Oregon Greenhouse Gas laws go into effect

State Legislation Requires New Strategies for Greenhouse Gas Reduction
By Kelly S. Hossaini
Miller Nash
Oregon Law Firm

In its 2010 special session, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 1059, which directs the Oregon Department of Transportation (“ODOT”) and the Department of Land Conservation and Development (“DLCD”) to, among other things, develop a statewide transportation strategy for greenhouse gases (“GHGs”) and educate the public about the importance of reducing GHGs from motor vehicles. Governor Kulongoski signed the bill into law on March 18, 2010. SB 1059 is the latest in a line of fairly complex and interrelated bills passed by the Legislature since 2007 in an effort to control the state’s GHG emissions. This bill, like two passed in 2009, focuses on reducing emissions from the transportation sector, which account for an estimated 25 percent of all GHG emissions in the Portland metropolitan area1. The transportation sector’s emissions are predominantly from on-road vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds and making local trips. This would include, for example, local passenger vehicles carrying their occupants to and from work and errands, as opposed to freight trucks, transit, and aircraft.

A Short History of GHG Legislation in Oregon

In 2004, the Governor’s Advisory Group on Global Warming developed the Oregon Strategy to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which recommended three GHG emission targets: (1) arrest the growth of GHG emissions by 2010; (2) lower GHG emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; and (3) lower GHG emissions to 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. These targets were then adopted by the Legislature in 2007 through HB 3543. According to state analysts, Oregon is on track to meet its 2010 goal of arresting the growth of GHG emissions in 2010. It is not clear, however, whether that stability in emissions is the result of systemic and permanent changes in travel habits and energy usage, for example, or simply a by-product of the economic recession.

In 2009, the Legislature adopted two more GHG initiatives. HB 2186 created a Metropolitan Planning Organization (“MPO”) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Task Force. The bill charged the task force with studying and evaluating the development of alternative land use and transportation scenarios that can accommodate expected population and employment growth while still reducing GHGs from motor vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. The task force was also charged with evaluating the fiscal and other resources needed to implement those scenarios, as well as possible impediments to scenario implementation. The task force released its final set of recommendations with respect to curbing urban transportation GHGs in December 2009, and the first phase of those recommendations formed the basis of SB 1059, discussed in more detail below.

HB 2001 was the second 2009 legislative initiative that focused on GHGs. Whereas HB 2186 is concerned with all state MPOs, including Portland, Salem/Keizer, Eugene/Springfield, Corvallis, Bend, and Medford, HB 2001 focuses on Portland and Eugene/Springfield only. HB 2001 requires Metro and the Lane Council of Governments (the MPO for Eugene/Springfield) to develop land use and transportation scenarios tailored to their regions that will allow those regions to meet their respective portions of GHG emission reductions over the coming years. Again, the focus is on light-duty vehicles, such as passenger cars and trucks. Once Metro has developed a preferred scenario for the region, it is then required to work with local governments to change their land use and transportation plans to implement the preferred scenario. At this time, the Lane Council of Governments is required only to develop a preferred scenario, but not adopt it. An implementation progress report on the metro-region scenarios is due to the Legislature by February 2012.

Work has begun on implementing both HB 2186 and HB 2001, and the sometimes overlapping requirements between the two bills are being coordinated.

The HB 2186 Task Force Report

In general, the underpinning of the MPO Greenhouse Gas Emissions Task Force report is the principle that reducing GHG emissions from light-duty vehicles will be the result of reducing vehicle miles traveled, which, in turn, will result from more compact, mixed-use communities with multiple travel options, including transit, bicycles, and walking. One can expect, then, that the ultimate implementation that will flow from the report will move the urban areas of the state more closely in that direction.

Specifically, the task force report made three recommendations:

1. ODOT should lead, and the Oregon Transportation Commission should adopt, a state strategy for reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector to aid metropolitan and local planning.

2. The Land Use Development Commission should lead the effort to set targets for GHG emissions for individual metropolitan areas.

3. ODOT and DLCD should provide technical assistance to metropolitan areas in the form of a “detailed toolkit,” improved modeling tools, and best practices for land use and transportation planning that will reduce GHG emissions.

The task force further recommended that the existing metropolitan planning processes should incorporate scenario planning in three phases. Phase 1 requires MPO exploration of ways to reduce GHG emissions over the next two years. Phase 2, which would begin in 2012, requires that metropolitan areas, as part of their regional transportation plans, develop land use and transportation scenario plans to meet GHG reduction targets. Phase 3 requires subsequent ongoing updates to reflect new information and progress in meeting the GHG reduction goals. HB 1059 embodies the work recommended for Phase 1.

The Next Step: SB 1059

Picking up where the task force report recommendations left off, SB 1059 directs ODOT and DLCD to do the following, among other things:

1. Adopt a statewide transportation strategy on GHG emissions that will help the state achieve the reduction mandates of HB 3543.

2. Establish guidelines for developing and evaluating alternative land use and transportation scenarios to reduce GHG emissions.

3. Establish a toolkit to assist local governments in developing and implementing actions to reduce GHG emissions. This should include information about programs that can be implemented, information about those programs’ effectiveness, guidelines for best management practices, and public educational tools.

4. Set transportation-related GHG targets for Oregon’s six MPOs by
June 2011.

5. In conjunction with the Oregon University System, educate the public about the need to reduce GHG emissions, as well as about the costs and benefits of doing so.

SB 1059 requires ODOT and DLCD to report to the Legislature in 2013 regarding their progress in meeting these mandates.

It is clear that Oregon is determined to take a leading role in the reduction of GHGs, and it is not waiting for the inevitable federal legislation. In the land use planning and development context, this will very likely mean additional regulations to create more compact, mixed-use communities supported by multiple transportation options. The efforts in this direction will also very likely influence Metro’s urban growth boundary amendment decision, due out later this year, with the effect being a minimal expansion of the boundary that will mainly respond to specific industrial or employment land needs.

For further information regarding strategies for GHG reduction, please contact Kelly Hossaini at (503) 224-5858 or at [email protected].

1 The remainder of GHG emissions in the Portland metropolitan area come from consumption of electricity and natural gas in buildings (27 percent), and the consumption of goods and food by residents (48 percent). See www.oregonmetro.gov/climatechange.

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