New carbon pollution limits huge step on climate, and great news for Oregon

Media Contacts

Environment Oregon

PORTLAND, OR – Coal and gas power plants will pollute 32 percent less nationwide and clean energy sources such as solar will meet more of the state’s electricity needs, according to limits on carbon pollution finalized today that are central to President Obama’s plan to address climate change. 

“The Clean Power Plan is the single biggest action the U.S. has ever taken on climate and is great news for Oregon,” said Charlie Fisher, clean energy advocate with Environment Oregon, “Cracking down on coal and gas while ramping up wind, solar, and other clean energy sources will protect our families’ health today and ensure a safer climate for the future.”   

Public officials, business leaders, and environmental advocates heralded the benefits the new pollution limits will bring the state, which is already one of the top states in the country for wind power and energy efficiency.

“Finalizing the Clean Power Plan is the most important action we have taken to date to combat global climate change in the United States,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “As one of the largest contributors to the problem, it is our responsibility to set an example and act now to prevent the worst impacts of climate change to the world’s vulnerable populations and to future generations. The goals laid out by the Administration are bold but achievable, and I look forward to supporting and building upon this important action in Congress and in Oregon.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan sets state-by-state limits on heat-trapping emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, the largest single source of such pollution in the country.

Luckily, Oregon is well-positioned to meet or even exceed its limits with increased development of clean energy, for which it has vast potential. Environment Oregon research shows that over 400,000 residential and commercial rooftops in Oregon are suitable for solar panels, and Oregon’s current wind generation displaces enough global warming pollution each year to equal the effect of taking 550,000 cars off the road.

“Replacing carbon-producing generation with clean renewables is a no-regrets policy,” said Rachel Shimshak, Executive Director of Renewable Northwest, “the people of our Pacific Northwest communities have long been committed to creating a healthy environment and we look forward to working with the many stakeholders in the region to ensure we continue to meet the goals of the Clean Power Plan using clean renewable energy solutions.”

The new rule comes on the heels of extreme heat-waves in Oregon, a record-low winter snow-pack, and increasingly destructive wildfires. Scientists predict that without drastic cuts in global warming emissions, these effects could become the new normal for the region.

Catherine Mater, former Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission and CEO of Mater Engineering, a forest products engineering and consulting firm based in Corvallis expressed support for the plan: “The informed business community in Oregon knows we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state and nationally. The President’s Clean Power Plan gives us what we need most in these circumstances: predictability. Many of us can find ways to make a profit while delivering an essential service to our communities and our country.  That spirit of innovation, of rising to a great challenge, brings out the best in American businesses.”

Mater’s views are shared by a vast majority of Oregonians according to a recent poll, which found 78% support for regulating carbon emissions. Additionally, more than 130,000 comments from Oregonians were among the 8 million submitted across the country in favor of the plan. And while experts say today is a day to celebrate, they also note that more work still needs to be done.                   

“The Clean Power Plan is the minimum necessary Federal action to reduce greenhouse gas pollutants from power plants,” said Angus Duncan, Chair of the Oregon Global Warming Commission, which has been tasked by the state to coordinate Oregon’s efforts to hit its own climate reduction goals,  “It complements actions Oregon has already taken — and will get credit for under the Plan — including ending coal burning at PGE’s Boardman power plant by 2020, installing 3000 megawatts of new renewable wind and solar energy, and making smart, cost-effective investments in using energy more efficiently.  The Clean Power Plan combines a rigorous outcome — 32% lower power plant emissions by 2030 — with the maximum flexibility for states and utilities to choose their own most cost-effective pathways to that goal.”