News from the Oregon Legislature

April 23, 2015

Whew! We’ve just crossed the midpoint of the 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature, and it’s been a whirlwind of a session. Sierra Club staff have been closely tracking bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for clean, renewable energy, wildlife protection, and our state forests. So here, halfway to sine die and just after a first critical deadline for bills to have passed out of their committee of origin, it’s good time to reflect on where we stand.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

In short, while we have had some real disappointments on Coal-to-Clean Energy and on the Elliott State Forest, there are some glimmers of good news to go along with the letdowns. Here’s a summary of some of the work we’ve been doing in our state capitol:

⇒ Coal to Clean Energy: One of our biggest priorities coming into session – and also one of the Oregon Conservation Network’s Priorities for a Healthy Oregon – was our Coal-to-Clean package. Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 2729 would have moved Oregon’s investor-owned electric utilities – Pacific Power and PGE – off coal by 2025 and required that the replacement power for coal was largely renewable energy like solar and wind. And even though Oregonians overwhelmingly support the idea of getting coal out of our energy mix, and even though many legislators were initially on board with the proposal, it appears that our coal-to-clean legislation will not be moving forward in 2015. We are quite disappointed with this outcome and hope to bring these concepts back in the future, as we are committed to finding the right path to reach the broader goals of transitioning off coal to clean energy.

⇒ Solar and other clean energy: Even though coal-to-clean stalled out, the Sierra Club is still working on a number of other bills related to clean energy that remain alive in the 2015 session. House Bill 2447 will extend the very successful Residential Energy Tax Credit for home solar energy. HB 2941 would help to encourage the creation of community “solar gardens” and HB 2632 would help to incentivize the creation of utility-scale solar power in the state. All of these solar energy bills are currently still moving through the legislative process.

In addition, several bills relating to limiting or putting a price on carbon were introduced this session. However, after the first committee deadline, only House Bill 3470 remains alive. This bill enforces existing state climate goals, established by the legislature in 2007, and requires DEQ to create an action plan for hitting those targets. That plan could use different strategies, including market-based mechanisms, to maximize feasible and cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.


⇒ Elliott and North Coast 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 (DSL) plays out to determine the ultimate future of the Elliott, we were working in the legislature to set up a process by which such a solution could be implemented. But in a very disheartening turn of events, the trust land transfer program we and Rep. Tobias Read were working to establish with HB 3474 died in committee on the bill deadline day. Now we are left only with HB 3533, which would give the State Land Board and DSL license to sell off parcels of the Elliott to the highest bidder. We are still evaluating how this situation will play out, but at this point we are not optimistic that we can reach a good solution for the Elliott with this legislation.

However, we continue to work in the legislature 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 were two of the many introduced bills that would have allowed counties to opt out of a statewide ban on the practice of hunting cougars with dogs. Thankfully, those bills – along with a bill that would have prohibited the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission from including the gray wolf on the list of threatened or endangered species – were pulled from the committee hearing agenda on the deadline day. We hope we have seen the last of the bad wildlife bills in this session, but we’ll continue to keep an eye open for future mischief.

⇒ Suction Dredge Mining: One other bill we are supporting is Senate Bill 830, which would take great steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. Oregonians know that it is vitally important to have strong protections in place to safeguard our rivers and salmon habitat. In addition to putting a cap on the total number of suction dredge mining permits, SB 830 will place limitations on mining – both in-river and on uplands – where it would undermine Oregon’s investment in habitat restoration for salmon and other critical species.

We’ll keep plugging away in Salem, tracking the legislation on land use, water quality, toxic chemicals, other energy proposals, and who-knows-what-else. But we can’t do it without you, so stay tuned for ways to get involved and help pass good legislation to protect the Oregon we all love.

Pacific Power has you hooked on coal

October 7, 2014


By Amy Hojnowski

Over two-thirds of the energy Pacific Power supplies to their half-a-million customers in Oregon comes from out-of-state coal.  Recently the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a final order on the long-term energy mix of PacifiCorp, operating as Pacific Power in Oregon. Their final decision was clear: no more business as usual for coal-dependent Pacific Power.


