New DEQ program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by 90% by 2050
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission has voted 3-1 to establish the Climate Protection Program which sets enforceable and declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels used throughout Oregon.
The limits, which the commission passed in late December 2021, apply to diesel, gasoline, natural gas and propane, used in transportation, residential, commercial and industrial settings.
Along with other actions by the Oregon Legislature, this makes Oregon one of the few states in the nation with a comprehensive and clear pathway to reducing the emissions that cause global warming. As approved, the new rules put Oregon on track to reduce emissions from fossil fuels by 50% by 2035 and 90% by 2050, reductions that scientists agree are required to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
“Every year since I became Governor, Oregon’s extreme weather has been worse than the last. From extreme heat and chronic drought to rising sea levels to wildfires more intense than any in recent memory, we are seeing the devastating impacts of climate change right in front of us,” said Gov. Kate Brown. “We know those impacts are felt disproportionately by our rural, low-income and communities of color. I’m proud that today, Oregon is taking the historic step to put tools in place to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Combined with our targets for transitioning to 100% clean energy sources, as well as the steps we have taken to expand access to electric vehicles, Oregon is centering the needs of vulnerable communities and leading the way in the fight against climate change.”
The Oregon legislature approved funding for DEQ to develop this program in 2020. DEQ convened public listening sessions and technical workshops to hear from Oregonians across the state to understand areas of public interest and concern and identify key options for designing a fair and effective program.
A 34-member advisory committee appointed by the EQC met with DEQ seven times to help the agency craft draft regulations. DEQ held multiple public hearings on the proposed rules and received more than 7,000 written public comments.
“We must act decisively and urgently to keep what makes Oregon so special – the fisheries, the farms, the snowy mountains, the forests and vineyards,” said EQC Chair Kathleen George. “So, guided by the best science, DEQ’s Climate Protection Program is a critical step forward to achieve deep, long-term reductions in Oregon greenhouse gas emissions, and to help strengthen climate resilience across the state. This is a historic opportunity to be leaders in creating a resilient economy that is decreasingly reliant on fossil fuels.”
Today’s action makes Oregon the second state in the nation to set enforceable limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel and natural gas; California was the first state to take such action.
DEQ Director Richard Whitman noted that the new Climate Protection Program will work in tandem with other state efforts, including DEQ’s Clean Fuels Program, Clean Cars Standards and the new Advanced Clean Truck Rules and Landfill Methane Rules adopted in November. DEQ also provides incentives for clean vehicles. Other key parts of Oregon’s climate work are being led by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission and the Oregon Department of Energy (100% Clean Energy), the Oregon Department of Transportation (EV charging infrastructure) and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (programs to reduce reliance on automobiles).
“The Climate Protection Program adds to a growing list of innovative programs Oregon has established to ratchet down our burning of fossil fuels for energy,” Whitman said. “We now have a comprehensive pathway to a cleaner energy future in Oregon, one that will bring new jobs, cleaner air and, most importantly, a strategy that shows yet another way for states to lead on climate.”
How the program will work
Starting in 2022, the CPP will issue permits – known as “compliance instruments” – to companies that supply fossil fuels for use in Oregon. The permits, each equal to 1 metric ton of emissions, will be issued each year in amounts equal to that year’s annual emission limit. Each year, the allowable emission limit will be reduced by lowering the number of compliance instruments issued to those companies. Failure to reduce emissions from fuels will result in enforcement action by the state.
Suppliers of fossil fuels can comply with the declining emissions limits in a variety of ways. Many of these companies are already incorporating renewable fuels, such as ethanol and renewable diesel, into their fuels mix, displacing fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions. Companies also can trade with one another if some reduce faster than others.
Fuel suppliers also can elect to meet part of the program requirements by paying into a new Community Climate Investment fund. This fund will invest in projects that help communities transition from fossil fuels more rapidly – reducing emissions, improving health and creating new jobs. The CCI fund will invest in communities historically disadvantaged by air pollution and particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including communities of color and tribes, as well as rural communities.
The rules also include more specific requirements to curtail emissions at about a dozen large manufacturing facilities. These regulations require facility-specific evaluations to identify technologies and practices that will reduce those emissions.