Oregon governor signs executive order capping greenhouse gas emissions

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions after legislative efforts to pass a cap-and-trade bill failed for the second year in a row.

The directive seeks to cut carbon emissions by at least 45% below their 1990 levels within the next 15 years, and reduce those levels by 80% over the next three decades.

Brown signed the order after a high-stakes drama unfolded at the Oregon capital two weeks ago. Republican lawmakers staged a walkout, effectively killing a bill that would have limited emissions.

Although a few trucking outliers supported the cap, the Oregon Trucking Association (OTA) and log truck drivers fiercely opposed it, favoring sending the legislation to voters via a ballot measure.

“Governor Brown’s Executive Order on carbon reduction is ‘legally questionable’ and will undoubtedly face numerous legal battles as it moves forward through the rule-making process, Jana Jarvis, executive director of the OTA, told FreightWaves in an emailed statement.

It is also disappointing from a process perspective, Jarvis said.

“While proponents of the legislation talk about making amendments to their original proposal, virtually none of the major issues that opponents raised were addressed. Resorting to an Executive Order sets a concerning precedent for Oregon and will likely result in significant litigation costs for Oregon taxpayers.”

Litigation concerns aside, the next step is for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), with the help of a $5 million cash infusion, appropriated by the legislature’s emergency board, to set new rules for transportation and industry to meet the emissions goals.

If implemented, Oregon’s plan will be the third program to reduce carbon emissions on the West Coast. California implemented a cap-and-trade system in 2013, and in 2008 the Canadian province of British Columbia put in place a carbon tax.

As advocates seek to expand carbon pricing to other jurisdictions, the federal government is trying to quash those efforts. Earlier this week, the Trump administration argued in federal court that the California 2013 decision to link its cap-and-trade system with the Canadian province of Quebec was an “intrusion into the federal sphere” and threatened the president’s ability to negotiate and craft international treaties.