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Northwest Climate Policy Update

Published: November 18, 2014 by Editorial Team

Elizabeth Hardee, The Climate Trust
November 18, 2014

With the midterm election now over, Oregon and Washington face the challenge of pursuing aggressive climate and energy policies which align them with the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, signed last fall by the leaders of both states, California and British Columbia. With that in mind, now is a good time to revisit exactly what actions these states are capable of.

Here in Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, recently reelected for a historic fourth term, has used his executive authority to ask the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to author rules for the continuation of the Clean Fuels Program. The program, much like California’s already-functional Low Carbon Fuel Standard, is designed to lower the greenhouse gas emissions of the transportation sector by requiring increasing percentages of low-carbon fuels to be integrated into the fuel supply. The upcoming legislative session will decide whether to remove the sunset and implement the DEQ’s proposed rules. The recent election strengthened the Democratic majority in the state legislature, increasing the likelihood of successful passage of this program (as well as others in the near future).

To the North in Washington, Governor Jay Inslee has convened a working group of 21 individuals from a variety of sectors to consider the design of a carbon pricing mechanism for the state. This group has been presented with options from experts in both carbon taxation and cap and trade mechanisms, and presented their final recommendations to the Governor on November 17th, with the goal of legislative consideration by 2016. In a parallel effort, several state agencies are also engaged in the development of programs to address energy efficiency, renewables, clean transportation fuels, and a transition away from coal power as part of the Governor’s broader executive order on climate, issued in April.

However, the midterm election has given control of Washington’s legislature to Republicans, many of whom oppose Inslee’s climate agenda. Though Inslee has stated that he will continue to move forward with these programs, he has also conceded that he is likely to face significant opposition from the legislature.

With the Northwest poised to be the next region to adopt comprehensive climate policies under the Pacific Coast Action Plan, actions in both states’ legislatures will be monumentally important in 2015.