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Businesses challenge Oregon’s new climate program in court

Oregon and Washington are expecting to receive around $185 million to spend on replacing old diesel engines through a settlement with the automaker Volkswagen.

Cassandra Profita/EarthFix

Rules passed by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission in December target a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels and natural gas by 2050.

The Climate Action Plan passed in December aims for a 90% cut to gas emissions by 2050.

A coalition of businesses wants a court to block Oregon’s new Climate Action Plan administrative rules.

The rules, passed by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission in December, target a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels and natural gas by 2050.

In a petition for judicial review filed Friday, 12 industry trade groups say the rules “hold fuel suppliers directly accountable” for the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The groups represent farming, ranching, fossil fuel, logging, manufacturing and retail businesses.

Mary Anne Cooper of the Oregon Farm Bureau in a statement said the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality “overstepped its authority.”

“Oregonians should not stand for a state agency writing policies that it does not have the authority to write, and it sets a dangerous precedent for the future,” Cooper wrote.

For years, Oregon Democratic lawmakers have tried to launch an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. When they failed to get enough votes, Gov. Kate Brown last year ordered DEQ to develop administrative rules that would cap greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and reduce them over time.

The resulting Climate Protection Program does just that: it caps emissions from gasoline, diesel, propane, kerosene and natural gas and makes the cap more restrictive over time. The program, which launched this month, 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 fund that allows companies to pay for emission reductions in communities that are most impacted by climate change.

The rules include financial penalties for companies that can’t meet the emission reduction targets.

Fuel suppliers will likely face higher costs that would be passed along to consumers. That will leave Oregonians and businesses with two choices: reduce their use of fossil fuels or pay increasingly higher prices for them.

DEQ staff have said the agency will track prices in Oregon and neighboring states to see if prices begin increasing more than expected. If Oregon gas prices increase by more than 20% compared to other states, staff will review the program to see if changes need to be made.

OPB’s Cassandra Profita contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.