Submitted by Co-facilitator Alan Journet
I write on behalf of the 1500 Southern Oregonians who are Southern Oregon Climate Action Now to offer comments on the first three DEQ public workshop sessions addressing the Cap and Reduce program.
- Which greenhouse gases might be regulated? Why?
Climate science, as reviewed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports and intervening reports, tells us very clearly that global warming is happening and inducing phenomenal climate change problems that threaten life as we know it across the planet. It is very clear that the cause of this global warming is the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere resulting from human activities. The main anthropogenic greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and the chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. The main sources of the emissions generating the problem are the extraction, processing, transmission and combustion of fossil fuels along with land management and industrial activity. While carbon dioxide is most commonly identified as the culprit, and, unfortunately, is often the sole greenhouse gas targeted by programs and proposals designed to address the problem (e.g. the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – RGGI) and the Washington State 2018 Initiative drive (I – 1631), we now understand that the other greenhouse gases account for some 35 – 40% of the greenhouse gases that cause warming, as measured by the NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index. The message is clear: globally, we need to address all greenhouse gases not just carbon dioxide (https://socan.eco/the-carbon-mistake/), and we need to address them from wherever they are sourced throughout their lifecycle of use (whether this is extraction, processing, transmission, or combustion). Furthermore, we must be wary of proposing any solution that simply shifts emissions from one gas to another. Thus, proposals that target combustion emissions of greenhouse gases from fuel, effectively make the error of targeting almost exclusively carbon dioxide. This encourages utilities to switch to fossil (natural) gas. The result, as has been witnessed in RGGI states, is an increase in methane emissions from extraction and processing of fossil (natural) gas.
Thus, the target for emissions reduction should be all greenhouse gases and should involve a full life cycle assessment of emissions from the point of entry of the fuel into the jurisdictional energy economy, followed by processing, transmission, and combustion of fossil fuels. To this, we should add the full life cycle emissions resulting from industrial activity.
Fortunately, in Oregon, this is exactly the array of greenhouse gases that were identified as targets in the legislative proposals of the last two years (HB2020 in 2019, and SB1530 in 2020). In addition, these are exactly the gases that are targeted in Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-04. Given the target of that EO as 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and that greenhouse gases other than CO2 are responsible for 35 – 40% of current emissions, it is obvious that all gases must be addressed if the target is to be achieved.
- Which fuels and activities result in emissions that should be regulated? Why?
No fuel or activity should be eliminated from consideration for inclusion in the cap. The inference from the argument above is that unless we target all greenhouse gas emissions, we will inevitably either fail to meet the targets identified in the Executive Order, or find ourselves requiring a steep downward trajectory late in the schedule. In addition, we know that in reality we need to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in order to achieve the IPCC recommended target of no greater warming than 1.5°C above pre-industrial conditions. Unfortunately, mainly because the political will in Oregon is not sympathetic to meeting this target, a lesser but still relatively stringent target was incorporated into legislative proposals and the 2020 EO. This lesser trajectory was presumably incorporated in the hope of establishing a relatively steep downward trajectory that could be modified later when the political will among Oregonians to reach the necessary net zero target by 2050 reaches critical mass. It is also worth noting that the reason Oregon is now confronted by the need to impose a steep downward trajectory is that an insufficient number of Oregon polluters responded adequately to the voluntary goals established in 2007 with HB3543. While some polluters have made efforts to reduce emissions, others have not. Entities in the latter category should not be rewarded by exclusion from the requirements of emissions reductions now.
- What tradeoffs are important when establishing emissions thresholds for inclusion?
