New cars in Oregon and Washington will have to be zero-emission within the next 12 years after state regulators on Monday followed California’s lead in approving a rule banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said in a release that all new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in Oregon must be full battery-electric or plug-in hybrid electric or fuel cell cars — a concession intended to give flexibility, especially for those who live in communities with fewer charging stations.
Greg Addington, the sole member of the DEQ’s Environmental Quality Commission to vote against the rule, cited concerns that residents in rural parts of the state, who often have to drive longer distances to work, shop or access services, will face bigger barriers transitioning to electric vehicles.
“I’m not opposed to the direction this is going, but I do have some things I can’t get over,” he said. “There are unanswered questions out there and still a lot of concerns.”
The new rule, dubbed the Advanced Clean Cars II Rule, build on regulations in place since 2005 and will not affect gas-powered vehicles that are already on the road.
Used vehicles, including fully gas-powered ones, will not be affected by the ban. Even with the stricter rules and uptick in EV sales, Oregon regulators estimate that at least 65% of vehicles on the road in 2035 will still be powered by internal combustion engines.
“All those living in Oregon will benefit from the cleaner air and improved public health outcomes achieved by reducing pollution from transportation,” said Leah Feldon, DEQ’s interim director.
“This is especially true for low-income and underrepresented communities across the state who live closest to roadways and have been most often impacted by poor air quality.”
The changes are part of the effort to hit Oregon’s climate change goals — which are among the most ambitious in the country — of cutting emissions in half by 2035 and 90 percent by 2050.
Officials have placed a heavy emphasis on electrifying the transit sector as the path to reaching the state’s lofty emissions goals, saying transportation is the country’s largest single contributor of greenhouse gases, accounting for 27% of emissions in the U.S.
Transportation also makes up 37% of Oregon’s carbon emissions, which makes it the largest source of emissions in the state, according to DEQ.
Curbing transportation emissions is a “significant part” of Oregon’s comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Kate Brown said, calling the new rule a “major step toward meeting our goals.”
“Oregon continues to see the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions across the state — with extreme heat, more severe wildfires, winter storms and flooding and prolonged drought — and I am committed to addressing the climate crisis with urgency,” Brown said.
Adoption of the rule marks the latest climate change action by the Environmental Quality Commission, which serves as the policy and rulemaking board for DEQ.
Other actions over the past 13 months include an Advanced Clean Trucks Rule, which began to transition Oregon’s medium- and heavy-duty trucks to zero-emission technologies; a Climate Protection Program and Clean Fuels Program Expansion.
Feldon said the new rules put “the state in a position to expand our charging infrastructure and ensure grid reliability” and also “incentivize auto manufacturers to send all electric model options to Oregon.”
To support the increased number of electric vehicles on the road, the Oregon Department of Transportation has committed $100 million to the construction of new charging stations over the next five years.
The department aims to place these stations in underserved communities, in rural areas, and throughout major transportation corridors.
Oregon automakers will have two years to meet the first compliance steps for model year 2026 cars. The state said some manufacturers have already confirmed efforts to increase the production of electric vehicles.
Oregon’s action on the climate crisis follows several other states, particularly California, which in August voted to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, despite being the second-largest consumer of gasoline in the U.S.
Other states, like New York, have announced their own gas-powered car bans, while Colorado announced this month its plans to boost EV numbers without an outright ban on gas-powered cars.
Republicans in the Oregon House and Senate were quick to criticize the move, saying it will harm the state’s economy while making a negligible impact on emissions.
“This is the latest out-of-touch example of what our state agencies and commissions have become,” said House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville. “Once again, as Governor Brown’s days in office are winding down, she is working to solidify her progressive legacy without being held accountable.
“While this decision will disproportionately hurt working-class Oregonians, it also ignores the unrealistic and short-sighted goals of the battery-powered manufacturing industry.”
Critics also derided the failure of Oregon policymakers to include the estimated 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide sequestered in Oregon’s forests in carbon calculations and that this latest decision came courtesy of “unelected bureaucrats and interim directors.”
“This action was taken covertly behind closed doors by administrative rule using the governor’s executive order, usurping authority from the Legislature,” Senator Fred Girod, R-Stayton, said. “DEQ is an agency that has gone amuck and shows a desperate need for administrative oversight.”
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