Friday, January 26, 2007

News From My Backyard: Legislative Proposals Could Make Oregon Leader on Clean Energy and Climate Change

Legislative proposals would increase the use of renewable energy, biofuels and efficiency

[From the Salem Statesman Journal:]

Oregon is poised to be a national leader in renewable energy and responder to climate change if the legislature acts on a series of biofuel, tax credit and renewable energy proposals this session, program proponents said Wednesday.

In addition to his five energy legislative proposals, Gov. Ted Kulongoski is backing a proposal that would force utilities to increase energy efficiency, increase their reliance on renewable energy and limit greenhouse gas emissions.

[Oregon drivers could see more highway signs for alternative fuels, if legislation enacting a biofuels standard is passed this session. Rising Phoenix Biofuels, in Southern Oregon, serves only biofuels. The state is poised to be a leader in renewable energy.]

He said he would work with other Western states to discuss a regional program called cap-and-trade, but an initial program just within Oregon also is viable, said David Stewart-Smith, the chairman of the governor's task force on this program.

Stewart-Smith made his formal recommendation to the governor as part of a discussion on the next steps the state should take to address global warming and move toward energy independence.

Stewart-Smith said the program would reduce the average cost to utility customers, but only if energy conservation measures were also adopted.

The cap-and-trade program is only one piece of the governor's plan to reduce greenhouse gases within the state -- which would help halt, or even reverse, the global warming trend.

Among the state's goals are:

  • By 2010, arrest growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • By 2020, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels.
  • By 2050, reduce greenhouse gases to 75 percent below 1990 levels.

  • Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, who was chairwoman of the governor's advisory group on global warming, said that it is urgent that global-warming policies are enacted now. She said that conclusive evidence shows that climate change is real and it's happening even faster and with more detrimental consequences than originally predicted.

    Lubchenco said that Oregon's leadership -- in concert with actions in California and other states -- could force federal dialogue on global-warming policies.

    "If we enact our priorities this session, we will create a sustainable economy and a sustainable environment for future generations," Kulongoski said. "We can't wait any longer."

    "Global-warming pollution takes awhile to have an effect on temperature, and temperature takes awhile to have an effect on snow levels and the sea," said Jeremiah Baumann of the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group. "Even if we could stop all global-warming pollution now, the Earth would continue to warm. It's good news for the country -- and the planet really -- that Oregon is ready to take a leadership role."

    Just an hour after the governor's remarks on climate change, the House Committee on Energy and the Environment began hearings on biofuels legislation. The package of proposals includes a requirement that biodiesel and ethanol are ingredients of fuels sold in Oregon, expansion of property tax incentives for biofuel production facilities and creation of an income tax incentive for consumer use of biofuel.

    The biofuels package is one of the pieces of the governor's climate change initiative, but it also is touted as a key to economic development and energy independence for Oregon.

    It's the third legislative session for some of these proposals.

    Jeff Kropf, a former Republican legislator and grass seed farmer from Sublimity, testified in front of the committee Tuesday. He proposed similar legislation last session with Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, who supports the biofuels package this year.

    Kropf said that promoting the biofuel industry in Oregon is also good for air quality. Burning biodiesel instead of regular diesel reduces particulates in the air, and both biodiesel and ethanol reduce carbon emissions, said Andrew Ginsburg of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

    Summary of the Governor's Legislative Proposals:

  • Senate Bill 232: Authorizes state agencies to develop renewable energy on state forests, campuses and other state lands. This bill will help achieve the governor's goal for state agencies to meet 100 percent of their electricity needs from renewables by 2010.

  • House Bill 2211: The Business Energy Tax Credit is amended to provide greater incentives for renewable energy -- including increasing credit for renewable energy systems installed by businesses from 35 percent to 50 percent and increases the project cost limit from $10 million to $20 million; and providing that the costs of constructing facilities to manufacture renewable energy systems and components are eligible for the increased tax credit for renewable energy.

  • House Bill 2212: Changes to the Residential Energy Tax Credit to allow use of the credit for more than one qualifying item in the same year, e.g. for a solar water heater and for a solar electric system; and increases the maximum tax credit for fuel cells and for wind generation from $1,500 to $6,000 over four years.

  • House Bill 2210: Biofuels Fuels Package expands property tax incentives for biofuel and certain fuel additive production facilities; establishes a new tax credit for producers and collectors of biofuel raw materials; establishes a Renewable Fuel Standard for biodiesel and ethanol based on in-state production; provides that the existing mandate on state agencies to use ethanol also applies to biodiesel; creates an income tax incentive for consumer use of biofuel.

  • House Bill 2209: Establishes a Renewable Portfolio Standard for electricity. The bill requires that 25 percent of Oregon's electric load come from new renewable energy by 2025.


  • Well, I've been meaning to write a summary of the renewable energy and biofuels legislation introduced this session in the Oregon Legislature, but I guess this article basically does it for me. There's a lot going on in Salem this session to pay attention to, and environmental and renewable energy advocates have been racking up the miles between Portland and Salem these past three weeks since the session commenced (hopefully they're carpooling ... in hybrids!).

    If you are an Oregon citizen, I'd encourage you to contact your state representatives to let them know you support the full range of the Governor's renewable energy proposals and expect them to support them as well. Committee hearings are underway currently on a number of the bills (the biofuels bill looks like it will move first) so it would be fine timing to call or write your reps.

    Expect more details on the Renewable Energy Standard bill, which I'm pretty closely involved in, soon. Unlike the other bills (all of which are much less complicated), the RES bill hasn't come out of legislative council yet (they're the ones that make the bill proposal into legalese!), and will likely undergoe one more round of revision before being introduced into the Senate (most likely in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Brad Avakian). The current HB 2209 described above is simply a placeholder bill number awaiting the real bill sometime very soon (next week perhaps).

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