This question requires first a consideration of whether the cap will be imposed upstream on those importing fossil fuels into the state on the basis of emissions resulting from subsequent use of that fuel, or downstream capping those transmitting / transporting the fuel or on the end-user of the fuel where final combustion occurs. The benefit to upstream imposition of a cap is that this will result in fewer entities involved in the program with considerable associated administrative advantages. Meanwhile, imposing the cap on the end user of fuel has the benefit that it provides a clear and direct incentive to reduce emissions by adjusting behaviors that require the fossil fuel to behaviors that depend on renewable energy sources. This approach multiplies the number of target entities immeasurably and creates a similarly huge administrative complexity. This choice also impacts threshold: if the target is upstream imposition, the threshold for inclusion in the program can be relatively large; meanwhile, imposing the cap on the end user will require a very small threshold for inclusion in the cap to achieve the same level of reduction. It may be, however, that de facto, applying the cap upstream with anticipated consequences being passed downstream, will also provide sufficient incentive for end-users to adjust their behavior, especially if the results in increased fuel costs. This, clearly, is the principle applied in other jurisdictions establishing some form of greenhouse gas emissions pricing mechanism. However, when no price for compliance instruments (allowances) is involved in the program, there is no cost to pass down and thus incentivize end users to adjust behaviors. This raises a question about what the fuel importer can do to reduce the emissions consequent upon the distribution of and final combustion of their fuel by end-users. One approach would be for the importer / distributor to diversify into renewable energy. The most obvious approach, however, might be that as their cap is lowered, they reduce the amount of fuel they import and market. As all fuel importers suffer the same conundrum, and reduce the fuel available, market forces will result in an increase in the price of the fuel. While this certainly will likely have the impact of encouraging end-users to adjust their behavior, it will also have the huge, and unacceptable, social injustice consequence of pricing low-income Oregonians out of the fuel market. The other approach, of course, is to reduce the combustion-generated greenhouse gas content of fuel, which is exactly what the clean fuels program strives to achieve and can achieve – up to a point. But it seems unlikely that the clean fuels program could achieve 80%, much less, net zero emissions.
The above discussions points to the most appropriate target for the cap being the end-user (the industry, the commercial business, or the individual Oregonian). However, this will create the profound impression of there being an imposed greenhouse gas emissions rationing system wherein end users experience an annually reducing emissions cap and they are expected to adjust their behavior to comply with that reducing cap. This also raises the specter of how individuals and small businesses will demonstrate what their emissions are and how they are reducing emissions – another headache imposed on small businesses and individuals. Interestingly, this also creates the situation where individual emissions are assessed in terms on intensity of emissions per individual. If, as seems likely, climate change causes Oregon to become an even more favored migrant target, we will experience massive numbers of ‘climate refugees.’ This means individual emissions caps will be ‘intensity caps’ based on emissions per individual. With more Oregonians, even a reducing rate of emissions per individual, there will likely be an increase in overall emissions. The greenhouse gas emissions reporting program that such an approach requires would be huge.
One question worth exploring is whether imposing a threshold sufficiently high that individual Oregonians are exempt would provide sufficient emissions reductions from the transportations sector. If so, exempting individuals would negate the social injustice issue raised above. Two other potential approaches are (1) to eliminate fossil fuel importers and distributors from the program but charge the emissions from fuel combustion against the end-user which experiences the reducing cap and thus experiences an incentive to switch from fossil fuel, and (2) to impose the reducing cap on distributors / retailers, though this would suffer the same problems as the upstream imposition of fuel importers and impose a burden on those businesses as well as increase administrative complexity. Consideration of both options would require assessing if they could achieve reduction targets identified in the EO.
- Which entities should be responsible for which sources [of] emissions? Why?
If we are seriously to establish a program that recognizes the need to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases, the logical conclusion is that any entity responsible for such emissions should be targeted (with possible exceptions identified above). The burden of proof would then fall on any entity feeling such an imposition is unreasonable to make their a case to the EQC.
- What issues have been raised during this workshop that should have continued discussions?
The question of whether caps should be imposed upstream or downstream (the former resulting in fewer targeted entities and thus being administratively easier) is critical since, as argued here, it will influence discussions regarding the threshold for inclusion in the cap program.
- What considerations are there for setting declining caps over time? Are there other considerations, especially in the context of achievability and contribution toward meeting Oregon’s interim and long-term GHG emissions reduction targets?
One critical concern is to recognize that the target for the EO of 80% reduction in emissions compared too 1990 is inadequate to achieve the goal of only raising temperature 1.5°C above pre-industrial conditions by 2050. Rather, by 20250, the requirement is globally to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Thus, if Oregon is do its part in contributing to the global program to reduce emissions, all sectors of the economy across the state should be the targets for the reducing cap.
- What sector-specific considerations should there be in cap-setting and should caps differ by sector?
