West Coast governors agree on coordinated climate action plans

California Gov. Jerry Brown joined the governors of Oregon and Washington and the British Columbia Premier by teleconference on Oct. 28 to sign a regional agreement to strategically align policies to reduce greenhouse gases and promote clean energy.

“California isn’t waiting for the rest of the world before it takes action on climate change,” said Brown in an Oct. 28 statement. “Today, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are all joining together to reduce greenhouse gases.”

The pact seeks to enhance cooperation through a range of activities, including:

  • Accounting for the costs of carbon pollution in each jurisdiction;
  • Harmonizing 2050 targets for greenhouse gas reductions and developing mid-term targets needed to support long-term reduction goals;
  • Taking steps to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles, aiming for 10% of new public and private fleet vehicle purchases by 2016;
  • Enlisting support for research on ocean acidification and taking action to combat it;
  • Adopting and maintaining low-carbon fuel standards in each jurisdiction; and
  • Continuing deployment of high-speed rail across the region.

Climate scientists have identified the scale of greenhouse gas reductions that must be achieved globally to stabilize the climate. Under this agreement, where they have not already done so, California, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington will establish long-term reduction targets that reflect these scientific findings.

To advance long-term reductions, Washington already has in place a mid-term 2035 target. California and Oregon will establish their own mid-term targets. British Columbia has already legislated 2020 and 2050 targets and will explore whether setting a mid-term target will aid their achievement.

The governments of California, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington will develop targets and action plans to accelerate public and private investment in low-carbon commercial fleets and support the market transition to biofuels, electricity, natural gas and other low-carbon fuels in local and export markets.

The state and provincial governments will also support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s initiative to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and emphasize the importance of allowing state flexibility to design ambitious reduction programs within this regulation. These jurisdictions will also coordinate and provide joint testimony in federal proceedings on greenhouse gas emissions when appropriate.

Meeting ambitious carbon-reduction goals will require scaling up wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy and effectively bringing clean power to customers in California, Oregon and Washington. Drawing on emerging models in California and the Pacific Northwest, the governments of California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work with permitting agencies to streamline approval of renewables projects to increase predictability, encourage investment and drive innovation.

Connecting the markets for buying and selling wholesale electricity in the West Coast region can increase local utilities’ flexibility and reliability and provide consumer savings by enabling use of a wide variety of energy sources across the region. Integrating the region’s electricity markets also expands energy users’ access to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

“This Action Plan is intended to spur finding new, smart ways for our governments, agencies and staff to work together, and with other governments and non-government partners, as appropriate, to add value, efficiency and effectiveness to existing and future initiatives, and to reduce overlap and duplication of effort, with the objective of reducing, not increasing, resource demands to achieve objectives that are shared,” the plan said. “This Action Plan shall have no legal effect; impose no legally binding obligation enforceable in any court of law or other tribunal of any sort, nor create any funding expectation; nor shall our jurisdictions be responsible for the actions of third parties or associates.”

U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., immediately hailed the agreement. “Once again, the West Coast is leading the way,” Waxman said in an Oct. 28 statement. “California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia know that cutting pollution leads to a healthier environment and a stronger economy. I commend Governors Brown, [John] Kitzhaber, and [Jay] Inslee and Premier [Christy] Clark for their vision and leadership in tackling dangerous climate change.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.