For the last year, the Commissioners have been outspoken in their skepticism that Pacific Power’s fleet-wide, multi-billion coal expenditures provide the least-cost option for Oregon customers. In their final decision, the Commissioners refused to acknowledge Pacific Power’s coal expenditures at two of the Jim Bridger units in Wyoming and one unit at the Hunter plant in Utah, which means that Pacific Power will likely face significant challenges seeking additional rate hikes to pay for their coal.

The company’s rates in Oregon have already increased 61 percent during the last seven years, accounting for the billions spent to prop up dirty coal plants in other states. PGE, for example, uses half as much coal and their rate increases have been significantly less than Pacific Power’s.

The PUC’s final order reflects their findings that Pacific Power is putting its customers at risk of large price increases by investing in its coal fleet rather than honestly considering real investments in viable alternatives like wind and solar that create jobs here in Oregon. The Commission is charged with making sure that Pacific Power and all utilities are providing their customers with the least cost, least risk energy options, and clearly coal doesn’t cut it anymore.

While other utility companies in Oregon, like PGE, are more quickly moving away from coal, Pacific Power continues to cling to its outdated coal plants. Cheaper, safer and cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar are available now but account for less than 10% of Pacific Power’s energy mix and their long-term planning shows virtually no change.

Pacific Power’s customers expect more from their utility and are often shocked to learn how much coal they buy in their monthly bill. The reality is that the coal industry is dying out and the future is in modern solutions like wind and solar. Looming overhead are further public health protections and the first national standards limiting carbon pollution from power plants—a key driver of climate disruption—making dirty coal even more expensive and a shaky investment proposition. Even new analysis from Citigroup shows that coal is priced out of the market, while solar and wind power are already competing on costs with dirty fuels.

Meanwhile, Oregon is home to a burgeoning clean energy economy. There is no reason for Pacific Power to continue to burn coal in other states to power homes here in Oregon, other than to continue business as usual. Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for total wind energy installation and there is enough solar energy installed in the state to power over 7,000 homes. Investments in local solar and wind power will keep money in Oregon and provide jobs. A new report from the American Wind Energy Association shows that the states with the most wind power see electricity prices decline, while other states see price increases. Renewable energy development in Oregon has already brought over 5,000 long term jobs and over 9 billion in investment.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission stood up for Oregonians and sent a clear signal to Pacific Power that the utility cannot keep dumping money into outdated coal plants and expect customers to pick up the bill. Now it’s time for citizens and elected officials to engage and call for a truly coal-free Oregon. Together we can stop importing dirty coal from Pacific Power and start investing in clean energy.

The Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign is launching a statewide effort to transition Oregon completely off of coal power and onto clean renewable energy. We held launch events this past month in both Bend and Portland that rolled out our organizing campaign to build a broad coalition of environment and health care organizations, business and community leaders to educate and motivate Oregonians. Our goal is to bolster the great work of the PUC and create a transition plan and become a truly coal-free state. We’ve seen a lot of successes in Oregon- from the grassroots campaigns to set a retirement date for Boardman and the victory over coal export terminals. Now is the time to take the next step and reject all coal use in our electricity mix while promoting clean energy alternatives and jobs here at home.

Amy Hojnowski, of Portland, is the Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.



Great OpEd in the Oregonian on Pacific Power and coal

March 25, 2014

Amy Hojnowski, Sierra Club senior campaign representative on the Beyond Coal Campaign, had a great OpEd published in the Oregonian recently. Can you write a Letter to the Editor to the Oregonian telling Pacific Power it’s time to get off dirty coal? Some sample talking points and instructions for submitting an LTE are below Amy’s OpEd.

PacifiCorp is making Oregonians invest in coal plants: Guest opinion

March 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM, updated March 20, 2014 at 2:12 PM


The Colstrip power plant is the second largest coal-fired plant west of the Mississippi. PacifiCorp is among its owners.

By Amy Hojnowski

Most Oregonians have seen their electricity bills increase over the past several years, but those who get their electricity from Pacific Power have seen their bills skyrocket. On Monday, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission (OPUC) took this issue head-on during a final hearing on the long-term energy mix of PacifiCorp, which operates as Pacific Power in Oregon.

