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The Oregon Global Warming Commission has endorsed the Obama administration’s proposed regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, while urging the Environmental Protection Agency to grant more flexibility to Oregon and other states to meet their targets.

At a meeting last Thursday, the state panel asked the EPA for several changes in its proposed regulations:

• Credit Oregon with improvements that take place outside the state’s boundaries that are due to state policies. An example might be a new wind power complex in Washington being developed for Portland General Electric to help it comply with state renewable energy mandates. The state that causes an action should get credit for that action, said Angus Duncan, chairman of the Oregon Global Warming Commission.

•Use a five-year average as a baseline from which to measure improvements, such as 2008 to 2012. EPA wants to use just 2012, but that was a relatively low year for carbon emissions, creating a “steeper hill that you have to climb,” Duncan said.

• Provide more leeway for multistate arrangements. As several members of the commission noted, the Northwest operates on a regional system, in part because of the Bonneville Power Administration serving multiple states. The EPA treated each state as if it’s an “island,” said Colin McConnaha of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The new power plant regulations are the most significant action Obama has taken to date to address climate change, along with an earlier mandate for car manufacturers to boost fuel efficiency.

Under his proposal, the EPA set specific goals for each state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Oregon and Washington have some of the most ambitious reduction targets among all 50 states. Under the EPA’s proposed rule, Oregon must reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants roughly in half by 2030.

The EPA recently granted a 45-day extension in the comment period to respond to its proposal, with a new deadline of Dec. 1. Oregon must develop plans to meet the goals by June 2016.

The state is largely on track to meet the goals because Oregon’s lone coal plant in Boardman, which has accounted for an estimated 10 percent of the state’s carbon emissions, is slated to stop burning coal by the end of 2020. And the state’s large utilities are actively adding wind and other renewable energy with zero carbon emissions. “That’s going to get us a significant way there,” Duncan said. However, he told commission members last Thursday that Oregon must take more actions to meet the EPA goals.

Jim Piro, CEO of PGE, said the EPA mandate wasn’t fair, because Oregon must reduce emissions from its power plants well below the goals for states like Kentucky, which have done relatively little to promote renewable energy.

“It just doesn’t seem fair to our customers,” Piro said. “For those states that have not done renewables, are we letting them off the hook?”

Duncan said the individual state targets are unlikely to be changed by the EPA. “There are more coal state senators than hydro state senators,” he observed.

Angus and other members also complained that the EPA is only giving states credit for doing improvements in energy efficiency starting in 2020. Oregon is a national leader in that field and its utilities have already invested a considerable amount.

Despite the concerns raised, Oregon will continue to do “all the right things,” Piro said. “We’re going to beat the target if you do it right.”

For more information about the Oregon Global Warming Commission:

Steve Law can be reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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