All sectors of the economy should be charged with reducing their emissions along the trajectory and with the goals identified in the EO. Of course, we must acknowledge, that the goals and trajectory may need to be updated as increasing scientific knowledge advances, and public opinion adjusts to recognize the needs this developing scientific knowledge dictates.
- What considerations are there for setting the initial cap level?
Presumably, the initial cap to be imposed in the first one or two years of the program will be based on the assessment of emissions resulting from past years. It is likely that, because of the COVID-19 crisis, 2020 will prove to be a substantially atypical emissions year for many entities. Thus, at least for those entities for which this is the case, 2020 should be eliminated from consideration. Given this consideration, it should also be recognized that any one year may be, for an entity, an outlier. Thus, to assess baseline emissions, the most reasonable approach would be to take the average of the last three to five years prior to 2020.
From this baseline, the trajectory for emissions reduction should be established. The simplest approach would be a linear reduction that achieves the intermediate and final goals. This approach would allow entities to pace themselves in terms of emissions reductions over the scheduled period, imposing some ‘low-hanging fruit’ reductions early and saving others for later in the schedule when more expensive capital-intensive reductions are necessarily brought online.
However, a strong counter-argument to this linear approach is the imperative of best available science. We know that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has urged a limit of 1.5°C above pre-industrial conditions. This is equated with a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, implying that the 2050 goal of the EO is inadequate. DEQ should schedule emissions reductions that will be sufficiently flexible that they can accommodate the IPCC target when Oregon public opinion acknowledges that need. To allow this adjustment without imposing a substantial disruption of the state economy, it makes sense that the trajectory should start steeply and then gradually soften over time towards the current, and then hopefully improved, targets.
One reality that is worth considering is the entity history of greenhouse gas emissions reduction effort of polluting entities. When the emissions reduction goals of 75% below 1990 emissions were established in 2007 through HB3543, under the protocol of a voluntary program, some polluters took the goals seriously and have, during the intervening years, taken steps to reduce emissions. Meanwhile, one reason that Oregon is so far away from achieving those voluntary goals is that most Oregon polluters have made little to no effort to reduce emissions. It makes admirable sense that both groups of polluters should not be considered as having equivalent starting points. Thus, entities that have striven to reduce emissions and have installed best available emissions reduction technology could be awarded a short term (say two year) grace period to upgrade fully to current BATs. During this period entities having failed to install best available technology would be required to do so. The trajectory of emissions reductions would then be initiated based on the emissions level of that year. During this grace period, polluters already having reduced emissions, could identify 2020 or 2021 as their baseline, and initiate further reductions from there.
Whatever cap and trajectory are established for polluters would have to be imposed with due consideration given to intermediate targets and the trajectory needed to achieve them.
- What are the benefits or concerns with mass-based or intensity-based standards?
Since the goals of the EO are stated in terms of emissions reductions compared to 1990 levels, and these are stated in terms of metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, the most reasonable basis for measuring emissions is the mass of emissions (tons) produced by any entity included within the program. The reduction of emissions, measured in tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year, can then be designated in terms of program goals. The downside of intensity assessment is that described above with individuals: if a polluter increases output, an intensity-based assessment could suggest the appearance of a reduction when, in reality, total emissions are rising. This suggests that rather than allowing an intensity based assessment, DEQ should identify the mass-based assessment goal as the default, and place the burden of proof on any entity wishing to use an intensity-based assessment to demonstrate why that is appropriate and that such assessment is not concealing an actual increase in emissions.
- Consideration for Alternative Compliance Instruments
As the IPCC 2018 report indicates, our goal in addressing global warming should be to restrict this to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This means restricting atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to 425 – 430 ppm. Regrettably, we are already above 400 ppm CO2 and over 500 ppm CO2e. This means that, in addition to reducing emissions, as the 2018 IPCC report indicates, we will need to engage in some form of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR): we must extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Before addressing this issue, I would like to state clearly and unequivocally that SOCAN is very strongly committed to the need to address the concerns of environmental justice. As the Executive Order clearly states, while addressing Oregon’s contribution to the global warming problem, it is critical to develop programs that also target social justice and assist vulnerable and impacted communities as they actualize the Oregon Climate Action Plan. As rural Oregonians on the frontlines of the floods, droughts, decreasing snowpack and increasing wildfire risk that climate change is promoting, we Southern Oregonians are concerned that the program should provide a means to promote emissions mitigation through renewable energy, and promote carbon sequestration in our natural and working lands as the Executive Order charges. While other technological solutions have been proposed to promote CDR, in our view the natural process of trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is the most effective and benign available.
