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Oregon OKs ‘more aggressive’ climate protection program

December 17, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission has OK’d a new Climate Protection Plan for the state that targets a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels and natural gas by 2050.

The commission’s 3-1 vote comes after years of unsuccessful attempts by state lawmakers to launch an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

“It has been an enormous lift to get this program to this point,” Commission Chair Kathleen George said after the vote.

Last year, Gov. Kate Brown ordered the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to develop a new set of administrative rules that would cap greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and cut them over time.

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The resulting Climate Protection Program caps emissions from gasoline, diesel, propane, kerosene and natural gas and makes the cap progressively more restrictive.

Set to launch in 2022, the program will distribute a declining number of emission credits to fuel suppliers and allow them to buy and sell those credits as the cap comes down. It also creates a Community Climate Investment Fund that will permit companies to pay for emission reductions in communities most impacted by climate change.

The program will initially regulate 16 fuel suppliers and three natural gas utilities. Thirteen industrial facilities also will be regulated under a different system that creates individualized plans to reduce emissions using the best available technology. Companies that can’t meet the emission reduction targets could face financial penalties.

Companies have protested the higher targets, arguing higher prices for gasoline, diesel and natural gas will result and have ripple effects throughout the economy.

Industry groups did their own analysis of the program and found it would be more costly for consumers than what the DEQ is projecting, based on its economic analysis.

If prices in Oregon increase by more than 20% of the fuel prices in other states, Oregon DEQ staff will do a review to determine whether the program needs to be changed, Nicole Singh, DEQ climate policy advisor, said.