The 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature Session is in full swing, and Sierra Club staff are closely tracking proposed bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for clean, renewable energy, wildlife protection, and our state forests. For starters, as members of the Oregon Conservation Network, we are advocating for the Priorities for a Healthy Oregon. Here are some of the specific bills we are working on:
- Coal to Clean Energy: One of those OCN priorities, Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 2729, will move Oregon’s investor-owned electric utilities – Pacific Power and PGE – off coal by 2025. The legislation will ensure that the replacement power for coal is 90% cleaner, allowing for a replacement mix that is primarily clean, renewable energy like solar and wind. Whenever possible, the bill will also give preference to local clean energy that creates jobs in and around Oregon for the replacement power. Oregonians overwhelmingly support the idea of getting coal out of our energy mix and legislators are very interested in the proposal as well. We hope to have Senate Bill 477 heard in bill co-sponsor Senator Chris Edwards’ Environment and Natural Resources committee in late March.
- Solar Energy: The Sierra Club is working on a number of bills related to solar energy in the 2015 session. House Bill 2447 will extend the very successful Residential Energy Tax Credit. HB 2941 would help to encourage the creation of community “solar gardens” so that neighbors and communities could come together to share solar power. HB 2632 would help to incentivize the creation of utility-scale solar power in the state. HB 2745 would extend the state feed-in tariff program, and we hope to expand that legislation to make other changes to encourage the promotion of solar power in Oregon.
- State Forests: The Sierra Club played a leading role in the coalition that got the Elliott State Forest designated as an OCN priority. As a process within the Department of State Lands and the State Land Board plays out to determine the ultimate future of the Elliott, we are working in the legislature to set up a process by which such a solution could be implemented. In addition, we are working to support some requests for general fund dollars from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to increase recreational potential and research and monitoring in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. We and our partners in the North Coast State Forest Coalition believe that this money could help ODF provide the balanced management that Oregonians expect from these lands and move the agency away from its current timber-dependent funding sources.
- Defending Wildlife: Just two weeks into the 2015 session, we saw renewed attacks on Oregon’s wildlife. House Bills 2050 and 2181 are two of the many introduced bills that would allow counties to opt out of a statewide ban on the practice of hunting cougars with dogs. Oregon voters have twice decided that such a practice is not something that should be available to the general public, though it can still be done by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to control problem cougars. Furthermore, the idea that counties could start opting out of state laws they didn’t agree with opens up doors to all kinds of mischief. We will be working hard to ensure that these bills do not pass in anything like their current form.
We are also tracking many other bills, including legislation on land use, water quality, toxic chemicals, and other energy proposals. There’s certainly no shortage of legislative activity to keep us busy in Salem, so stay tuned for more developments!