Oregon court rejects cities’ request to toss climate rules

By April Ehrlich (OPB)
March 7, 2024 1:13 a.m. Updated: March 7, 2024 2:08 a.m.
Electric vehicles line up at Downtown Portland's Electric Ave. The space offers EV drivers fast chargers for many different charging ports.

In this file photo, electric vehicles line up to charge in downtown Portland. Cities across the state will have to beef up EV infrastructure following an Oregon Court of Appeals decision Tuesday.

Monica Samayoa / OPB

Cities that challenged Oregon’s new climate policies in 2022 will have to follow rules around designing more walkable neighborhoods, beefing up electric vehicle infrastructure — and more — following a court decision issued Wednesday.


The Oregon Court of Appeals has mostly sided with the state over the wide-ranging climate rules, which are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities.

In a statement, the Department of Land Conservation and Development said it will “continue to work with our local government partners to implement the program.”

The state implemented administrative rules called Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities in 2022, following former Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order directing state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The rulemaking process lasted two years.

The rules govern several aspects of local land use, transportation and development. In addition to several climate-related goals, they require cities and counties to engage traditionally underserved populations in policymaking and consider ways to prevent displacing people from their communities. And they eliminate many parking mandates that apply to new construction.

Related: A group of Oregon cities are planning to sue the state over wide-ranging climate rules

Shortly after the rules passed, a dozen cities, Marion County and several business associations sued the state’s land-use department and the Land Conservation and Development Commission. They alleged the state agencies didn’t follow rulemaking procedures and exceeded their power over local governments, thus invalidating the entire package of 89 rules.


In a decision filed Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected their argument for dismissing the entire package, saying they “make broad statements” that don’t specifically say why the entire body of rules should be tossed.

In a statement, the League of Oregon Cities said these climate rules will burden cities and counties, particularly as they try to increase housing.

“The point hasn’t changed that our communities still face insurmountable challenges complying with rules that are contradictory and expect a one size fits all approach,” lobbyist Ariel Nelson said in the written statement.

The court did side with cities on two specific rules. One pertained to a section of the climate package that the land-use commission added just before approving the proposed rules. The court said the addition was significant enough that the commission should have included it in public notices ahead of time.

That section requires local governments to analyze road projects to ensure they meet the state’s climate standards. The proposed rules initially only applied to new transportation projects, but the commission later added a section saying those rules would also apply to projects that are already outlined in existing planning documents.

Because the commission didn’t give sufficient public notice of this addition, the Oregon Court of Appeals determined that section of the climate package is invalid.

The court also agreed that the Land Conservation and Development Commission overstepped its authority with a policy that could have invalidated city transportation plans that didn’t meet the state’s climate standards.

The court said the commission can’t revoke an acknowledged transportation plan, but it can give a city a list of steps to take to come into compliance with climate goals.

Correction: The Oregon Court of Appeals issued its decision about Oregon’s climate policies on Wednesday. The date of the decision was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.