- Lawmakers in Oregon's House and Senate have each passed significant energy legislation out of committee, including a potential carbon tax and the elimination of coal-fired energy, but in the shortened legislative session, the fate of the bills is unclear, the Portland Tribune reports.
- The Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (HB 4036) would add more renewables and phase out coal energy, while the Healthy Climate Act (SB 1574) would set hard caps on emissions and a market-like structure for allowances.
- But The Oregonian reports even some lawmakers voting for the measures have expressed doubts they will pass. The state is only a few weeks away from the end of a short session, and some lawmakers said more investigation and debate is needed.
- And the Portland Tribune notes that HB4036 was crafted by Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp, along with the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon, to head off ballot measures threatened by environmental group Renew Oregon.
Two bills that could each significantly alter Oregon's energy landscape have been passed out of committee, but The Oregonian reports even supporters seem to think little of their chances in the full House and Senate.
The state is nearing the end of a short, seven-week legislative session which will wind down the first week of March.
On the House side, the Committee on Energy and the Environment passed the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Plan by a vote of 6-3. The bill would eliminate coal power in the state within 20 years and require utilities get half of their power mix from renewable energy by 2040.
Rep. Cliff Bentz (R) told The Oregonian the bill deserves a full review and not to be pushed through in a short session. "Can it still be fixed? Could be. It probably won't be. That's bad." The measure now heads to the full House for a vote.
Even among Democrats, support is not certain. The Portland Tribune reports a pair of lawmakers, Democratic Reps. Deborah Boone and Rep. Paul Holvey, largely voted for the measure as a "courtesy" to move it out of committee.
The Portland Tribune also reports Rep. Cliff Bentz (R), an outspoken critic of the House legislation, has expressed concerns over costs the renewables mandate would pass along to customers.
In the Senate, lawmakers passed the Healthy Climate Act out of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources by a 3-2 vote, but it will now head to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill would set hard limits on emissions, beginning with a 20% reduction by 2025, 45% by 2035, and finally the state goal of 75% by 2050.
Under the proposed legislation, any facility that emits more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2 would be required to purchase allowances, and those tradable allowances would decrease over time (and increase in price).
The state's investor-owned utilities appear to be backing House Bill 4036, among the two proposals, preferring the renewables commitment to a cap-and-trade system. That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Mark Johnson (R), who told The Oregonian, "This is as far as we can go. We'll be as green as we can possibly be, but we can't impose further costs drivers" via a cap-and-trade system.
The push for carbon pricing in Oregon comes as a number of states debate the method as a compliance option under the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Since the plan was first announced in 2014, a number of states and utilities have floated the option of carbon pricing and emissions trading — either on a national or regional basis — as a cheaper option than individual state compliance plans. The fate of the CPP is unclear since the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay the implementation of Obama's key climate regulation until litigation has played out.