BY ANDREA DURBIN | OB GUEST BLOGGER
Last week, the Obama administration took an important and welcomed step in the effort to protect the health and well-being of all Oregonians by limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants. These proposed standards affirm that climate change is a real and urgent issue that is impacting us right now: threatening the water that supplies our farms and factories, impacting the health of our children through increased pollution, and increasing costs for us all.
But what do these standards mean for Oregon? With the planned closing of the Boardman power plant by the end of 2020, Oregon will achieve much of the requirement set by the new EPA rules for carbon reduction. Oregon’s decision for an early shutdown for our one coal-fired power plant in Boardman combined with our commitments to renewable energy and energy efficiency means the state is well positioned to meet the 48% carbon reduction goal the EPA has set for us.
What might come as a surprise for most Oregonians is that shutting the Boardman plant won't stop our reliance on coal. About 20% of Oregon’s power still comes from imported coal power. That means for Oregon to really address our consumption of coal power, we need to turn our sights to our neighbors in the western states that supply coal energy to Oregon: Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
The good news for Oregon businesses is that EPA’s Clean Power Plan gives states flexibility for achieving their carbon reduction targets, including through multi-state partnerships. Coal-dependent states in the region can meet their EPA requirements by investing in Oregon’s increasing demand for energy efficiency and clean energy, and in turn we can help these states transition away from coal.
Existing state and regional policies that control carbon pollution have already created business opportunities. In the northeast, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is cost-effectively reducing carbon pollution from the power sector and driving investment into clean energy. According to The Analysis Group, carbon reduction is good business: RGGI has created $1.6 billion in economic activity and supported 16,000 additional jobs in the region through the growth of energy efficiency and renewable energy businesses.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan represents a business opportunity here in Oregon and a win-win for consumers. Smart investments now will not only mitigate much costlier risks into the future, but also create a competitive advantage that drives investment in our state’s clean energy economy, reducing energy costs for Oregon households by supporting energy efficiency programs and supporting cleaner, less polluting energy sources. We can all breathe a little better as a result.
Andrea Durbin is the Executive Director of the Oregon Environmental Council.