SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's stalled effort to reduce greenhouse gases from cars and trucks could get new life soon, as the state pushes for a new pollution-reporting mandate for fuel providers and the Legislature prepares to take a fresh look at the program.
The first test comes Friday, when a state environmental panel will decide whether to force oil producers to report the amount of carbon emissions associated with their fuels.
A bigger fight will come next year, when environmental groups and others will ask the Legislature to extend the life of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program beyond its current expiration in 2015. The move would allow the state to go beyond a reporting requirement and begin forcing fuel providers to reduce the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions.
"We're seeing the impacts of climate change now," said Jana Gastellum, climate protection program manager at the Oregon Environmental Council. "We have an economic need to spur investment in our state, and this program is a great opportunity to address both issues at once."
Oil companies, truckers, farmers and other large-volume fuel users say the state is moving way too fast and risks raising fuel costs significantly. They're warning legislators that eliminating the program's expiration date, or "sunset," would remove the Legislature's power to influence the process.
"They're just saying, 'Trust us, so we can get rid of the sunset and go do it without any legislative oversight,'" said Brian Doherty, a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Association, a coalition of oil companies.
Oregon was one of the first states to adopt a low-carbon fuel standard in 2009, requiring fuel producers to reduce the carbon content of their fuel by 10 percent from their 2010 levels. It was one of the top environmental achievements for former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, but it has yet to be implemented.
Now, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has come up with a two-phase approach beginning with Friday's meeting of the Environmental Quality Commission. If the commission approves, fuel companies would have to track and report pollution associated with their fuel based on a carbon intensity score. The metric measures pollution from a fuel's entire life cycle, including the electricity used to produce it and the fuel used to transport it to Oregon.