In 2009 and 2010 the Oregon Legislature passed SB 1059, requiring the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), DLCD and other state agencies to work together and examine ways to reduce GHG emissions from passenger vehicles. This legislation required the development of a statewide transportation strategy (STS) and its adoption by Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), scenario planning guidelines, and implementation toolkit, GHG reduction targets, and a public education program. This multi-task effort involving ODOT, DLCD, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) is referred to as the Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative.
Under House Bill 2001 (2009), Portland Metro is required to develop two or more land use and transportation scenarios designed to reduce GHG emission form light duty vehicles. As a result of this legislation, Portland Metro is farther along in it target setting process, so the TRAC is looking to the region for guidance on establishing targets for other regions. Oregon’s Target Rulemaking Advisory Committee (TRAC) is facing many of the same challenges in the target setting process that California’s RTAC process encountered.
GHG vs VMT
Just as SB 375 directed ARB to set regional GHG targets for passenger vehicles, Oregon’s SB 1059 requires DLCD to set light duty passenger GHG percent reduction targets for all six MPOs by 2035 target in order to help achieve the State’s 2050 targets for GHG reduction. To achieve the statutory goal of a 75 percent reduction from 1990 GHG levels by 2050, it is estimated that overall GHG levels for 2035 would need to be reduced by 52 percent (or 75 percent on a per capita basis), in order to account for large population growth from 1990 onward.
Absolute vs Relative
Mirroring Washington’s statutory requirement to use a relative (percentage) reduction in GHG emissions, the Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative also includes a relative target to set light duty passenger GHG percent reduction targets for all six MPOs by 2035 target.
The TRAC has outlined per capita reduction needs for both VMT and GHG emissions in order to achieve the State’s overall GHG reduction goal. Oregon’s average 1990 daily VMT per capita for all metropolitan areas was approximately 18 miles, resulting in 4.0 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per capita annually. In 2035, GHG emissions per capita from light motor vehicle transportation need to be reduced to an average of 1.03 metric tons of CO2e per capita annually across all metropolitan areas – translating to an approximate 25 percent reduction in per capita passenger vehicle GHG emissions by 2035, compared to 13-16% in California and 30% in Washington.
Benchmarking: Baseline vs Trend
The TRAC faced a benchmarking challenge over the lack of Oregon’s statewide GHG reduction target by 2035 (HB 3547 includes 2020 and 2050 goals). A method was established in the TRAC which sets a baseline for 2035 through estimation by assuming that an equal (quantity vs percentage) amount of change will occur annually – resulting in a 42.5 percent reduction goal by 2035. Oregon’s use of an estimated projection to determine a baseline benchmark mirrors Washington’s statutory requirement to reduce from business-as-usual trends. California differs from both Oregon and Washington in that it used a current year baseline. Where Oregon is unique in this regard comes from the use of a relative target to achieve an absolute one at the state – Washington and California’s statewide absolute GHG reduction goals are disconnected from the relative VMT/GHG emission goals.
The State of Oregon combines the strengths of Washington’s state agency collaboration with California’s technical advisory process to establish GHG reduction targets and methodologies. Early indicators show that this frameworks draws upon the successes achieved in other states, while shedding light on consistent challenges across the west coast related to technical resource needs and fiscal limitations to obtaining the level of analysis required by new statues.