For over a year, the commission has scolded and pushed PacifiCorp to better protect its customers from unnecessary rate increases. The commission has reason to be concerned: Pacific Power raised its rates more than any other major utility in the region. An analysis of reports from the Edison Electric Institute shows that Oregon Pacific Power has increased customers’ rates by 61 percent since 2006, the year after Warren Buffet bought the utility.

What may surprise Oregon customers is that last year PacifiCorp got 78 percent of its electricity from polluting coal plants. A further surprise is that PacifiCorp has busily spent over $2 billion on those aging coal plants, mostly on things no one is requiring them to do. And they expect to spend another $2 billion on the plants in Utah and Wyoming. Oregon customers are on the hook for 25 percent of that spending.

Why is PacifiCorp spending Oregonians’ dollars on coal plants in other states? It’s pretty simple: Utilities make a lot of money on capital expenditures that pay a fat, steady rate of return. So, instead of giving Oregon commissioners an opportunity to figure out if it was a better deal for customers to put the aging coal plants on a retirement schedule and move to cleaner sources of energy, PacifiCorp went ahead with its plans.

The upshot of all of this is that PacifiCorp is committing Oregon customers to aging coal plants by spending more money on them, reaping a nearly guaranteed rate of return on the spending, and shipping the profits to owner Warren Buffett, of Berkshire Hathaway fame, who reported a record $19 billion in profits last year.

Buffett’s company didn’t have to pour Oregon money into risky coal plants; other utilities in the West, including two others owned by Buffett, are moving away from expensive coal plants that require pollution controls and upgrades to continue operating, and toward affordable solar and wind power that lock in stable electricity rates for the long-term. For example, utility regulators in New Mexico recently approved Xcel Energy’s plan to purchase close to 700 megawatts of wind energy, saving its customers an estimated $590 million in fuel costs over 20 years.

Now, the OPUC is shining a bright light on PacifiCorp’s “spend first and ask later” approach. PacifiCorp has fought mightily to keep regulators, and by extension its customers, from knowing the full risks and costs of relying on coal. At the final hearing on Monday, the commissioners vigorously questioned PacifiCorp’s transparency, with Commissioner John Savage saying: “We really don’t want any more surprises in terms of already-launched construction.”

If PacifiCorp changes its long-term energy plan to include less coal and more clean energy, it’ll be good news for Oregon customers’ pocketbooks and for our economy. Oregon ranks fifth in the nation for total wind energy installation and has more than 122 solar companies working here, but PacifiCorp’s long-term energy plan does not include any investments in new clean energy technologies like wind and solar projects for 10 more years. PacifiCorp should invest in our clean energy economy at home instead of sending our money out-of-state to pay for dirty coal plants.

Oregonians can’t afford business as usual from Pacific Power. The OPUC rightly held the company’s feet to the fire on Monday. Now we can only hope that Warren Buffett and the rest of his team will do right by their customers and put coal in our rear-view mirror.

Amy Hojnowski, of Portland, is the senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.


Can you write a Letter to the Editor of the Oregonian?

If you’d be willing to submit an LTE to the Oregonian, we would really appreciate it, and it would be an effective way to get the attention of PacifiCorp and decisionmakers. Some sample talking points are below, but the best idea is to write something in your own words. The Oregonian restricts LTEs to 150 words, so try to keep your letter concise. Once you have composed your letter, copy and paste it into an e-mail to (do not send it as an attachment – they won’t open it). You should also include your full address and daytime phone number, for verification purposes.

Here are some basic themes to consider for your letter:

• Show support of the PUC for their dogged criticism of the company’s coal analysis.
• Express concern over the highest rate increases in the region because of their dependence on out of state coal.
• Show support for retiring coal plants, moving away from dirty coal, creating a coal free Oregon, and transitioning to clean renewable energy like wind and solar that create jobs here at home.

Last Chance to Get Paid to Go Solar!

February 18, 2014

Oregon’s Solar Incentive Program is coming to an end soon!

