Governor Signs Executive Order Taking ‘Boldest Actions Available’ to Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Governor Kate Brown signed a new executive order on climate change today, following through on a promise she made after the most recent legislative session failed to pass a comprehensive cap and trade bill for the second year in a row. The executive action directs state agencies to put sweeping new measures into effect to lower the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’ve heard it loud and clear from our young people in Oregon: climate action is crucial and urgent,” Gov. Brown said in the announcement about the executive order, which she signed with Oregon students surrounding her on Tuesday. “If we adults don’t take action right away, it is the next generation that will pay the price. We owe it to them to do our part to ensure that the globe they inherit is on a better trajectory than the one it’s on today.”

The governor’s new order sets the goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also directs the Environmental Quality Commission to set and enforce sector-specific caps on climate pollution in three of the largest sources of emissions (transportation fuels, natural gas, and large industrial polluters), and doubles the Clean Fuels standard program to reduce pollution from cars and trucks by 20 percent in 10 years.

Brown said this is the most ambitious goal for clean fuels in the country and will “substantially reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector,” using a model proven to reduce pollution at a very minimal cost, while creating new jobs in the biofuels sector and expanding investment in electric vehicles.

“Immediate and comprehensive efforts are needed to tackle this scourge that is devastating the Oregon we know and love, and a smart approach can both protect the environment and grow our economy,” Gov. Brown said. “This executive order is extensive and thorough, taking the boldest actions available to lower greenhouse gas emissions under current state laws. As a state, we will pursue every option available under existing law to combat the effects of climate change and put Oregon on a path we can be proud to leave behind for our children.”

Some of those children sounded off in a separate release from the state of Oregon’s government news portal.

“Governor Brown taking executive action on climate means a lot to me as a young person fighting for climate action,” said Claire Matthews-Lingen, a junior at Willamette University and member of the youth-led climate coalition Sunrise Movement. “It’s crucial that we take steps to address climate change now. There isn’t time to waste, and it’s energizing to see the governor responding to this urgency.”

Angelique Prater, a student from South Salem High School, said her generation demands that today’s politicians understand one thing: “There is no next time to solve this problem,” while another, Portland high schooler Charlie Abrams called climate change “the biggest issue of my generation.”

But not everyone in the State Capitol Building was thrilled to see the governor take climate action into her own hands this week. In a statement, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., from Grants Pass, accused Brown of “ignoring Oregonians.”

“She is not listening to three-quarters of the state or the 28 counties that signed proclamations against the cap and trade concept,” he said. “It’s obvious Kate Brown is not Oregon’s governor; she is Portland’s Governor, and as she promised, she is serving revenge, cold and slowly.”

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, from Canby, was somewhat more restrained in her criticism of the executive order, which she characterized as an overextension of the governor’s authority.

The order “shows how out of touch the governor is with the pressing needs of families and communities across the state,” Drazan said. “Oregon struggles to protect foster kids, improve graduation rates and address homelessness, but rather than acknowledge the need for greater leadership in these essential areas the governor misdirects time and attention away from core functions and our shared priorities to double down on climate at any cost.”

Other actions outlined in the executive order include:

Higher energy efficiency for buildings and appliances: Directs the state’s building codes division to move rapidly to increase energy efficiency requirements for new buildings and directs the Oregon Department of Energy to make Oregon’s appliance efficiency standards equal to the most stringent in the country.

Strategic plan to accelerate usability of electric vehicles: Directs the Oregon Department of Transportation to create a statewide public electric charging plan to accelerate the usage of electric vehicles across the state.

Emissions-conscious transportation spending: Directs ODOT to develop a tool to evaluate all future transportation spending, including road expansion, through the lens of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and requires regional transportation planning organizations in the state to follow suit.

Accelerates the transition to clean energy resource in the utility sector: Directs the Public Utility Commission to help utilities achieve the new emission reduction goals, and directs the PUC to implement the recommendations of the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response to safeguard our grid from the growing risks and severity of wildfires.

Adds climate action as a top priority for agency decision making: Directs state agencies to add climate action as a lens for all of their work, which will lower carbon emissions across current agency activities, including as agencies spend the state’s budget on goods and services.

The full executive order is available here.

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