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.

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⇒ 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.

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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.

 

 


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:

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

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

GRESHAM
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 tenyearenergyplan.comments@odoe.state.or.us 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.


Pacificorp Still Hooked on Dirty Coal

November 11, 2011

Massive open pit coal mine in the Powder River Basin along the Wyoming/Montana border. Coal is dirty business.

Pacificorp, Oregon’s second largest utility, is hooked on coal.

The company has plans to continue long-term operation of multiple dirty coal plants to provide energy to its Oregon customers, retrofitting ancient coal facilities despite the cost to consumers and the benefits of switching to clean energy.

In filings before the Oregon Public Utility Commission in its 2011 ‘integrated resource plan,’ the company has made it clear it will keep burning dirty coal long into the future, diverting ratepayer money away from renewable energy and energy efficiency and into costly investments that will extend the life of a number of their coal plants.

Pacificorp’s coal problem is so bad, Oregon regulators are starting to take a hard look at the company’s plans and are poised to make a decision as soon as December 6 that could force the company to seek alternatives to continuing to operate its coal fleet in perpetuity – alternatives like shutting some of the dirtiest plants down and replacing them with renewable energy and investments in energy efficiency.

Unlike Portland General Electric, which has agreed to close its Boardman coal plant in 2020 rather than extend its life by decades, Pacificorp does not operate any coal plants in Oregon. However, it either owns or gets power from burning coal and coal mining in states like Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, supplying Oregonians across the state with dirty energy.

Concerned about Pacificorp’s addiction to dirty coal?

Write a letter to the editor of the Oregonian newspaper:

Here are some key points to make:

1) Pacificorp is doing Oregon customers a disservice by spending ratepayer money burning coal rather than investing in clean alternatives.

2) The company should provide more details on the costs and risks associated with continuing to burn coal, rather than closing old plants and investing money in cleaner alternatives, like generating renewable energy in Oregon.

3) The Oregon Public Utility Commission should reject Pacificorp’s latest plans to invest in dirty coal. Portland General Electric did the right thing by closing their dirty Boardman coal plant, Pacificorp should do the same.

4) Pacificorp should be investing Oregon ratepayer money into projects that create Oregon jobs through energy efficiency and home weatherization, as well as developing new renewable energy sources.

Here’s how to send a letter to the Oregonian:

Letters to the editor, The Oregonian
1320 S.W. Broadway
Portland, Or., 97201

Or e-mail to: letters@oregonian.com

They may also be faxed to (503) 294-4193.

Please limit letters to 150 words. Please include your full address and daytime phone number, for verification only. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.


Keystone tar sands pipeline on hold!

November 11, 2011

Sierra Club activists protest the Keystone tar sands pipeline at Pioneer Courthouse in Portland in solidarity with thousands outside the White House on November 6.

After months of input from hundreds of thousands of people, and recent protests from the White House to Portland, the Obama administration has decided to reevaluate the environmental review of the dirty Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. This massive pipeline would bring oil mined from the tar sands underneath the wild boreal forests of Alberta to oil refineries on the Texas Gulf coast, further hooking the US on the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Send a thank you note to President Obama to taking action to delay the Keystone pipeline!

In Portland on November 6, Sierra Club activists rallied in solidarity with a simultaneous protest against the Keystone pipeline in Washington, DC, which drew some 12,000 people to the White House.

Here’s a recap from one of the organizers of the Portland event, Ted Gleichman, co-chair of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club’s anti-LNG committee:

Alberta vs. Ontario: What does that mean for the energy and climate future of Oregon?

First, Alberta: This past Sunday, November 6, the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club was the key grass-roots environmental group working with Occupy Portland in a peaceful and enthusiastic rally and march against the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

This pipeline would take the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet, the Alberta Tar Sands, 1,700 miles across the Midwest and the Ogallala Aquifer to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.  Whether it would then be burned in our vehicles or exported to China, it would be the most drastic contribution to irreversible global warming of anything we could do in North America.  A sour deal on every level, this pipeline must be stopped.

Sierra Club volunteers, with staff support, worked with Occupiers to demonstrate West Coast solidarity with “Hands Around the White House,” where 12,000 people demonstrated three and four deep to urge President Obama to stand against further exploitation of the Tar Sands – one year to the day before the 2012 general election.

The Portland event completely encircled the downtown block of the historic Pioneer Courthouse, at the busiest transit intersection in the city.  The 250 demonstrators, fully compliant with free-speech laws, chanted and sang for an hour on a beautiful clear afternoon.

