Climate Emergency

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January 12, 2021 - Week 1

Action Alert: Advocate for Congress4Juliana

Contact Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden and your Congressional House Representative; let them know by thanking both Senators, Rep Bonamici, Rep Blumenauer and Rep DeFazio for supporting and or asking Rep Schrader and Rep Bentz to support the yet to be filed Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Concurrent 2021 Resolutions. The actual 2020 Letter version: LWVOR HERE and LWVUS HERE.


Oregon Climate and Carbon Policy – Political, Economic and Legal

Given the recent Georgia congressional Senate runoff results it is expected the new Biden / Harris Admin will now be much more aggressive than previously thought on a number of policy areas including implementing a Green post-Covid Economic Recovery plan. NYT article: “…When you’re in the majority, you have the chance to really play offense,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who is set to be chairman of the Finance Committee after Mr. Biden takes office…”


A number of science and industry leaders are amplifying the urgency for a comprehensive national plan. ‘Last year, researchers at Oregon State University led a group of 11,000 scientists worldwide to declare a climate emergency. This week, those same researchers renewed their calls for action. William Ripple, a professor of ecology at OSU, explains why he thinks climate change is a moral issue.’


Governor Brown’s Oregon Climate Carbon Agenda includes her 2018 and 2020 Executive Orders. The Governor’s 2021-2023 budget which requires Legislative approval includes ~$7 Million related to her Carbon Executive Orders (EO). Other Climate related Legislative priorities could include 100% Clean Energy (net zero by 2050), Climate adaptation and mitigation issues related to ODF (Oregon Dept of Forestry) for Wildfire support, Oregon Forestry Research Institute (OFRI) and possibly change in Timber Tax and legislation related to Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC) 25 recommendations, which includes a Green Banking proposal. (OGWC next meeting is Jan 29, more info Here) Legislative leadership nor our Oregon Conservation Network coalition partner priorities have been finalized but this session is expected not to have any price on carbon related bill’s. Five industry groups have refiled a lawsuit contending some of the EO’s are unconstitutional.


It’s too early to know how Gov Kate Brown’s Carbon Policy EO’s (dated early March) might intersect/complement Biden’s Admin Climate / Post COVID-19 Green Economic Recovery Plans, (Transportation, Infrastructure, Environmental, Energy, Healthcare, Housing, etc., policies) and related, LWV has endorsed the 2020 congressional THRIVE Agenda Campaign.


Carbon Policy Executive Orders (EO) 20-04 – Julie Chapman

The responsibility to enact the Governor’s Executive Order (EO) rests in multiple agencies and their commissions, the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC), and the Environmental Justice Task Force. Not all have mounted robust responses to the urgency of state action.


Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has progressed to the rulemaking phase for the Cap and Reduce and Clean Fuels Programs, with technical discussions to meet the goals for policy design. The Rulemaking Advisory Committees (with much public and LWVOR input) include a wide range of stakeholders, including industry, climate and environmental justice groups. Lack of scientific and engineering expertise has been noted.


The OGWC has primary responsibility in the EO to explore sequestration potential in natural and working lands, as well as oversight of other agencies’ climate adoptions. Under Chair Cathy Macdonald, OGWC is engaged with the Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Program to encourage regenerative agriculture with potential to improve soil health, reduce requirements for irrigation and chemical amendments, and to sequester carbon. Local assessments are planned for the diverse soil types and climate regions of the state.


Transportation


Transitions to zero-emissions transportation are developed in, and, for some programs, coordinated among ODOT, Dept of Energy, Dept of Land Conservation & Development (DLCD), and DEQ, and their commissions. Some developments: the Oregon Transportation Commission recently increased their 2024-2027 expenditures for “non-highway” infrastructure in response to testimony from 40-plus elected officials and organizations (including LWVOR). The $255 million/over three years, comes from a $2.2 billion federal and state infrastructure investment plan, for transit, pedestrian and bike uses, as part of reducing “Vehicle Miles Travelled.” As the process continues, we will continue to encourage the Transportation Commission to expand investment to support Zero-Emission Vehicle adoption, transit and “micro mobility” travel, focused on access in vulnerable/impacted communities.


The Land Conservation and Development Commission developed ambitious Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities goals. LCDC also adopted accelerated scenario planning for Metro Planning Organizations in Eugene-Springfield, to develop climate-smart (walkable) community planning and transit expansion. Salem-Keizer, Bend-Redmond and remaining Metro Planning regions will be able to adopt and modify this scenario planning, with the help of DLCD. Their rulemaking advisory committee has begun a robust process for guiding the design.


Clean Energy and Clean Buildings


During a University of Oregon climate meeting last week, Senator Golden (Jackson County) signaled that the focus of 2021 climate legislation will be pathways for “clean electricity” - rapid expansion of generation that approaches zero emissions. This is significant for several reasons: avoiding the bruising legislative sessions of the last few years; unpredictable budget impacts of Covid; and, the climate strategy of a rapid transition to electrification of transportation, building construction, industrial processes, heating, appliances, etc.


Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) Work Plans Related to EO 20-04 – Greg Martin


On December 14, 2020, PUC posted its final work plans for implementing the agency’s response to EO 20-04. The work plans incorporate public comments received in writing and during a November 19 online meeting, focused mainly on transportation electrification and the role of natural gas in decarbonization pathways.


PUC’s response is broken out into separate work plans addressing GHG Reduction, Impacted Communities, and Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation. Key planned activities include:


  • Implementing new analyses of GHG costs and risk in utilities’ Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs);

  • Incorporating carbon pricing, such as the Social Cost of Carbon, more fully in IRPs and other utility planning;

  • Coordinating with DEQ to design programs affecting natural gas providers as DEQ develops rules for the Cap and Reduce program, especially with regard to mitigating the energy burden on low-income natural gas customers;

  • Initiating a fact-finding effort in 2021 to better understand the customer dimensions and impacts of different decarbonization scenarios;

  • Developing a joint electric and natural gas utility pilot to explore resources for the in-state production of hydrogen as a storage and transportation fuel; and

  • Hiring a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Director, a new position.


Executive Director Michael Grant said the work plans represent “stretch goals” and that completing the activities will be challenging. PUC has already begun to incorporate the principles and directives of EO 20-04 into its current dockets and proceedings.


 

Oregon Department of Forestry – Josie Koehne


ODF and the Board of Forestry had its last meeting of the year on Nov. 4 focused on climate change. Four of the seven Board members, Nils Christoffersen, Cindy Deacon Williams, Mike Rose and Tom Iverson retired in December without new members having been appointed as of the January 4th Board meeting. At the request of Governor Brown, the Board Chair, Tom Iverson agreed to remain on the board until four new candidates are identified by the governor and approved by the Senate in a new regular session that begins Jan. 19, in order to provide a quorum so that board business can continue. Please see the Forestry section under the Natural Resources section of this Legislative Report for notes on the business of that January 4th board meeting.


The November 4th meeting started with a brief wildfire recap, but most of the rest of the presentations focused on ODF’s progress towards a plan to address climate change and the Gov's Exec Order 04-02.


First, Dept of Justice’s Matt DeVore answered the 8 questions the Board had posed the DOJ concerning the Board and the DOF's authority to address climate change. Reviewing all relevant statutes, the DOJ found that the department was given the authority to set statewide forest policy and to regulate forest practices on both state and private lands so long as it deemed the rules and the science were necessary to maintain and prevent degradation of forest soils, water, air, and fish and wildlife for the future. The Board can also set policy for federal lands using its Good Neighbor Authority and allows for state stewardship projects that support these goals. Statutes cited were ORS 526.016 (includes rule-making authority), 527.710 and 527.630 for broad authority among other more specific statutes. Details of any proposed regulation would require further analysis by DOJ. These statutes will not protect against litigation from private owners, however.


Another topic presented was the Oregon Forest Carbon Accounting Framework presented by ODF Forest Ecologist Andrew Yost. This is in response to Board of Forestry’s Goal G in the Forestry Program for Oregon, which is “to improve carbon sequestration and storage and reduce carbon emissions in Oregon’s forests and forest products.” Working with the Oregon Global Warming Commission, Oregon Department of Forestry (Danny Norlander, Forest Health Survey and Monitoring Specialist, Private Forests Division) has been working to develop a forest carbon accounting framework that will meet the requirements mandated by Section 12(1) (i) of House Bill 3543 that was passed by the 2007 Legislature. That legislation directs the Commission to track and evaluate the carbon sequestration potential of Oregon’s forests, alternative methods of forest management that can increase carbon sequestration and reduce the loss of carbon sequestration to wildfire, changes in the mortality and distribution of tree and other plant species and the extent to which carbon is stored in tree-based building materials. Four research reports were presented that contribute to the basis for this framework:


1) the Forest Ecosystem Carbon Report and the Pacific Northwest (Research Station) Forest Carbon Initiative. This report focuses on the current stocks (storage of carbon by sequestration in live and dead trees, soils, roots and other vegetative matter) and flux (dynamic emissions and exchanges of carbon as trees grow, mature and die). The method used is the federal Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) accounting method used by the USDA Forest Service to measure carbon throughout the country. Oregon is part of a regional approach with California, Washington and British Columbia to measure carbon over time in field plots located throughout these states’ public and private forestlands to serve as a baseline for carbon accounting. Oregon alone has 9,483 such field plots. Ten percent of these plots are measured each year and then is repeated periodically to determine changes in carbon storage. Western and coastal forests, and Douglas firs sequester the most carbon compared to other regions and species. Effects from forest fires and clear-cutting is also studied. The goal is to quantify the relationship between changes in geography of individual species and changes in climate. The past 20 years of data collection will be completed by June 2021. Selected highlights from this assessment include: i) for the 2016 reporting period the amount of carbon in Oregon’s forests was approximately 3.2 billion metric tons and ii) the carbon in Oregon’s forests increased by approximately 30.9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year between 2001-2016.


