ONE YEAR PROGRESS REPORT
Agencies, Commissions, Boards Involved:
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)/ Environmental Quality Commission (EQC)
What’s going well:
DEQ is working to meet the deadline for having a cap and reduce program - the “Climate Protection Program” - in place by the date outlined in the Oregon Climate Action Plan. As part of this work, DEQ developed and is executing an extensive public process. This included a pre-rulemaking scoping phase consisting of 6 technical workshops and 3 town halls, as well as other public meetings. DEQ kicked off the formal rulemaking phase in January 2021. A draft rule for public comment is expected by August, and a vote on the proposed rule at the Environmental Quality Commission meeting is expected in December.
DEQ has provided a substantial number of opportunities for public input through virtual public meetings and soliciting written comments. In addition, throughout the process, DEQ has acknowledged the importance of reducing emissions and developing a program that prioritizes equity. DEQ has also provided funding to help facilitate participation of environmental justice communities in the rulemaking process.
DEQ was provided initial resources to develop the program and is pursuing continued funding for program implementation.
Areas for improvement:
Despite acknowledging the importance of reducing emissions, as well as a majority of commenters calling for ambitious reductions, DEQ is considering adopting weaker pollution reduction targets that do not track best available science, nor the minimum state goals outlined in the Oregon Climate Action Plan. This is counter to the best available science which says that we need to reduce our emissions further and faster than what OCAP is even requiring. In a nod to public comment, DEQ is now modeling one program design scenario (out of three) that would actually go above and beyond the state goals.
Despite calls for an ambitious program, DEQ is proposing exempting the largest stationary sources of emissions - gas power plants. It is also considering other exemptions for industry and oil companies. Providing free passes to polluters is antithetical to a strong program.
Although DEQ has acknowledged that equity is a key goal of the program and has been trying to provide more of an opportunity for diverse voices to engage in the process, including funding to support participation, there continues to be room to improve. DEQ is way behind on consulting with Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes. In addition, while DEQ did propose a more diverse Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC) to provide input on the Climate Protection Program rulemaking than previous DEQ RACs, it still proposed an industry-heavy RAC that included more seats for oil and gas companies than those for environmental organizations, public health, and frontline communities including Tribes and environmental justice organizations. The Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) exacerbated this imbalance by adding even more industry seats when it approved the RAC make-up.
Opportunities for progress:
OCAP directs that the Climate Protection Program must be ready to go by January 1, 2022, which means that the rulemaking needs to be wrapped up by the end of this year. The Rulemaking Advisory Committee is meeting monthly through June to advise DEQ on the proposal. DEQ will then publish a draft rule with a public comment period from August to October, including public hearings in September. After incorporating public feedback, DEQ will submit the proposed rule to the Environmental Quality Commission in November and the Environmental Quality Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed rules in December. Each of these steps provides opportunities to improve public process and program design. For example, we hope that DEQ recommends emission reduction targets that track best available science or the goals outlined in OCAP at a minimum.
Given that DEQ is already behind on tribal consultation, one step would be to immediately schedule and conduct formal government to government consultations with Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes and provide technical support to each Tribe so they can fully understand and evaluate the effectiveness of DEQ’s implementation of the program.
Over the coming months, DEQ must keep the work on track to meet the timeline and design an ambitious program that reduces emissions consistent with the best available science, does not give free passes to polluters, and centers equity. Furthermore, it is up to the Environmental Quality Commission to approve it and the Legislature to provide the resources necessary for DEQ to implement it.