Oregon lawmakers approve ambitious carbon-reduction goals for state energy grid House Bill 2021 is the session’s biggest environmental bill.

It passes as Oregon braces for record temperatures.

By: Dirk VanderHart, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)

Oregon’s power grid will largely eliminate carbon emissions by 2040 under a bill that got final approval by state lawmakers on Saturday, setting one of the nation’s most ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector.
House Bill 2021 passed the Senate on a 16-12 vote after passing the House the day before and now heads to Gov. Kate Brown.

The vote granted passage to one of several major bills lawmakers had yet to take up, on what is likely to be the Legislature’s final day of action. It came as Oregonians were bracing for a record-breaking heat wave that has officials scrambling to open cooling centers and issue urgent warnings about wildfire danger.

“Look at the temperatures expected this weekend, and ongoing and prolonged drought,” state Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, one of the bill’s chief proponents, said on the House floor on Friday. “What I know when I look at that is if we fail to address the underlying conditions, we are just going to be back in this Capitol, year after year, trying to help communities out of disastrous situations.”

HB 2021 sets a timetable by which Oregon’s two major power companies, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, must eliminate emissions associated with the electricity they provide. Five “electricity service suppliers” in the state also would face regulation, though their emissions are tiny compared to the big utilities.

While at least 17 other states have similar goals, Oregon’s timeline of getting power suppliers to zero emissions by 2040 is more ambitious than nearly all. In addition to that end date, regulated entities would be required to submit plans to reduce emissions by 80% from a baseline amount by 2030 and 90% by 2035.

The bill also:

bans expansion or new construction of power plants that burn natural gas or other fossil fuels
sets labor standards for any large-scale renewable energy projects built in the state
includes $50 million in grants for community renewable energy projects in cities other than Portland, which has its own fund for such projects
allows cities in Oregon to create so-called “green tariffs,” where they agree to pay utilities more money for power from a cleaner mix of sources in order to meet their own climate goals
requires power companies to consider input from low-income ratepayers, environmental justice communities, federally recognized tribes and others as they develop strategies for reducing emissions.
While heralded by environmental groups, advocacy organizations and organized labor, HB 2021 is less sweeping than proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that Democrats had pushed in recent sessions.

Bills to create a cap-and-trade system in Oregon would have mandated reductions in not just the power sector, but also in manufacturing and transportation. But those bills, introduced in the 2019 and 2020 sessions, led Republicans to walk away from the Capitol, effectively killing the proposal. Gov. Kate Brown subsequently signed an executive order aiming to reduce emissions in many areas, but with little impact on electricity.

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, emissions from electricity accounted for 30% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. The entities regulated under HB 2021 are responsible for the vast majority of that, but some providers are left untouched.

Republican lawmakers voted almost universally against HB 2021, arguing that it did not do enough to ensure renewable energy products are built in Oregon and suggesting that eliminating carbon emissions could leave the state’s power grid vulnerable.

“It sounds good on the 5 o’clock news, but it will not help on the ground,” said state Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, who argued that land-use regulations would block renewable energy projects in his eastern Oregon district.

While Findley said his input on HB 2021 was taken into consideration, some Republicans complained their ideas were not welcome in crafting the bill.

“I’ve arguably been involved in more public hearings with regards to cap and trade and carbon reduction than any other member on this floor, and I was not in those rooms, having those conversations,” said state Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, one of the bill’s most vocal critics. “I was not invited.”

But while some industry lobbyists opposed the bill, it did not generate the more widespread backlash that cap and trade engendered. Both PGE and Pacific Power supported the bill, in part because it will allow them to be temporarily exempted from new requirements if they increase rates by more than 6% a year or threaten the reliability of the power grid.

The power companies already have goals for reducing their carbon emissions, though, with current technology, there are questions about how they could eliminate the final 10% to 20% of fossil fuels and still provide reliable power.

Senators on both sides of the aisle suggested on Saturday that is certain to change in the coming decades.

“If we didn’t do this bill today, we would still be 100% green by 2045,” Findley said. “Our [investor-owned utilities] are moving in that direction.”

Beyer, a former member of the state’s Public Utility Commission and self-described energy wonk, agreed, arguing that the fast-declining costs of renewable energy are making it desirable around the country.