The popular Oregon Solar Incentive Program (OSIP) has one last application period coming up on April 1, 2014. Sign up now for a free consultation, or read more about the program below.

The Oregon Solar Incentive Payment program (also known as the Feed in Tariff) has been a huge driver to the success of Sierra Club’s “Go Solar+” program.

In contrast to standard net metering, the Solar Payment program actually pays the owner a premium rate for the solar power they produce for 15 years.

Depending on which county the property is in, the rate varies from $.252/kW-Hr to $.39/kW-Hr. Factoring in the up-front cost of the system, a 30% Federal Tax Credit, and the monthly energy savings and payments generated, most solar projects break even in 5 – 7 years. Great news for you, and our planet!

April 1st is the deadline for the next round of Solar Payment applications in Oregon. Click here to request a free home evaluation and learn more about Oregon’s Solar Payment Program!

Are you eligible?
• You must be a Pacific Power or PGE customer in the state of Oregon to qualify
• Systems must be 5kW or greater in size
• Must be new equipment installed by an Energy Trust Trade Ally partner
• System must be sized to produce 90% or less of your annual usage
• One system may be installed for each meter on the property
• Capacity reservations are allocated via a lottery on April 1, 2014

Please join us and become part of the clean energy solution.  Click here to request a free home evaluation and learn more about Oregon’s Solar Payment Program!

Governor issues draft 10-year energy plan – Comments Due July 31

July 12, 2012

In early June, Governor Kitzhaber unveiled a draft 10-year energy plan for the state of Oregon. The plan focuses on strategies geared at ensuring that Oregon will meet significant greenhouse gas reduction goals and strengthen our economy by moving away from fossil fuels, like coal. The Governor is taking comments on the plan until July 31, and three public meetings are being held to take testimony

Click here to send the Governor a letter asking for a strong 10-year plan to move Oregon beyond coal and towards a clean energy future!

If you can, please also attend one of the upcoming public meetings:

Wednesday, July 18th, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), 3201 Campus Drive, College Union Auditorium,

Thursday, July 19th, 5:30pm-7:30pm; Location: Central Oregon Community College (COCC), 2600 NW College Way, Pioneer 201 Auditorium,

Friday, July 20th, 5:30-7:30pm
Location: Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC), 6000 SE Stark St., Visual Arts Theater (in back)

Key points to make in your public testimony and comments:

  • The plan should require all Oregon utilities to make major gains in phasing out coal power between now and 2020.
  • New energy needs over the next decade should be obtained with substantial increases in energy efficiency and conservation in homes, public buildings and commercial buildings; through the creation of ‘energy performance scores’ for buildings; and expansion of the Clean Energy Works weatherization program.
  • The plan should increase ‘distributed energy’ like rooftop solar across the state, and should include a large-scale, state-wide ‘feed-in tariff’ program to allow homeowners, small businesses, farmers, houses of worship, and local governments to be paid a fair rate by utilities for producing clean energy.
  • The plan should make Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction goals legally binding to push all utilities to reduce coal use, and should also expand the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to obtain 33% of the state’s energy from new renewable sources by 2025.
  • The plan should ensure that state and federal permits for the export of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are not issued. If approved by state agencies, coal and LNG export could render irrelevant all of Oregon’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

You can submit your own comments on the plan by emailing or by clicking here.

In unveiling the draft 10-year energy plan, the Governor wrote:

Oregon has a track record of successfully pursuing clean energy policy, programs and practices to reduce energy use and promote renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. These public and private initiatives have made Oregon a national leader, but we continue to face a fundamental challenge –
that is, to develop a comprehensive energy strategy that meets the state’s carbon reduction, energy conservation and renewable energy goals and timetables, and that balances complex needs – including affordability and reliability – while enhancing Oregon’s economic objectives.

This 10-Year Energy Action Plan takes a practical approach to that challenge, focusing on specific initiatives that move the dial in the short term and can be scaled up over time. It is also an economic action plan, emphasizing priorities that can get Oregonians back to work on energy related projects in urban and rural communities across the state.

