Environment & Energy Report

Greater Climate Action in Oregon Hinges on Carbon Bill, Governor Says

March 9, 2019, 12:53 AM

A cap-and-trade bill moving through the Oregon statehouse that would enact a carbon price needs to pass before the state considers joining the Western Climate Initiative and a more ambitious renewable energy mandate, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said March 8.

The bill would declare a climate emergency and create a state carbon policy agency. It would impose a gradually declining cap on total greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon beginning in 2021 and set up a system for obtaining allowances for every ton placed into the atmosphere.

“Once we get this legislation done, I’m sure there will be conversations with other participants in the Western Climate Initiative,” Brown said, speaking to Bloomberg Environment in Portland, Ore.

The Western Climate Initiative is a regional carbon trading program including California and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.

Brown said that the level of success of the cap-and-trade legislation would determine whether Oregon will follow California and Hawaii in mandating that all the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources. California and Hawaii have passed laws requiring 100 percent of their power come from renewables by 2045.

‘Decarbonize Faster’

In 2016, Brown signed a bill that doubled Oregon’s renewables standard, requiring 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewables by 2040.

Doubling that again would depend on how carbon pricing is implemented in the state, Brown said.

“Carbon pricing continues to send the signal to the electricity sector to continue to decarbonize faster and deeper,” Kristen Sheeran, director of the Oregon Carbon Policy Office and Brown’s climate adviser, told Bloomberg Environment.

The energy markets driving a 100 percent renewables mandate are different in California and Hawaii than they are in Oregon, Brown said.

Energy is extremely is expensive in Hawaii, which relies on imported oil to generate much of its electricity. California is the world’s fifth largest economy.

“They can be a market driver,” Brown said, referring to California. “We’re not that level of powerhouse. I’d like us to be, but certainly we [Oregon] don’t have that level of economic dynamics.”

Brown said she is “cautiously optimistic” the cap-and-trade bill will pass the Democratic-controlled Oregon Legislature this year.

“We’re trying to create a sense of urgency around these issues. We had a horrible fire season,” she said. “We are seeing the devastating impacts of climate change every single day.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bobby Magill at bmagill@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com

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