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Oregon governor signs executive order fighting climate change
Oregon governor signs executive order fighting climate change

The governor of Oregon signed an expansive executive order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the state Tuesday, just days after a Republican walkout in the state senate scuttled legislative efforts to achieve the same ends.

Republicans in the state senate and house staged walkouts to prevent a quorum, forcing the Oregon legislature to end its session without passing a bill aimed at cutting GHG emissions in the state. Following the legislative failure, Governor Kate Brown signaled that she would take executive action on the issue, and the executive order she signed largely imposes the same measures that the senate bill would have achieved.

The order mandates that 18 state agencies conduct their work with an eye to reducing GHGs, with the goal being a 45 percent reduction over 1990 levels by 2035, rising to an 80 percent reduction by 2050. A major component of both the failed Senate Bill 1530 and Brown’s executive order is a system that would cap emissions by carbon polluters, with the caps reducing over time. Objection to the caps prompted the Republican walkout, and industry lobbyists and Republican lawmakers both expect lawsuits to be filed against the order.

The governor’s office, however, feels the repeated failures of the legislature to enact legislation on climate change will convince the courts that the legislature is “incapable of acting … and that the executive branch is the only branch capable of acting on climate.” The belief is that courts may be more willing to uphold executive action in the face of long-term legislative inaction.

The directives to state agencies in the order are set to take effect immediately.