energy economy.

In adopting the CPP, the EQC has set the path for our homes and buildings, transportation systems, and industries to begin operating in a cleaner, healthier way that protects Oregon now and for future generations. We are proud to celebrate this win with our community of supporters and activists. Thank you.

Learn more about what we are most excited about in the final rules: 

Mandatory 50% emissions reductions in oil and gas emissions

The CPP includes mandatory, science-based targets (i.e. a “cap”) to reduce climate pollution from oil companies and fossil gas utilities 50 percent by 2035, and 90 percent by 2050. This is a huge win for our climate and our health, and we are thrilled that DEQ responded to the public comments calling for a stronger emissions cap. Previous versions of the CPP rules included a reduction of just 45 percent by 2035, and 80 percent by 2050.

The emission reduction targets and corresponding emissions cap are essential to the overall integrity of the CPP and moving the needle on climate in our state. Now, for the first time in Oregon, fossil gas companies, like NW Natural and Avista, will be held accountable for reducing their climate pollution. 

Cutting emissions from these sectors in half by 2035 will have immediate public health benefits and alleviate burdens for communities historically impacted by environmental injustice, by reducing harmful co-pollutants that disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities and low-income people across the state. In the near-term, these emissions reductions can provide significant economic benefits, by encouraging technological innovation and investments in clean energy.

 

Tangible benefits for environmental justice communities across Oregon

The climate-fueled extreme heat, wildfires, and drought that threatened the lives and livelihoods of Oregon residents this past summer underscored the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and advance the transition to a clean energy future, and to do so in a way that prioritizes those communities disproportionately impacted by climate impacts and historic racial, economic, and environmental injustice.

Long blurred in motion yellow school bus moves on the metal truss bridge with a green traffic lightOEC stood shoulder to shoulder with community partners to advocate for DEQ to ensure tangible pollution reductions and benefits for Oregon’s most impacted communities. We are extremely grateful that DEQ acted to address these community concerns by strengthening the  “Community Climate Investment” component of the CPP rules. Through the Community Climate Investment program, an oil company or fossil gas utility is allowed to invest in projects to reduce emissions in Oregon communities– for example, purchasing an electric bus for a school district or replacing fossil gas appliances with electric heat pumps in an apartment complex–instead of reducing some of their own climate pollution. 

The EQC-adopted rules provide assurances that these investments will achieve their stated climate and equity goals, including by requiring non-profits who oversee Community Climate Investments to partner with local and community-based organizations and pay for capacity-building in environmental justice communities. The rules also increase the base price of Community Climate Investments to ensure they achieve emissions reductions and support capacity-building activities in environmental justice communities across the state. 

With these changes, and continued engagement and input from community members across Oregon, we are encouraged that these investments will provide tangible benefits to those communities historically disenfranchised and disproportionately impacted by economic disinvestment, health challenges, and environmental harms. 

 

Holds large industrial polluters accountable

OEC and partners have long held that, if the CPP is to achieve science-based emissions reductions, it must cover all major polluting industries and sectors within DEQ’s regulatory authority. We are therefore extremely pleased that DEQ responded to demands from the public–and EQC Commissioners–to hold large industrial emitters accountable for their pollution. The EQC-approved rules establish new emissions targets for regulated industrial facilities to cut climate pollution in half by 2035. Given that there were previously no greenhouse gas regulations on major industrial emitters in Oregon, this is a significant victory for moving the needle on climate in our state. 

More to go

While we are excited to celebrate these new climate pollution targets for industrial emitters, it is important to note that they are just that: targets. In addition, this program does not regulate emissions from fracked gas plants in Oregon. Moreover, while Oregon’s 100% Clean Electricity law and the CPP together create a critical pathway to decarbonize Oregon’s electricity, industrial, and transportation sectors, additional state action will be needed to fully capture pollution from these sources and ensure that emissions reductions happen at the pace and scale necessary to limit catastrophic climate impacts. OEC will continue to advocate with our climate and environmental justice partners to hold these polluters accountable and secure mandatory emissions reductions from all major stationary sources of emissions within Oregon.

We are in the decisive decade for climate action; the CPP lays a critical foundation for Oregon to act. In adopting the CPP, the EQC has set the path not only to meet our climate goals, but also to spur job growth and technological innovation, improve community health, and create cleaner, cheaper, healthier energy and transportation options that will benefit Oregon jobs, families, and the economy for years to come. While there is more work ahead, today is a day to celebrate leaders in Oregon for advancing much-needed progress in the fight for a healthy climate future.

 

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