“Probably if we did nothing the same thing would happen,” he said, “but this paves the way.”

State Lawmakers Approve Bill That Aims To Get Oregon To 100% Clean Energy By 2040
The bill, which has been described as the nation’s most ambitious clean electricity standard, now heads to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk.

By: Dominique Mosbergen, HuffPost
Oregon lawmakers this week approved what’s been described as the nation’s most ambitious clean electricity standard, targeting 100% emissions-free power for the state by 2040.

The state Senate on Saturday passed House bill 2021, known familiarly as the 100% Clean Energy for All bill, by a 16-12 vote. The legislation was approved in the state House on Friday. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat who is expected to sign it.

Under the bill, Oregon aims to transition entirely to emissions-free electricity by 2040. The legislation lays out a timetable for the state’s two major power companies — Portland General Electric and Pacific Power — to reduce emissions. Additionally, it bans the expansion or new construction of power plants that burn fossil fuels and allocates $50 million in grants for community-based energy projects, among other measures.
The bill passed as Oregon heads into a potentially record-breaking heat wave. Meteorologists have forecasted temperatures up to 30 degrees above normal across swathes Oregon and neighboring Washington this weekend.

“Look at the temperatures expected this weekend, and ongoing and prolonged drought,” Democratic state Rep. Pam Marsh, one of the bill’s most vocal advocates, said on the House floor Friday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. “What I know when I look at that is if we fail to address the underlying conditions, we are just going to be back in this Capitol, year after year, trying to help communities out of disastrous situations.”

Oregon Democrats celebrated the passage of HB 2021 on Saturday, describing it as a “huge win for Oregon’s environment and economy” and the “strongest electricity emissions reduction timeline” in the county.
As Oregon Public Broadcasting noted, HB 2021 would enact one of the country’s most ambitious timelines for achieving an emissions-free power grid.

Oregon Republicans haven’t shared Democrats’ enthusiasm for the legislation, which which they’ve characterized as a potential threat to the state’s power grid.

An overwhelming majority of the state’s Republican lawmakers voted against HB 2021.

“It sounds good on the 5 o’clock news, but it will not help on the ground,” GOP state Sen. Lynn Findley said.

Oregon commits to 100% clean electricity by 2040
By: Pete Danko, Portland Business Journal | Subscriber access
Oregon is joining the ranks of 100% clean energy states after the Legislature passed its most significant climate bill in five years as record-breaking heat beset the region.

House Bill 2021 requires the investor-owned utilities Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp, along with independent suppliers, to deliver all their electricity without emissions by 2040.

Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill, making the grid-focused policy a companion piece to the reduction in emissions from other sectors of the economy that she ordered in 2020, after Republican walkouts blocked adoption of a cap-and-trade program.

Ahead of the 2040 target, HB 2021 mandates an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for the utilities from a 2010-12 baseline by 2030 and 90% by 2035. It also bans new fossil-fuel power plants in the state.

More than a dozen states are aiming to go 100% clean, although most are targeting dates after 2040.

The utilities and climate and environmental justice groups negotiated the Oregon bill. Despite that breadth of support, no Republicans voted for it in the House or Senate. One Democrat, Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, cast a no vote as the bill passed the Senate, 16-12, on Saturday, the final day of the 2021 session.

The utilities are banking on renewables, energy efficiency, demand response and better grid integration to make the transition to clean sourcing.

For Portland General Electric, that will mainly mean ditching natural gas as it pursues targets in line with company goals announced last November.

Multistate operator PacifiCorp will need to get out of coal for its Oregon customers — already required by 2030 under the state’s last major climate bill — while not replacing it with natural gas.

Renewables, energy storage, efficiency, demand response and better grid integration — including big investments in transmission infrastructure — will be keys to both utilities making the transition to clean sourcing.

PacifiCorp recently announced winning wind and solar-plus-storage bids in a multibillion-dollar renewable energy solicitation, but said it will need more of the same down the road to meet demand. PGE is embarking on its own RFP, but likewise will require additional clean energy sources.

