Solidify a strong energy plan: An open letter to Gov. Kitzhaber
By Andrea Durbin, Oregon Enviornmental Council
Andrea Durbin is the executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council.
As you’ve said, energy is the issue of our time. Oregon Environmental Council applauds you for taking on the challenge of developing a 10-Year Energy Action Plan for our state. We need a plan that builds on Oregon’s achievements and sets a bold and forward-looking course for Oregon’s energy future, promoting low-carbon technologies and safeguarding the climate while vitalizing Oregon’s economy.
To that end, the goal to meet all new load growth via energy efficiency and prioritizing energy efficiency and conservation first is an example of a smart, forward-looking commitment. Additionally, prioritizing a shift from a gas tax to a fee based on the number of miles vehicles travel is an essential piece for advancing a clean transportation agenda with vehicles moving towards higher fuel efficiency and electric vehicles. Finally, the commitment to clean fuels is critical.
The Clean Fuels Program will help Oregon localize energy and keep dollars that normally leave the state invested here to create jobs and economic development, and will be a key piece of Oregon’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases and improve air quality.
This plan provides several critical next steps for Oregon’s course toward a clean energy future over the next couple of years. Over the next 10 years, Oregon must also address the prevailing challenge of our time: climate change and reducing carbon.
Responding to climate change is both an economic and moral imperative for our state where local leadership and action is critically needed in the absence of national leadership. Oregon has led nationally on energy efficiency, and made a significant commitment to renewable energy. We now have an opportunity to work with our West Coast neighbors to lead by example and innovate around carbon policy.
The plan should map out a robust action agenda for how Oregon will meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals sector by sector. To that end, we offer several recommendations to integrate action to address climate change into this long-term plan:
Clear, Enforceable Greenhouse Gas Reductions: The draft should include a plan of action with implementation commitments for how Oregon will achieve the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals by 202o and make these enforceable. This would include a specific requirement that key Oregon agencies that impact greenhouse gas emissions be charged with clear responsibilities for meeting these emission-reduction obligations and report regularly on their plans for meeting those obligations and the results achieved. Another solution is to integrate greenhouse gas reductions directly into your process for 10-year budgeting as a key outcome to achieve.
Pricing Carbon: The plan should include a clear commitment to put a price on carbon within the next 10 years, either by joining California’s Cap and Trade system and expanding its regional scope, by incorporating a ‘right-priced’ carbon fee to reduce emissions, or by applying a straight cap on emissions.
Reduce Imported Coal and a Smart Transition for Boardman’s Coal Plant: We appreciate the plan’s recognition that Oregon must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from coal. What is missing from the plan is how Oregon will transition away from consumption of coal-based energy. Once the Boardman plant is closed in 2020, all of our coal power will come from outside the state. Reducing Oregon’s reliance on imported coal power is a key strategy to create jobs and economic value within Oregon through investment in renewables and energy efficiency across the state, especially in rural Oregon. The transition of the Boardman coal plant is a great opportunity to ‘get it right’ and demonstrate Oregon’s leadership at a national level as other states close their coal plants. We should replace coal power through conservation and energy efficiency first, then renewables, and lastly fill in with natural gas as needed. This transition plan must also include a worker transition plan for impacted workers at Boardman.
Provide Incentives for Voluntary Carbon Reductions from Industry: Oregon’s business community represents some of the leading voices for sustainability, and many industries are already taking the lead to reduce their carbon footprint and energy consumption. Some examples include the nursery and wine industry, as well as food processors. This plan can help inspire other industries to step up and become climate leaders as well. We’d like to see a voluntary greenhouse gas-reduction program developed by the Governor’s office that calls on industry leaders to work together to measure and reduce their carbon emissions, and provides opportunities for recognition and attention for this exemplary leadership. For example, Business Oregon has a sustainability leadership award program. We recommend that this program be expanded to include leadership on climate change and reducing carbon as well. We hope that these recommendations will further guide Oregon toward the critical steps of building a low carbon future and augment the plan’s focus to address the critical issue of climate change. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this process and your personal commitment to Oregon’s clean energy future.
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