The problem that confronts us in realizing the EO is that it provides no source of funds that can be used to incentivize sequestration in our natural and working lands. While it might be optimal to allocate funds from other sources to augment the OCAP, these would require legislative approval which, as the legislature is currently constituted and with the current fiscal crisis imposed by the pandemic, seems unlikely materialize. Thus, we recommend a Cap and Reduce plan that incorporates a mechanism for incentivizing regenerative agriculture that replenishes soil health, and carbon sequestering forestry that increase carbon storage in our forests. We should not rely on some other legislative solution to solve this incentive void, but incorporate the solution into the plan.
As Climate Action Plan options have so far been developed and offered for discussion, the only such mechanism seems to be one that incorporates Alternative Compliance Instruments (generally termed ‘offsets’). We understand that offsets can be abused in such a way that they allow industries releasing greenhouse gases and other toxic co-pollutants to poison the air of communities neighboring those facilities clearly compromising the health of these communities and furthering social injustice. However, while we endorse alternative compliance instruments to provide revenue to incentivize carbon sequestration, we also argue that polluters should not be permitted to use offsets as a way to continue historic behaviors compromising the health of neighboring communities. HB2020 (2019) and SB1530 (2020) both incorporated provisions that would allow the state DEQ to disallow offsets if these were to be used by an entity contributing to air quality nonattainment. We recommend that the Cap and Reduce program take more rigorous steps to protect neighboring communities. Rather than basing the criterion for disallowance on whether the region is in nonattainment, we suggest disallowance should apply to any entity that emits substantial co-pollutants (the term ‘substantial’ to be defined sufficiently rigorously as to have a meaningful impact on protecting air quality).
We also recognize that projects that receive funds as part of an alternative compliance instrument component of the plan have been demonstrated as either fraudulent, in terms of the actual sequestration they achieve, or otherwise damaging to vulnerable communities. We are totally supportive of the need to ensure that any projects that are certified as satisfactory targets for these incentive funds should meet the basic requirements listed by DEQ: Real, Measurable, Additional, Permanent, Monitored, and Verifiable. Unsurprisingly, these are the criteria for offsets that were included in the legislation identified above.
In other words, in our opinion, the shortcomings associated with alternative compliance instruments from a social justice perspective can be addressed and prevented by appropriately worded rules and requirements. The Devil is always in the details; let’s make the details work for us!
In whether projects receiving alternative compliance approval should be limited to Oregon, we are less committed. While it is clear that restricting such projects to Oregon can increase the capacity for them to be credibly certified, and certainly can enhance the likelihood of their benefitting vulnerable communities and redressing prior social injustice in our state, it is also possible that limiting these to Oregon would result in other jurisdictions that develop a parallel program, precluding investment from their programs in Oregon projects. Given the rich diversity of potential such projects in Oregon, such a restriction could redound to the disadvantage of our state. Rather, it makes more sense to limit projects to regions that can undergo credible certification, maybe other jurisdictions with credible climate action programs.
- Consideration for limiting the use of Alternative Compliance Instruments
While we are cognizant of the arguments from polluters that they would like to maximize the availability of alternative compliance instruments, we do not accept the principle that these should be available to replace emissions reductions that such industries could readily undertake. Thus, we would argue for a burden of proof requirement imposed on those entities wishing to take advantage of these instruments demonstrating that they have achieved all emissions reductions they can reasonably achieve through best available technology before being allowed to take the alternative compliance route. It would similarly make sense that entities should be limited in the proportion of their compliance requirement that can be met by such instruments. This limit could be established as a general standard by sector with the provision that entities can appeal that standard, but again with the burden of proof falling on the polluter to demonstrate the need for a different standard.
- Consideration for existing registries versus DEQ specific protocols
Again, this is an area to which we do not have a strong commitment. However, it seems only reasonable, in the interests of cost-effectiveness and efficiency, to take advantage of certification procedures that have already been developed and can, themselves, be certified as credible.
