Oregon Gov. Brown Issues Sweeping Climate Executive Order

For the second year in a row, it looked like Oregonians were going to be left with lemons after Republicans fled the state again to deny a vote on a bill to cap carbon pollution and invest in climate solutions around the state. But Governor Brown today put the squeeze on further obstructionism by issuing an Executive Order (No. 20-04) that will have climate activists toasting their hard-earned lemonade for years to come.

The Executive Order rises to the level of the climate crisis in both its scope and ambition. It will slash carbon pollution from Oregon’s major emitting sectors through a series of actions under existing law that together will achieve at least a 45% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2035 and an 80% cut by 2050.

Here are the highlights, as reported in the Governor’s press statement:

  • "Sector-specific caps on climate pollution: Directs the Environmental Quality Commission to set and enforce sector-specific caps on climate pollution for three of the largest sources of emissions in our state: transportation fuels, natural gas, and large industrial polluters. Caps will decline over time in order to meet the state's greenhouse gas reduction goals.
  • Doubles the Clean Fuels Program: To reduce climate pollution from cars and trucks by 20% by 2030, and 25% by 2035, the state will more than double the Clean Fuels Program. This is the most ambitious goal for clean fuels in the country, and it will substantially reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector, using a model proven to reduce pollution at a very minimal cost. At the same time, it will create new jobs in the biofuels sector and expand investment in transportation electrification.
  • Higher energy efficiency for buildings and appliances: Directs the state’s building codes division to move rapidly to increase energy efficiency requirements for new buildings and directs the Oregon Department of Energy to make Oregon’s appliance efficiency standards equal to the most stringent in the country.
  • Strategic plan to accelerate usability of electric vehicles: Directs the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to create a statewide public electric charging plan to accelerate the usage of electric vehicles across the state.
  • Emissions-conscious transportation spending: Directs ODOT to develop a tool to evaluate all future transportation spending, including road expansion, through the lens of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and requires regional transportation planning organizations in the state to follow suit.
  • Accelerates the transition to clean energy resource in the utility sector: Directs the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to help utilities achieve the new emission reduction goals, and directs the PUC to implement the recommendations of the Governor's Council on Wildfire Response to safeguard our grid from the growing risks and severity of wildfires.
  • Adds climate action as a top priority for agency decision making: Directs state agencies to add climate action as a lens for all of their work, which will lower carbon emissions across current agency activities, including as agencies spend the state's budget on goods and services."

Now THAT’s what climate action looks like.

We can expect Republicans and their polluter pals to cry foul that the executive order constitutes an ‘end run’ around the Legislature. But after two years of electing to take their balls and go home rather than play by the rules they have no basis to complain. Indeed, as Governor Brown repeatedly emphasized, she would have preferred a legislative solution.

But climate change is too urgent of an issue to let a minority party thwart the will of the people. As Governor Brown remarked, "I’ve heard it loud and clear from our young people in Oregon: climate action is crucial and urgent. If we adults don’t take action right away, it is the next generation that will pay the price. We owe it to them to do our part to ensure that the globe they inherit is on a better trajectory than the one it’s on today.”

We thank Governor Brown for standing up to polluters, standing firm in the face of walkouts, and standing up for the millions of Oregonians demanding action on the most pressing challenge of our time.

About the Authors

Alex Jackson

Senior Attorney, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.