The Governor’s plan is an important opportunity to accelerate our region’s transition from a fossil fuel dependent energy and transportation system to a clean energy future. We encourage all Oregonians concerned about the growing harms from climate change and the need for urgency and decisive action to weigh in to help create a final plan that will result in decisive near term and long term actions.

You can email comments here until July 31 by clicking here.

And you can read both the plan and background materials here, as well as sign up for email updates.

We thank Governor Kitzhaber for bringing Oregonians together to focus on a 10-year energy plan for the state designed to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

Kitzhaber Takes Strong Stand on Coal Exports!

April 27, 2012

Oregonians from across the state rally against coal exports at the State Land Board meeting in Salem on April 9, 2012. Photo by Gregory Sotir

This week, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber expressed ‘grave concerns,’ over the public health, economic and environmental impacts of proposed coal exports through Oregon and Washington in a speech before renewable energy advocates and business leaders.

The Governor further outlined major concerns over the issue in a detailed letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management requesting a comprehensive federal review of impacts from proposals to mine and ship tens of millions of tons of coal through Oregon en route to Asia.

The Sierra Club issued the following statement:

“We applaud Governor Kitzhaber for calling on federal agencies to thoroughly assess the dangerous risks associated with dirty coal exports,” said Laura Stevens, local organizer for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. She added, “Oregonians from around the state have raised serious concerns about the health, safety, and economic consequences of coal exports for their communities. The Governor has heard them loud and clear and is echoing their call for a comprehensive review.”

The letter from the Governor comes in the midst of elevated public interest and mounting opposition to dirty coal export plans proposed for the region, including strong letters to the Army Corps of Engineers from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Washington Department of Natural Resources.

“The Governor is raising concerns at a critical time. Out-of-state coal companies are hoping to fast-track federal and state permitting at the Port of Morrow and other locations to get approval for coal export before any comprehensive review of the environmental, health, and economic impacts have been considered,” said Ivan Maluski, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club’s Oregon Chapter. “The Governor has set a strong direction that we hope leads to a rigorous and comprehensive review of all of the harmful impacts of coal export before any necessary federal or state permits are issued.”

Oregonians Fight to Block Coal Exports

April 13, 2012

Oregonians from across the state rally against coal exports at a State Land Board meeting in Salem, April 9 2012. Photo by Gregory Sotir

Oregon’s voice against coal exports is getting louder!  On the morning of April 9 in Salem, over 100 Oregonians from all corners of the state rallied outside the Oregon State Lands Board meeting to send a message to Governor Kitzhaber and other state decision-makers to reject dirty coal exports.  The event was a huge success, covered by regional and local television, radio and print media, and reflecting the geographic diversity of the opposition to coal export from Coos Bay to the Columbia Gorge, and communities in between.

Coal export is a statewide and regional issue that demands leadership from Oregon’s key decision-makers. Currently, the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) is considering issuing a permit for a proposed coal export dock at the Port of Morrow on the Columbia River. The US Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comment on the same proposal until May 5 (click here to comment).

The press conference highlighted voices from several areas of Oregon that would be affected, providing different perspectives on the impacts dirty coal trains and barges would have on Oregonians’ health, environment, and quality of life.  People gathered from the Portland area, Gorge communities, Eugene, Salem, and Southern Oregon cities.  The rally featured the “coal monster” costume, colorful signs highlighting where they were from and their perspective as a parent, health professional, business owner, etc.  The gathering also featured over 7,000 comments from around the state calling for Governor Kitzhaber and Director of the Department of State Lands (DSL) Louise Solliday to reject coal exports.

Speakers at the rally in Salem included David Petrie, Coos Tribal member and director of Coos Waterkeeper in Coos Bay, the site of proposed coal terminal enshrouded in secrecy;  Peter Cornelison from Friends of the Columbia Gorge in Hood River, which would impacted by proposals to ship coal by rail and barge to ports further downstream; Duncan MacKenzie, an industrial designer from Rainier, a town which would be bisected by coal train traffic;  and Andy Harris, a medical doctor representing Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The strong showing in Salem from anti-coal export activists and affected community members from across the state is just the beginning of a growing statewide voice opposed to coal exports in Oregon.