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Legislature approves bill to trim the carbon content of Oregon's transportation fuels by 10 percent

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HB 2186 grants Oregon Environmental Quality Commission the authority to adopt a low-carbon fuel standard for transportation fuels, includes other measures to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation

Jun 24, 2009

HB 2186 grants Oregon Environmental Quality Commission the authority to adopt a low-carbon fuel standard for transportation fuels, includes other measures to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation

The Oregon Senate today approved HB 2186 by a vote of 16-14, a significant step forward in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Oregon's transportation sector. The centerpiece of the bill is a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) for Oregon's transportation fuels. This measure will reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline and diesel by 10 percent by 2020.  The bill also gives the state Environmental Quality Commission the authority to go through a rigorous rulemaking process to adopt several other measures to reduce global warming pollution from transportation. The bill now goes to the House for concurrence.

"By diversifying into lower-carbon fuel supplies, we'll not only reduce our impact on the climate, but also reduce consumers' vulnerability to Big Oil," said Oregon Environmental Council deputy director Chris Hagerbaumer. "Over the course of the coming decade and beyond, the price of oil is going nowhere but up. This bill spurs investment in the cleaner fuels of future."

The LCFS takes a performance-based approach. Rather than mandating a specific type of fuel, it allows the ingenuity of the marketplace to decide. For example, fuel providers could purchase and blend more low-carbon biodiesel into diesel products, purchase credits from electric utilities supplying low-carbon electrons to electric passenger vehicles, diversify into low-carbon hydrogen, and more.

Numerous safeguards for consumers and businesses are built into HB 2186. Rules will provide for quality assurance and allow for deferrals and exemptions as necessary to ensure adequate fuel supplies. For example, if Oregon's fuel prices are not in line with neighboring states, the standard can be deferred. The program must be re-authorized by the legislature again in 2015 or it will expire.

HB 2186 also gives the Environmental Quality Commission the authority to:
- Ensure vehicle emissions control systems replacement parts perform as well as the original equipment. These provisions will use existing certification programs in adjacent states.
- Require automotive mechanics to check tires and fill as necessary when servicing vehicles. Service stations without air compressors are exempted.
- Restrict idling of commercial ships. Requirements would allow necessary idling and must be developed in consultation with Oregon's ports to prevent a competitive disadvantage.
- Evaluate measures to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of heavy and medium-duty trucks, as well as measures to reduce unnecessary idling by these vehicles. Future legislative authorization will be needed to create new requirements.

Finally, the bill sets up a special Metropolitan Planning Organization Task Force to evaluate how metropolitan planning organizations can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through better transportation and land use decisions. This provision is intended to help fast-growing Oregon communities make it easy and cost-effective for residents to drive less. The Task Force's recommendations would need future legislation to proceed.

The Oregon Environmental Council championed this bill and was joined by a diverse group of businesses and organizations, including environmental interests from Environment Oregon to the Sierra Club, business interests from Equilibrium Capital Group to ZeaChem, and health interests from Learning Disabilities Association of Oregon to Upstream Public Health.

About the Oregon Environmental Council
The Oregon Environmental Council safeguards what Oregonians love about Oregon – clean air and water, an unpolluted landscape and healthy food produced by local farmers. For 40 years we've been a champion for solutions to protect the health of every Oregonian and the health of the place we call home. Our vision for Oregon includes solving global warming, protecting kids from toxics, cleaning up our rivers, building sustainable economies, and ensuring healthy food and local farms. Find out more at www.oeconline.org.

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