Oregon steps back from Western Climate Initiative
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Only California and four Canadian provinces will move forward with the carbon emissions cap-and-trade program under the Western Climate Initiative.
The Western Climate Initiative will move forward on its efforts to establish a regional carbon emissions cap-and-trade program without Oregon and five other Western states.
But officials say reports that Oregon and the other states have "pulled out" of the initiative aren't accurate.
"Oregon has not withdrawn," said Richard Whitman, natural resources adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber.
To implement its cap-and-trade plans, the Western Climate Initiative reorganized. California and four Canadian provinces remain on board. The other states — including Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah — are turning their climate change-mitigation attention to North America 2050, an organization that is still being formed.
Whitman said Oregon could rejoin the Western Climate Initiative in the future.
"The door is completely open," he said.
Under a cap-and-trade program, a limit, or cap, would be set on greenhouse gas emissions for various industries. Industries that don’t meet the cap purchase — or trade — allowances from those that do.
The decision that Oregon wouldn't participate in cap and trade was essentially made when the Oregon Legislature didn't take action to approve the plan in 2009 or 2010.
After the election of President Barack Obama, there was hope in climate change circles for some kind of national climate change policy that would negate the need for regional efforts. By the time it became clear that wouldn't happen, a sour economy took some of the air out of regional efforts.
Whitman said Oregon's current efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions are trained on policies such as the renewable portfolio standard — Oregon's on track to get 25 percent of its power from alternative sources by 2025 — and the low-carbon fuel standard.
Oregon is also participating with California, Washington, Alaska and British Columbia via the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which is also addressing sustainability issues.
Dave Van't Hof, a lawyer with Lane Powell who led former Gov. Ted Kulongoski's efforts around climate change and worked closely with the Western Climate Initiative, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the shift away from the effort.
"The politics aren’t there for it right now," Van't Hof said. "I still hold hopes that in three or four years when the economy has improved and the (cap-and-trade) program is functioning and the right political pieces are in place that we can move forward."
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