2) the Harvested Wood Product Report and Sawmill Energy Report took three years by a Montana researcher. Half the carbon (43%) is stored in wood products such as logs, paper pulp and other products and half (52%) is lost in CO2e emissions. Oregon sawmills use less energy compared to California because they use more renewables (wood fuels) and hydroelectric power rather than fossil fuels and use fewer kilns for drying wood.


3) Global Carbon Flux and Forest Considerations report was presented by Werner Kurz, senior research scientist with Canada's Pacific Forestry Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, who developed the Carbon Budget Modeling framework. This explains the role of forests in the global carbon cycle and the potential for managing forests to mitigate rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. This was a highly technical report.


4) Forest Management Scenarios for Carbon Mitigation is a process for integrating the data collected from these various data reports to model different forest practices scenarios. Kendall DeLyser, Senior Manager of Forests and Climate with American Forests discussed their collaborative project with ODF to simulate the carbon consequences of alternative forest management scenarios focused on carbon mitigation using the Carbon Budget Model framework. It includes a process for stakeholder input on the concepts to test for. The model can be run by changing inputs and assumptions from the data collected. The results of the various models can then be run and analyzed by technical experts in conjunction with policymakers. The timeframe to complete these test hypotheses is by December of 2021.


In conclusion, ODF has been working for a while to develop a strong, science-based approach to test out potential policy decision scenarios in light of the changing climate to determine the best the one, to maximize the sequestration of forest carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What is disappointing is that even in the January 4th meeting on the ODF climate work plan, there has been very little detail or concrete proposals on what ODF plans to do to cut GHT emissions through increased sequestration, afforestation and reforestation. There has been no substantive discussion on carbon credit offsets or changing our weak Forest Practices laws. Revisions even to revising goal G on climate has not yet begun. There is frustration in the slow pace of idea-generation and decision-making. Operating with less than half a board does not help the much-needed work to address climate change in our forestlands, both private and public. Please read our testimony for the January 4th board meeting that was mentioned by one of the board members who was in agreement with our comments.



Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) (Shirley Weathers)


As 2021 begins, local, state, national, and global happenings remain relevant to the project’s future. The oil and gas industry is struggling due to market forces stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and another year of tragic and costly wildfires and weather events have increased public and political pressure to step up the pace to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The impact of the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is unclear for numerous reasons, but their strong commitment addressing climate change including by reversing Trump era policies on a range of climate and environment related matters, both here and internationally, puts projects like JCEP on very different footing than they have enjoyed for the past four years. Investors are taking note. In their 2021 Guidance and Business Update, Pembina announced a write-down of the Ruby Pipeline, a major asset related to JCEP, and made it clear that their only expenditures on the project will relate to obtaining permits, a task that drags on largely due to state denials, local permit appeals, and incomplete federal regulatory processes.


Here’s an update on key permitting highlights:

  1. The U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s has directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to evaluate JCEP’s request for an override of Oregon’s objections to the corporation’s Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) consistency certificate. The outcome of the override request of this critical state permit would have multiple impacts. The Secretary’s decision is due by January 26 (with an option for an extension into February), so could happen at any time.

  2. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) ruling on whether Oregon waived their authority over JCEP’s 401 Water Quality certification is still pending with a decision expected soon. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) denied (without prejudice) the permit application in May of 2019. If the State prevails, Pembina will need to reapply, but under new EPA rules that weaken the role of states and tribal groups. (LWVOR commented in strong opposition to the rules when proposed.) As of January 4, the two vacancies on the FERC have been filled with a bipartisan pair, Mark Christie and Allison Clements, as is customary. Commissioner Glick is expected to become Chair.

  3. Attorneys on both sides of the appeal of FERC’s Order approving JCEP in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals are now preparing briefs with a deadline after mid-January.

  4. Crag Law Center and Talent Attorney Tonia Moro continue to pursue appeals of several local land use decisions before the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). They won one recently and are arguing another to overturn a permit allowing Coos Bay dredging at this writing.

  5. In addition to these major events, see the list of water permits JCEP has yet to even apply for. The federal FAST-41 Dashboard tracks federal permit requirements, but fails to reflect several permits marked “complete,” that have been reopened due to FERC actions in the Final Order.


Recent CE Testimony or League Comments


January 4 , 2021 : LWVOR CE and NR team members provided the following comments to Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board OWEB “Natural and Working Lands Climate Solutions Survey."


November 20, 2020: The 2024-2027 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program – Comment

October 27, 2020: Draft 2020 OGWC Biennial Report to the Legislature – Comments on the Report and Agency Implementation