- What are some approaches DEQ should consider for distribution of compliance instruments to regulated entities?
Constrained by the Box
I start by assuming that the program is based on compliance instrument (allowance) where emitting entities are required to submit instruments equivalent to their emissions, paying a substantial penalty for any emissions in excess of submitted instruments. I note, however, that no discussion of this critical element has occurred and point out that absent a substantial penalty for non-compliance there is no cap and reduce program. We know how effectively a voluntary emissions reduction program works since that is the failed program we have had in place since 2007. The emissions threshold for inclusion in the program will depend considerably on whether the targets are upstream (where fuels enter the state economy, for example, and based on emissions resulting from their distribution and final combustion) or whether the targets are end-users. If the former, then the threshold can be relatively high – somewhere in the standard threshold range of 25,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions annually. However, if the target is the downstream end-user, this threshold will have to be much lower (possibly under 100 metric tons) to have the same effect.
The general principle that targeting upstream entities is preferable is based on the premise of a GHG emissions pricing mechanism where the price is passed down the chain to ultimate end-users. This has the effect of achieving program goals by encouraging end-users to switch to a less polluting energy source. Unfortunately, in the absence of any charge for resultant GHG emissions, the entire principle wherein there exists an incentive for the end-user to switch to a different energy source is compromised. Greenhouse gas emissions reduction trajectories and goals are consequently also compromised. Without any pricing mechanism, targeting the end-user and reducing allowances has the benefit of directly imposing a greater incentive to switch to low emissions energy sources and procedures. However, the disadvantage if targeting the end-user is that it requires a very low threshold for inclusion in the program. This means potentially that individual small (Mom and Pop) businesses and even individual households will be included. This then demands that such entities (or DEQ) develop mechanisms for assessing and certifying their emissions. This will inevitably result in a complex and cumbersome – not to mention unpopular – program and administrative structure.
The only way I can see to evade this problem, is to set the threshold high enough that small businesses and individual households are excluded. This then raises the question of whether the program can possibly achieve its stated targets. The conundrum us especially relevant to the transportation sector since a substantial component of the current emissions problem is derived from individual vehicles.
Escaping from the Box
Given Oregon’s recent history of legislative proposals designed to address global warming, it is not surprising that DEQ should focus its attention on a program to meet the requirements of the Governor’s EO that relies on compliance instruments (allowances). However, this is unfortunate given the judgment that DEQ cannot incorporate a mechanism that involves charging for or auctioning the instruments to generate funds that could be used to support other aspects of the overall program embodied in EO 20-04. It seems paradoxical that DEQ also judges that is has the authority to impose fines on those failing to meet the requirements of submitting compliance instruments sufficient to cover recorded emissions. While I have not thought this suggestion through, it seems to me that one resolution to this problem would be to establish zero emissions as the basic permitted allowance for entities included in the program, and then impose a penalty (fine) on those not meeting that goal. The program could be devised in such a way that the penalty is zero until a defined emissions level is reached, after which a substantial fine is imposed. Alternatively, the fine (which is now functionally equivalent to a license to emit) could start small and increase gradually to achieve similar ends. If the DEQ advice is correct that funds from the penalties are deposited in the general fund, I suggest the program could then tap those funds to support efforts consistent with the EO such as promoting carbon sequestration in forestry and agriculture or addressing social injustice.
Obviously, these thoughts only represent an initial excursion into this concept. However, as I consider some of the problems associated with other aspects of the program – particularly the absence of a mechanism for promoting investment in carbon sequestration in our natural and working lands, as the EO charges should happen, it seems to me that this approach offers some merit.
- What sector-specific considerations should DEQ take into account when developing a methodology for distributing compliance instruments to regulated entities?
An essential principle should be that the emissions reduction program should be economy-wide and statewide. No subset of the economy nor any geographic region should be expected to contribute an undue proportion of the emissions reductions unless it is demonstrated that the emissions from that sector or region are (per capita) unduly large.
- Should DEQ hold some amount of compliance instruments in reserve to be distributed on an as-needed basis? If yes, what portion of compliance instruments should be held in reserve, and how should DEQ distribute from the reserve?
