Will the Legislature back track on clean energy?

Jonathan Poisner

The waning days of the Oregon Legislative session are, as many in the capitol put it, a time for mischief. Bills thought to be dead rise from the grave. Agreements are cut on bills that have bedeviled legislators all session. And most dangerously, there is only one hour notice -- work sessions on bills are routinely announced less than 90 minutes before legislators move on them.

Against this background is a proposal to significantly rollback Oregon’s commitment to a clean energy future. House Bill 2940 rolls back the 2007 Legislature's signature clean energy achievement: the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

In a soundbite, the RPS requires Oregon energy providers to ensure 25% of new energy comes from clean, renewable sources of energy by 2025. It was a responsible step to protect clean air, safeguard Oregon consumers against price spikes, and promote green jobs throughout the state building the solar and wind projects in particular that will pave our way towards energy independence.

The 2007 legislative debate and battle about the bill creating Oregon’s RPS, SB 838, was epic. Based on the year-long work of the Renewable Energy Work Group in 2006, and after months of negotiations and compromises, the resulting bill was broadly supported by a large and diverse set of stakeholders. OLCV supported the bill, as did PGE and PacifiCorp, AFSCME and AFL-CIO, Citizens’ Utility Board and Environment Oregon, League of Oregon Cities and Association of Oregon Counties, IBEW and Shorebank Pacific, Oregon’s Public Utility Commission and Governor Kulongoski.

Unfortunately, all that work may be undermined. This year House Bill 2940 was introduced at the behest of the Oregon Forest Industries Council, to allow old, pre-1995 biomass plants to be counted towards the renewable portfolio standard.

In short, they want to rewrite the rules we just agreed on. And since they opened the door, a solid-waste burning facility and old hydro facilities now also want in, asking to be classified as new renewable energy.

The bill would irresponsibly move the goalposts, even before the Public Utility Commission has finished rulemaking on 2007’s SB 838.  If you suddenly count a bunch of existing power as renewable, you're by definition going to need a whole lot less new renewables to meet the 25% goal.

If we change the rules at the desire of the utilities and timber industry to allow old, pre-1995 biomass, old hydro, or trash burning to be counted as renewable, we would significantly weaken the incentive to create new renewable energy sources.   That means fewer renewable energy jobs, less energy independence, and more fossil fuels polluting the atmosphere. 

This is a time for leadership that creates a better future.  It's time for the Senate to show responsible leadership and reject HB 2940.

  • Brock Howell (unverified)

    Once again, you hit the mark Jonathan! Oregon needs jobs and energy savings now. Creating an inefficient renewable energy market flooded by pre-1995 biomass & hydro and with inequitable treatment of renewable energies will only slow down Oregon's economic growth and environmental leadership. http://is.gd/16F9S.

  • Suzanne at Renewable Northwest Project (unverified)

    Thanks Jonathan - you are absolutely right. This would be a major erosion of the goal and spirit of our Renewable Energy Standard and Oregon's leadership position on clean energy.

    In Oregon's rural communities, 2,332 MW of proposed wind projects in rural Oregon are projected to provide over 3,000 jobs, $320 million in local property tax revenues and community service fees, and $160-$310 million in landowner payments to ranchers and farmers.

    Oregon's urban communities are also home to a cluster of renewable energy businesses that are helping to chart the clean-energy future nationally and internationally. Iberdrola Renewables, Vestas and REPower, world leaders in renewable energy, have established their North American headquarters in Portland. Solarworld and Solaicx have established manufacturing plants in Hillsboro and Portland.

    HB 2940 would significantly reduce the demand for new renewable energy projects serving Oregonians - including new biomass, wind, solar and geothermal projects. The bill and the Senate's proposed amendments would reduce the total amount of new renewable energy by at least 25%.

    HB 2940 and the Senate's proposed amendments mean less new jobs, economic growth and revenues at a time when the state desperately needs it.

    The Senate should keep moving Oregon forward, not backward, and oppose HB 2940.

