Oregon told to cut CO2 48%

By Gosia Wozniacka / The Associated Press

Quotes of note

Taken from news releases, email and telephone interviews.

“Inaction on climate change is no longer an option, so those who would criticize (the) EPA’s plan have a responsibility to put forward their own ideas on how to move to a low-carbon economy.”

— U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“Climate change is no longer a distant hypothetical — it is here now. It is already waging an assault on Oregon’s natural resources, damaging our farming, fishing, and forest industries.”

— U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

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Quotes of note

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden “is very concerned that these new rules will cause electricity rates for consumers to skyrocket and hold back our country’s still-struggling economy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Greg serves, will hold hearings on the president’s proposal and the impact it will have on jobs and consumers.”

— Andrew Malcolm, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River

“This bold step will protect the health of citizens across the country while supporting the growing energy efficiency and renewable energy economy on the West Coast.”

— Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Democrat

“PacifiCorp and Pacific Power are assessing the proposed EPA ruling for existing power plants and its impact on our customers.”

— Bob Gravely, spokesman for Pacific Power, Central Oregon’s largest electricity provider and the state’s second largest

“The regulations will definitely drive up the cost of electricity at a total market basis, but when and to what level is unknown.”

— Jeff Beaman, member services director, Central Electric Cooperative

“We have yet to fully digest what it means for Oregon.”

— Colin McConnaha, climate change specialist with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

— Compiled by Dylan J. Darling and Valerie Smith, The Bulletin

PORTLAND — Oregon must slash its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants nearly in half by 2030 under federal requirements the Obama administration has proposed to curb global warming.

The state Department of Environmental Quality will be in charge of drawing plans to meet the goal. The initiative gives each state flexibility in how to reduce emissions by 2030.

About half a dozen power plants in Oregon would be affected by the requirements, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Colin McConnaha, a climate change specialist at Oregon’s environmental quality agency, said Monday that the state is already well on its way toward energy efficiency.

He said the plan to stop burning coal at Portland General Electric’s Boardman plant could be a big help.

The plant in north-central Oregon is the only coal-fired electricity plant in the state, and PGE has said it plans to stop using coal there by 2020. Coal plants are the top emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S.

“There’s a lot of flexibility in how we can get the emissions down,” McConnaha said. “Certain plants might be able to operate as they are, if others shut down or the demand on those is significantly reduced.”

PacifiCorp, parent company of Pacific Power and the state’s second largest electricity provider with 562,000 customers, generated 62 percent of its electricity from coal in 2013, according to its annual report. However, none of its coal-burning plants are located in Oregon.

Among the options for the states: making power plants more efficient, investing in more renewable, low-carbon energy sources and expanding programs to make households and businesses more energy-efficient.

Already, Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires the state’s large utilities to draw 25 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

Nationwide, the administration’s plan calls for carbon emissions from the power sector to be reduced by 30 percent below 2005 levels. Each state has an individual goal. Oregon’s is a 48 percent reduction — one of the highest percentages among the states.

However, Oregon is relatively less reliant on fossil fuels because of hydropower from Columbia River dams.

Federal statistics show Oregon gets nearly 65 percent of its energy from hydropower, 19 percent from natural gas, 10 percent from wind, 4 percent from coal and about 1 percent from biomass. That means Oregon’s total emission reduction would be smaller in volume relative to those in other states.

In 2012, Oregon’s power sector CO2 emissions were approximately 7 million metric tons from sources covered by the rule. By contrast, Pennsylvania’s were 105 million metric tons and Florida’s were 107 million metric tons.

Washington state’s output was almost identical to Oregon’s.

“Oregon is already experiencing the impacts of climate change,” Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement. He called the proposal a bold step that “will protect the health of citizens across the country while supporting the growing energy efficiency and renewable energy economy on the West Coast.”

Some Oregon environmentalists say Obama’s proposal is hardly enough to stop climate change.

“It’s a good step forward, but I think it’s a rather modest step and we’re going to find we need to be a lot more aggressive to reduce runaway climate change,” said Bob Dopelt, executive director of the Resource Innovation Group, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Sustainability Institute at Willamette University.