SALEM, Ore. — In an end run around Republican legislators, Oregon’s Democratic governor ordered the state on Tuesday to lower greenhouse gas emissions, directing a state agency to set and enforce caps on pollution from industry and transportation fuels.
Gov. Kate Brown’s sweeping executive order, one of the boldest in the nation, aims to reduce carbon emissions to at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. The order more than doubles the goal of a clean fuels program, marking the most ambitious target in the country, Brown said.
“I’ve heard it loud and clear from our young people in Oregon: Climate action is crucial and urgent,” Brown said, surrounded by students. “If we adults don’t take action right away, it is the next generation that will pay the price.”
Republicans lawmakers, a minority in the Legislature, staged a walkout during this year’s short session to sabotage a bill that aimed for many of the same climate goals. The boycott caused the session to end two days early on Friday, with only three bills passed and more than 100 dying, including the climate measure.
Unlike that measure, Brown’s order does not set up an economywide cap-and-trade system in which polluters would be able to buy credits when they exceed emissions limits. That system would have generated money to help pay for projects and initiatives aimed at easing the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“What I don’t have the ability to do as the executive is create a carbon market,” Brown told reporters. However, she said the Legislature could move forward on that in the future.
Senate Republican leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. predicted Brown’s executive action would wind up in court.
“I think all this is going to do is initiate a whole bunch of lawsuits,” he said. Brown’s legal team said it is confident they would prevail in any litigation.
Baertschiger said many rural counties oppose the cap-and-trade concept.
“It’s obvious Kate Brown is not Oregon’s governor, she is Portland’s governor, and as she promised, she is serving revenge, cold and slowly,” he said in a statement.
The head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental organization that claims more than 3 million members and online activists, said Brown showed courage.
“Oregon’s executive order is the right thing to do and reflects the urgency of the climate crisis,” said Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the group. “We need courage over cowardice and Oregon is showing that leadership today. It’s time for people to take priority over polluters and their friends in power.”
The order beefs up Oregon’s clean fuels program, which is currently on schedule to achieve a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels — primarily gasoline and diesel — by 2025, said Kristen Sheeran, director of Brown’s carbon policy office. The governor’s executive order doubles the target to a 20 percent reduction by 2030, and 25 percent by 2035, Sheeran said.