PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release SOCAN
DATE: September 6th 2021
“Code Red for humanity!”, the latest message from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a deadly warning. Is Oregon responding sufficiently? Governor Brown’s executive order 20-04 last year showed a solid path forward directing state agencies to protect our climate. But, recently the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued its Draft rules for a Climate Protection Program. And some climate advocates ask “is it enough?”
As wildfires consume our state, exceeding our ability to resist, killing people and livelihoods, Oregonians, especially rural residents, understand the urgency. The majority of us understand the need for bold actions if we are to divert ourselves from the economic and health crisis that is unfolding. Climate pollution threatens our agriculture, forests, oceans, and life as we know it. The Climate Protection Advocates, a coalition of 23 organizations representing scientists, tribes, nonprofits and individuals, from both rural and urban Oregon, have arranged a meeting with Governor Brown in mid-September urging her to insist that DEQ step up their efforts to address the climate crisis.
They argue that the DEQ Draft Plan falls short of meeting the requirements of the Governor’s Executive Order 20-04. As science calls for a doubling, or even a tripling of effort, the group believes that DEQ must rise to this challenge. Dr Alan Journet, co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, states: “Now is not the time for half-hearted proposals; we must acknowledge the urgency with programs that induce massive emissions reductions and promote carbon sequestration.”
The advocates question whether DEQ will actually be able to achieve what it proposes. Perhaps the most serious concern is the flawed requirements for industrial polluters, the biggest polluters in the state. These include natural gas pipelines, paper mills, chemical and cement manufacturers. These polluters dump their waste products into our environment, causing global warming. We pay for this “social cost of carbon” with our health, economic losses, and reduced quality of life. The Advocates argue that these polluters should reduce their contribution to the problem.
“This fatal flaw will hurt vulnerable communities” states Diane Hodiak, executive director of 350 Deschutes: “as it impacts the health of these communities who often live close to these sources.”
The advocates also suggest that the significant increase in “Renewable Natural Gas” (RNG) anticipated in the Climate Protection Program will only increase emissions and energy costs. Like fossil (natural) gas, over its full lifecycle of use, RNG emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than CO2 on a 20-year period. Yet, DEQ lacks a plan to regulate methane leaks from pipelines that carry fossil gas and RNG. Moreover, since its supply will be limited, RNG should be reserved for projects unable to electrify.
One bright light proposed by DEQ is the Community Climate Investment (CCI) Fund. This allows fossil fuel suppliers and gas utilities to buy credits if they are unable to reduce emissions sufficiently to meet their reducing cap. CCI funds could support projects throughout Oregon. Unfortunately, Oregon’s agricultural and forestry land owners and managers are not afforded an option in the CCI program to participate in any carbon sequestration practices that would remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This omission compromises achievement of program goals and harms vulnerable rural communities. In addition, if not closely regulated and monitored, projects conducted with CCI funds also might not achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals and could provide an opportunity to continue polluting. This would seriously compromise achievement of the program goals and harm vulnerable communities. The DEQ CCI or Community Climate Investment Fund needs rigorous regulations that are currently absent.
The Climate Protection Advocates urge Governor Brown to encourage state agencies to live up to the charge in her 2020 Executive Order with programs that genuinely achieve the stated goals. They say that we have only one chance to get this right! “Let’s do it now!” they urge.