EPA calls for Oregon to cut emissions 48 percent

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Oregon must slash its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants nearly in half by 2030 under federal requirements the Obama administration has proposed to curb global warming.

The state Department of Environmental Quality will be in charge of drawing plans to meet the goal. The initiative gives each state flexibility in how to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.

About half a dozen power plants in Oregon would be affected by the requirements, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Colin McConnaha, climate change specialist at Oregon's environmental quality agency, said Monday that the state is already well on its way toward energy efficiency, and plans to stop burning coal at Portland General Electric's Boardman plant could be a big help.

The plant in north-central Oregon is the only coal-fired electricity plant in the state, and PGE has said it plans to stop using coal there by 2020. Coal plants are the top emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S.

"There's a lot of flexibility in how we can get the emissions down," McConnaha said. "Certain plants might be able to operate as they are, if others shut down or the demand on those is significantly reduced."

Among the options for the states: making power plants more efficient, investing in more renewable, low-carbon energy sources and expanding programs to make households and businesses more energy-efficient.

Already, Oregon's Renewable Portfolio Standard requires the state's large utilities to draw 25 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

Nationwide, the administration's plan calls for carbon emissions from the power sector to be reduced by 30 percent below 2005 levels. Each state has an individual goal. Oregon's is a 48 percent reduction one of the highest percentages among the states.

However, Oregon is relatively less reliant on fossil fuels because of hydropower from Columbia River dams.

Federal statistics show Oregon gets nearly 65 percent of its energy from hydropower, 19 percent from natural gas, 10 percent from wind, 4 percent from coal and about 1 percent from biomass. That means Oregon's total emission reduction would be smaller in volume relative to those in other states.

In 2012, Oregon's power sector CO2 emissions were approximately 7 million metric tons from sources covered by the rule. By contrast, Pennsylvania's were 105 million metric tons and Florida's were 107 million metric tons.

Washington state's output was almost identical to Oregon's.

"Oregon is already experiencing the impacts of climate change," Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement. He called the proposal a bold step that "will protect the health of citizens across the country while supporting the growing energy efficiency and renewable energy economy on the West Coast."

Some Oregon environmentalists say Obama's proposal is hardly enough to stop climate change.

"It's a good step forward, but I think it's a rather modest step and we're going to find we need to be a lot more aggressive to reduce runaway climate change," said Bob Dopelt, executive director of the Resource Innovation Group, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Sustainability Institute at Willamette University.

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