The Pacific Northwest strives to be out front of the rest of the country on bold action for climate change, and 2016 shows promise that this year will be no exception to the rule, despite recent events in the legislature and beyond that have hampered the cause in the short-term. Decisive climate action is coming from the offices of elected officials, coalitions of advocates, businesses, labor, health leaders, and the faith community, and even partnerships between major utilities, environmental organizations, and elected officials.

Before we look ahead at what’s in store for 2016, let’s look back at 2015 at E2’s work in Washington and Oregon.

2015 By the Numbers, Pacific Northwest Chapter:

  • E2 made seven trips to state capitals, and held a total of 17 meetings with legislators on both sides of the aisle
  • We sent eight action alerts / letters to elected officials / comment letters and attended four rulemaking meetings or hearings
  • We had a combination of eight op-eds placed/press statements sent/members quoted in local media
  • The “Pacific Northwest Update” newsletter was created, with four issues sent
  • Seven special events were held throughout the year, on topics ranging from China’s Clean Energy Future, to Ocean Acidification, to water efficiency, the Paris agreement, and more
  • And finally, E2 joined two coalitions: Renew Oregon and the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, lending the business voice to climate action efforts in both Oregon and Washington

We look forward to continuing our work in 2016. Below are some highlights of major policy efforts that E2 members and contacts will likely hear more about throughout the year.
 
Oregon – Moving Right Along in the Fight Against Climate Change

In Oregon, what started off as a potential ballot initiative for November of 2016 has, after a series of discussions between organizations (including NRDC) and major utilities (Portland General Electric and Pacific Power), turned into the “Coal Transition Bill”—legislation that will be introduced at the beginning of the 2016 legislative session. This legislation promises to, for the most part, do what the initiative would have done: transition the largest utilities off of coal-fired electricity and significantly increase use of renewable energy. Oregon E2 members will begin advocating for passage of this bill in early February, when the short 35-day session begins.

In the meantime, decision-makers are working to make headway on carbon pollution pricing as well. Oregon State Sen. Chris Edwards (D, District 7, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources) is making the most of the session by leading efforts in the Oregon State Senate to move a carbon pollution accountability measure forward. This bill will also likely be heard in early February at the beginning of the session.
 
More is Sometimes Merrier, Sometimes Not – Carbon Pollution Accountability Efforts in Washington State

In the days leading up to the end of 2015, the leaders of Carbon Washington and the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (two groups working on separate initiatives) came together to discuss whether or not they could create a single ballot initiative that both groups could get behind, and one that would have a high chance of success.

In the end, the two groups were not able to come to an agreement on a single policy. Carbon Washington has submitted the signatures for their original proposal, and it is expected that the proposal will go to the legislature, not be acted upon by legislators, and then proceed to voters in Washington State in November 2016. While the exact path for the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (of which E2 is a steering committee member) remains to be seen, it is a broad and diverse coalition of people committed to working toward climate action. They are well set up to chart another course for 2016 and beyond.

More is merrier, in the case of the Clean Air Rule. The rule is a formal rulemaking effort that will cap carbon pollution in the state, put forward by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Ecology, which is slated to become final sometime in the summer of this year. In the event that voters don’t pass I-732, Washington State will still have a cap on carbon in place, which is a good thing. This policy has the potential to strongly support innovation and advancement in Washington’s clean energy sector – as well as play a significant role in reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

The draft of the Clean Air Rule was released on January 6th. Currently, the rule would cover manufacturing plants, refineries (and imported fuel), power plants, natural gas distributors and others that release at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon pollution each year. This list includes only a couple dozen entities, but covers around 60% of emissions in the state. These entities can choose to 1) reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in their own operations, 2) pay for projects or programs that reduce emissions permanently –including 3) purchasing from businesses that choose to voluntarily participate in the program and are creating emission-reduction projects, or 4) they can buy credits (emission reduction units) obtained from other programs outside Washington State. You can read E2’s press statement on the release of the rule. For more information on public hearings and comments, see the Department of Ecology’s public involvement page.
 
All in all, these efforts represent a significant boost to the climate change movement locally, and the movement toward a sustainable and successful clean energy economy.

– Rebecca Deehr is E2's Pacific Northwest Advocate.