Most experts believe that getting close to 100% clean is feasible largely with existing technologies; the final 5-15% will likely take advances, perhaps in carbon capture or hydrogen production.

Advocates insist that ever-cheaper renewables and storage will keep costs in line, but the Oregon bill includes mechanisms to pause the march toward 100% if the transition pushes rates up too fast, or jeopardizes system reliability.

The bill also sets labor standards for project development, spends $50 million on community projects and requires the utilities to consider the environmental justice ramifications of their clean energy plans by working with a committee of diverse stakeholders.

Oregon legislative session ends, bills pass on wildfire resiliency, clean energy
By: Connor Radnovich, Statesman Journal

With little public disagreement or displays of partisanship, Oregon lawmakers concluded the 2021 legislative session Saturday evening, after passing dozens of bills Saturday and one day ahead of the constitutional deadline.
Democrats lauded the Legislature’s work over the past 160 days passing legislation on police reform, gun control, wildfire resiliency, clean energy, health care coverage expansion and housing.

This despite holding session during the coronavirus pandemic that kept the Capitol building closed to the public, required all committee meetings to be held virtually and generally limited face-to-face conversations on policy and politics.

“This session has been unlike any other in Oregon history. We faced overwhelming challenges in response to historic crises,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. “When I look at the full scope of what we’ve done this session to target aid to Oregonians who need it most, it honestly takes my breath away.”

Republicans, meanwhile, were frustrated throughout session that access to the Capitol was limited, accusing Democrats of damaging the legislative and democratic process.

However, they also praised the Legislature’s ability to pass legislation on wildfire recovery and bipartisan police reforms.

“As much as we disagreed this session, Republicans and Democrats were still able to do some good things for Oregonians,” said Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, R-Stayton.

Lawmakers on Saturday cleared multiple bills before adjourning, including major funding legislation.

100% clean energy
By a vote of 16-12, Democratic senators approved House Bill 2021, sending to the governor a bill that would require electricity providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for electricity sold in Oregon by 100% by 2040.

It’s one of the most aggressive timelines to transition to clean energy anywhere in the United States.

Environmental activists called its passage a huge victory, especially as the state and country continue to see the worsening effects of climate change.

“This common-sense approach to invest in small-scale and community-based projects is the right move to protect our environment,” said Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield. “A substantial and diverse coalition came together and agreed that House Bill 2021 will meet Oregon’s energy needs and take into account rural, low income, coastal communities and BIPOC Oregonians.”

Opponents of HB 2021 said the bill would increase electric prices for Oregon consumers and put them at greater risk of rolling blackouts. Additionally, they said the bill is little more than virtue signaling that won’t have measurable environmental benefits.

“Hiking Oregonians’ energy costs during an economic recovery is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard of,” Girod said. “This bill just adds insult to injury to the countless Oregonians who have endured massive hardship over the last year and a half.”

Cover All People Act
The Senate also passed to the governor’s desk the Cover All People Act, otherwise known as House Bill 3352. The bill renames the Health Care for All Oregon Children program and expands eligibility to adults who would qualify for Medicaid except for their immigration status.

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A DAILY NEWSLETTER FROM Grist
The Beacon
It’s Monday, June 28, and Oregon legislators have passed a pathbreaking climate bill.

Oregon’s legislature passed one of the nation’s most ambitious clean energy bills this past weekend. The law would require 100 percent emissions-free electricity by 2040 and basically ban new fossil fuels generation.

Under House Bill 2021, the state’s two largest power companies will have to eliminate their carbon emissions by 2040 and meet two interim goals along the way: an 80 percent reduction by 2030 and a 90 percent reduction by 2035. The bill also sets labor standards for renewable energy projects and has provisions giving the most vulnerable communities a say in how power companies switch to green energy.

In the same legislative session, Oregon passed laws to increase recycling and spend nearly $200 million on wildfire resiliency.

In past years, Republican state Senators fled Oregon’s state house to thwart voting on climate bills; this year, however, enough of them stuck around to allow the Senate to approve the bill, 16 votes to 12. Democratic state Senator Lee Beyer told the Salem Statesman Journal, “This common-sense approach to invest in small-scale and community-based projects is the right move to protect our environment.”

—Jena Brooker