Image for DEQ to Redo Climate Protection Rulemaking

Oregon’s Emission Reduction Program Will Be on Hold for Up to 12 Months

Oregon environmental regulators will redo rulemaking for the Climate Protection Program struck down by the state Court of Appeals for deficient notice to natural gas utilities of emission limitations exceeding federal limits.

The rulemaking redo will be undertaken in lieu of challenging the ruling in the Oregon Supreme Court.. As a result, the state’s climate change program will be in deep-freeze for at least a year.

“DEQ strongly disagrees with the court’s decision, but we accept it,” said DEQ Director Leah Feldon. “Instead of pursuing the lengthy and uncertain appeals process, we’re taking the shortest path to reinstating the program – going back through the rulemaking process.”

Environmental groups supported the Department of Environmental Quality’s decision. Their statement said, “We applaud the state’s decisive action to reinstate Oregon’s Climate Protection Program without further delay. Oregonians have long demanded that fossil fuel companies take responsibility for the devastating harm they cause to our lives, our families and our communities.”

A spokesman for NW Natural, one of utilities that challenged the 2021 rule on what amounts to a technicality, said it will participate in new rulemaking. “We believe in effective climate policy and remain committed to moving toward a low-carbon energy future while safely, reliably and affordably serving our customers,” said David Roy, communications director for NW Natural.

The Climate Protection Program came about after Republican legislative walkouts blocked major environmental bills. Governor Brown order the Environmental Quality Commission to undertake rulemaking to limit greenhouse gas emissions. After a year of meetings and public comment, the EQC adopted the program in 2021.

Those rules required companies in Oregon to reduce their emissions, achieving a 50 percent reduction by 2035 and 90 percent by 2050. Slightly more than one quarter of the reductions would come from natural gas utilities.

The snag that led to the rule being tossed out as the state’s failure to disclose emission standards that exceed those in effect for companies with air pollution permits under the federal Clean Air Act.

As reported by Oregon Capital Chronicle, DEQ is developing a schedule and setting up advisory committees to begin the rulemaking process, which is expected to take 12 months to complete. Many of the staff members who worked on the 2021 rule remain with the agency. The redone rule may not be identical to the 2021 version and include new elements and timelines.

Speaking of Redo’s
Washington officials are under a court order to redraw legislative district boundaries in Central Washington that avoid diluting Latino voters impact in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The case began early in 2022 when several Latino voters in the current 15th legislative district went to U.S. District Court seeking amended district boundaries. Among the plaintiffs was Susan Soto Palmer, a local political activist and unsuccessful Democratic candidate. Last August, Judge Robert Lasnik ruled legislative maps needed to be redrawn. Lasnik is overseeing the redrafting effort, which originally was to be completed in December but now may not be done until March.

The plaintiffs have sought to make the 14th legislative district the desired majority-minority district, which under Washington law means state senate elections for the district would occur in even-numbered years when Latino voter turnout is higher. The district would include Yakima and potentially extend as far east as Pasco.

Under the various configurations being considered for the 14th district, Latino voting age residents would total between 47 percent and 51 percent. Latino voter make up 50 percent of the current 15th district.

State Senator Nikki Torres, a Pasco Republican who was elected in 2022, may find herself in a new district that favors Democrats if she seeks re-election in 2026. Republicans, including Latino Republicans and potentially Torres, are appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.