The principle of a cost-containment reserve of allowances is frequently a critical component of pricing programs, and seems a reasonable feature for this program. Computation of what the exact size of that reserve should be might best be based on its size in other programs, recognizing the profound difference between this program and those based on charging for emissions. Probably, the best approach would be to start with a large reserve, and ratchet this down as the program unfolds. The potential disruptive impact of the reverse approach (i.e. starting small and ratcheting it up) on the economy could be severe.
- What are the benefits or concerns with mass-based or intensity-based methods for distributing compliance instruments to regulated entities?
The basic goal of the EO is to reduce emissions along a given trajectory towards 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This explicitly identifies the program goals in terms of millions of metric tons of emissions. Prima facie this suggests that the distribution of compliance instruments should be based on the emissions mass of entities. Any adjustment allowing an intensity-based assessment should require a special application and justification which includes a statement of the mass implications of the alternative assessment. However, it is worth noting that the considerations discussed above regarding whether the target should be upstream or downstream, are relevant here. For example, if individual households are included in the program, this inevitably becomes an intensity-based assessment: emissions per household. If, as many of expect, our region becomes the target for climate refugees, the number of families/households in the state will rise. Thus, even as emissions per household might decrease, overall emissions may well increase.
Of course, the major problem with a mass-based program is that it can discourage businesses from expanding their output if doing so inevitable increases emissions. On the other hand, the mass approach would encourage businesses wishing to expand to undertake additional effort to increase efficiency by reducing emissions per item.
- What considerations are there for distribution and trading of compliance instruments if different sectors have different cap standards? For example, if one sector has a mass-based cap and another has an intensity-based cap?
If the argument above is followed, then intensity-based emissions per entity will be converted to a mass equivalent, allowing comparability.
- What compliance period rules and banking rules are useful for cost containment and increased compliance flexibility? What is an appropriate compliance period?
So long as the trajectory of annually reducing emissions is followed, the actual compliance period becomes less critical. The primary consideration seems to be that a longer period allows emitters more flexibility in undertaking necessary technological and capital modifications to achieve emissions reductions. Without having a strong preference, I suggest three years seems an appropriate compromise between too short and too long.
- Should the program allow for trading? Under what circumstances? What considerations are there for maintaining efficiency and avoiding market manipulation in a secondary market? How should the program account for sectoral differences if allowing for trading?
One argument that we have heard frequently during the workshops is that some entities / procedures can more readily reduce emissions than others. This being the case, the option of trading compliance instruments seems to allow flexibility that enabling those finding reductions more difficult, to avoid the penalty resulting from excess emissions by trading for instruments. This would allow the state to maintain the designated downward emissions trajectory.
Two caveats that should be applied, however, are as follows:
- Before engaging in a trade for compliance instruments, and entity should be required to demonstrate that it has achieved maximal emissions reductions possible (installed best available technology) within the constraints of time and its capacity.
- Emitters that are responsible for substantial co-pollutants compromising the air quality of neighboring communities, should not be allowed to trade for compliance instruments that allow them to either to continue or increase co-pollutants that compromise air quality. Recent legislative proposals couched this concern in terms of whether or not the air quality was within Air Quality Attainment criteria. This, I suggest, is to lax a criterion since toxic co-pollutants may increase the toxicity in the direction of non-attainment and some other factor beyond immediate control (such as wildfire) push it over the top.
- Should there be a compliance instrument reserve? If yes, what portion of compliance instruments should be held in reserve, and under what circumstances should DEQ distribute from the reserve?
See comments in Session 4 to similar question
- What considerations need to be identified and discussed for understanding potential program costs for impacted communities?
In a previous discussion, I noted that a key question here is whether the target for emissions reductions are upstream as fuel enters the energy economy, for example, or downstream at the end-user. If the target is the end-user, then small businesses will be required to assess and certify their emissions and then demonstrate and certify reduction in emissions.
- Who should be considered as an environmental justice and impacted community in this policy context? What existing work or resources should DEQ consider when identifying environmental justice and impacted communities?
DEQ introduced this discussion with reference to the EPA definition of Environmental Justice being based on “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.” In the imaginary world where there has not been a history of prejudicial treatment towards some segments of our society, this might be a reasonable starting point for discussion of what constitutes environmental justice. However, in the United States of 2020, this is not the case. In fact, this definition conjures up a common response from opponents of equality to the Black Lives Matter Movement. That response is: ‘All lives matter.’ Regrettably, such a response fails to recognize the serious injustice that has been imposed on communities of color for centuries. What we need is a definition of impacted communities that recognizes this injustice and contributes to remedying it.