  • jane (unverified)

    Killing green energy will save us a lot of money. There is NO green energy that is as cheap as our current energy.

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    The bad bills are now making progress at the Legislature, I believe, because of the large campaign contributions by the timber industry and the utilities. For example, the timber industry has made over $3 million in political contributions in Oregon races since 2006, while the utilities have reported $1.1 million.

    Measure 47 (enacted in 2006) bans all political contributions by corporations in Oregon state and local candidate races. The Attorney General is refusing to enforce it, and I am currently in the Court of Appeals with a lawsuit to compel enforcement.

    Along with the timber industry and the utilities, OLCV vigorously opposed Measure 47 in 2006. Now environmental causes are being harmed by the political contributions that Measure 47 bans.

    While other environmental groups supported Measure 47 (Sierra Club, OSPIRG, Pacific Green Party, Native Forest Council, etc.), OLCV actively endorsed a "no" vote, allowing its endorsement to appear prominently on the opposition literature and media ads. OCLV also endorsed a "no" vote on Measure 46, the constitutional amendment that would have removed any opportunity for government officials to refuse to enforce Measure 47. Measure 46 would have amended the Oregon Constitution to expressly allow the enactment of limits on political contributions.

    Over a year ago, I invited OLCV to file an amicus brief, supporting our position, in the Oregon Court of Appeals. Jonathan has not responded to that request. Short of that, it would appear that OLCV is complaining about a result that OLCV itself argued in favor of in the 2006 election.

    How would Measure 47, if enforced, affect corporate contributions v. grassroots public interest group contributions? The most cogent analysis of Measure 47 was provided by Associated Oregon Industries (AOI). Its analysis of Small Donor Groups applies equally to those formed by unions and those formed by public interest groups. AOI stated in 2006:

    While supporters may think they are getting corporate and union money out of politics, they are actually giving unions a big advantage in electing their candidates. This advantage over business PACs would be gained by membership and collection infrastructure to form "Small Donor Groups" of people contributing less than $50. Unions currently receive the bulk of their donations from members at this level (which is collected by the state in many cases, but that's another issue). These Small Donor Groups will be able to contribute to candidates in "any amount", i.e. they are not limited by any other campaign spending limits set forth in the measure (Section 2 (ad), Section 3 (f)). While corporations or businesses may form these Small Donor Groups, the proposal limits aggregation to corporations and their affiliates, not business association based groups like AOI. Unions, on the other hand, are limited to the same labor organization unit at any level, which is no different from their current structure for political contribution collection.

    AOI understood Measure 47 and feared it. OLCV helped AOI in campaigning against it.

    "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Galatians 6:7 KJV)

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    What specifically is that one note you sing, Dan? G? E? B flat?

  • John Silvertooth (unverified)

    You really don't think when that collection of hacks set a goal that exceeds their terms in office that it is anything more than campaign propaganda?

    It's great this morning so see even the Oregonian is reporting on the Democrats (especially that lower form of life know as Dave Hunt) have betrayed the environmental cause this session.

    Meek is right to a point but we used to have positive environmental legislation even in the slimely world of campaign finance (legalized bribery).

    When the Democratic party calls me for money next year I have one thing to tell them: Forget it.

  • Avenge Terri Shiavo's Murder (unverified)

    Posted by: torridjoe | Jun 19, 2009 6:43:24 PM

    What specifically is that one note you sing, Dan? G? E? B flat?

    Really. In America if you care about something you form a non-profit, take a healthy cut, promote the idea, and when it is inevitably defeated, you move on. Continuing to focus on an issue until it is a reality is like a child holding its breath until it gets what it wants.

    The environment is dead anyway. Environmental issues are important rallying points, not an issue in and of themselves. It isn't about facts. Which is more doubtful, that man's CO2 emmisions cause global climate change, or that Sadam Hussein had WOMD? Which did we act on, and how much did we spend?

    slimely world of campaign finance (legalized bribery).

    Kari hit the nail on the head. "Campaign finance is the mother's milk of politics". Don't turn liebfraumelk into just another saggy whore.


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