Previously, we’d heard from six speakers, including me and Bonnie McKinlay of the Chapter Beyond Coal campaign.  We were among the 1,252 people arrested at the Tar Sands Action protests at the White House in late August and early September.

We focused on the future at our Portland event: More than 100 people signed up for more involvement, and we passed out 200 brochures on ways people can get involved with all types of Club activities and other organizations that share Sierra Club values.

And now we’ve learned that President Obama has heard enough of our urgent message to at least delay the pipeline for additional environmental review for a year and a half – well after the 2012 voting.

And that’s where Ontario comes in.  They’ve taken the opposite path from Alberta.  Instead of drowning their eggs in a basket of toxic fossil fuel waste, they are hatching renewable chickens!

In 2010, Ontario passed the first true “feed-in tariff” program in North American, where utilities are required to pay folks who generate renewable energy a guaranteed contract price that lets them finance their equipment and generate a fair return on investment. Oregon currently has a small-scale pilot feed-in tariff, which has been highly successful, and needs to be improved and expanded.

Through its program, in just one year, the Ontario Green Energy & Green Economy Act has generated five thousand megawatts of renewable-energy capacity and created more than 40,000 jobs.  Most new solar photovoltaic and other renewable-energy systems are being installed in small- and medium-sized configurations, on individual homes and public buildings, on churches and farms and factories.  Many are being done as community-based projects with many neighbors or tribal members participating in common: even renters can own a piece of a solar system!

As a result of this dramatic explosion of clean energy and green jobs, Ontario will close all of their coal-fired power plants by 2014!

Here in Oregon, the Sierra Club is once again leading the way.  Chapter leaders have developed a strategic alliance with Oregonians for Renewable Energy Policy (OREP), a leading non-profit working on a feed-in tariff program for our state, and other clean energy organizations.  The groups plan to influence the development of the Governor’s 10-year energy plan, including a hoped for expansion of Oregon’s small-scale pilot feed-in tariff program.

The Oregon Sierra Club is also leading the way on energy efficiency. Working with Clean Energy Works Oregon, the Oregon Chapter is promoting deep weatherization: a powerful remodeling program that allows homeowners to cut energy use dramatically while improving the livability, comfort, and value of their homes.  This program provides for loans that are repaid through utility bills, providing convenience to the homeowner and security to the lender.

Overall, the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club is showing the way on both the positive and the negative: stepping out front to stop destructive efforts like the Keystone XL, coal export, and LNG terminals and pipelines – and simultaneously taking concrete, practical steps to create the sensible clean energy future and good local jobs we all know we need.

Alberta vs. Ontario?  We’re choosing Ontario!


Enjoy an old-fashioned ice cream social and find out if you qualify for a free home energy assessment!

June 27, 2011
Ice Cream and an Energy Audit! Man vs Ice Cream

RSVP Today!

Learn about new financial incentives, available for a limited time, to make qualified homes more energy efficient — with no upfront costs.

While the kids enjoy three-legged races and other classic games, you’ll find out how Sierra Club’s non-profit partner, Clean Energy Works Oregon, cuts through red tape to help homeowners identify, analyze, and finance their energy improvement projects. Complete with fun-filled games for all ages, this is a perfect way to familiarize yourself with affordable ways to reduce your home’s energy consumption in a relaxed setting.

Sierra Club staff, certified contractors, and satisfied CEWO homeowners will be available to answer questions.
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WHAT:  Home energy efficiency:
new financial incentives and ice cream!
HOW:  Old-fashioned games, brief info session,
Q&A with home energy experts
WHEN: Sunday, July 31
1:00 PM
WHERE: Grant Park picnic pavilion at northeast edge/NE 36th Ave and NE Brazee St
 
Click here to join us!

If you’d like more information about this event, CEWO, or would like to volunteer please contact Benn Davenport: benn.davenport[at]sierraclub[dot]org or 503-238-0442 x307

See you this Sunday at the Park!

Benn Davenport,
Conservation Program Coordinator: Energy Efficient Homes
Sierra Club
(503) 238-0442 x307
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PS: Do you qualify for a free energy assessment?  Apply at www.CEWO.org and use Sierra Club’s instant rebate code, COHRA012(that’s zero, one, two).  Applying is easy and won’t commit you to the program until you’re ready.Spread the word! Share this event with your friends, family and colleagues! You can also post it to your social networks with these handy links:
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