Unfortunately, for several weeks all of Oregon has been subjected to two serious crises, one resulting from the grossly mismanaged SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), the other resulting from the wildfires and smoke engulfing our state. The result of these assaults on our population is that everyone in the state now, and justifiably, feels as though they are living in an impacted community. However, focusing on this current reality in devising a definition of Impacted Communities would defeat the basic purpose of the concept of Impacted Communities since it deals with the principle of redressing years of social injustice. Indeed, all of Oregon is currently suffering COVID-19 and wildfire, but all of Oregon has not been subjected historically to ongoing social injustice. In developing a definition for this concept, we must avoid succumbing to the ‘all lives matter’ syndrome of ignoring the principle that any definition must acknowledge and incorporate recognition of the need to redress those years of injustice.
- How can DEQ provide equitable opportunities for participation by environmental justice and impacted communities during this scoping phase? Specifically, how should DEQ promote and design the virtual town halls in October to provide an inclusive meeting?
Social justice organizations would be the best sources of ideas in this arena.
- What concerns, suggestions or input do you have on perspectives needing representation on the rulemaking advisory committee?
The proposal for composition of the Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC) is as follows
Whenever discussion of such committees emerges, the issue of representation always becomes a tendentious component of the discussion. Given the nature of the allocation, it seems individuals are expected to represent the interests of the constituencies with which they are aligned. Even if such were not apparent from the format, it would almost certainly happen anyway. The problem with the proposed arrangement and allocation is that it identifies a vast proportion to the Regulated Entities: out of the 21-24 members, fully 9 – 12 represent such regulated entities while 2 – 3 represent environmental justice communities – the impacted communities, and only 2 represent environmental / conservation organizations. It is also not clear whether the 2 representing local governments are apportioned between large urban or small rural cities. Of course, the regulated entities will argue that they comprise such a diverse group that individual segments among them need individual lines. However, such a case could equally well be made for the impacted environmental justice communities. I submit that the impacted communities who have long suffered the injustice of environmental assaults on their lives and health should be at least as well represented, if not more so, as the regulated entities.
There is also an absence of any labor representation, a gross oversight in such an important committee as this.
Also troubling is that the scientific arena is nowhere represented among the line items. I realize that DEQ personnel will likely serve as technical advisers, but the informed scientific arena should have voting representation.
- What techniques or strategies should DEQ use to maximize participation from environmental justice and impacted communities during the rulemaking? This include advisory committee meetings, public hearings and the public comment period on draft rules.
Two thoughts to add to the mix here:
- Make sure all materials are translated into the languages of Oregon immigrant communities.
- Engage local organizations that serve minority impacted communities to seek their assistance in reaching out to local impacted communities. In Southern Oregon, I suggest Unete Farmworker and Immigrant Advocacy: Kathy Keesee and Dagoberto Morales, UneteOregon@gmail.com 541-245-1625; Northwestern Seasonal Workers Association, (541) 773-6811 Alex Lamoreaux, Caitlin McGuan; Northwest Forest Worker Center, (541) 499-0626 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What tools, resources or approaches should DEQ use when communicating policy options and associated implications to environmental justice and impacted communities?
Best addressed by representatives of those communities
- What are the most pressing climate change challenges facing environmental justice and impacted communities? How can climate policy, like cap and reduce, best address those challenges?
Best addressed by representatives of those communities
- How might environmental justice and impacted communities benefit from a cap and reduce program? How might they be burdened?
Can be benefitted from alternative compliance instruments which support renewable energy or carbon sequestration projects. An example would be the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians benefitting from the CA offset program.
If rules do not prevent emitters responsible for co-pollutants from buying offsets while continuing to pollute, air quality in impacted communities adjacent to emitters may deteriorate or, at least, not improve.
It is essential that rules be developed that protect impacted communities from potential negative consequences.
- What concerns do environmental justice and impacted communities have in relation to costs of climate policy? What considerations are there or program design features to mitigate those impacts?
Best addressed by representatives of those communities
- Discussion of the Rulemaking Advisory Committee