Carbon legislation took a high-profile role in the Oregon legislative session, but ORECA’s leader testifies that the state’s carbon policies are far from aligned
Sen. Michael Dembrow and Rep. Ken Helm, chief sponsors of legislation to put a price on carbon in the state of Oregon, had no time to waste. Even with the support of House Speaker Tina Kotek and House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, the lawmakers had only 35 days to pass complex legislation establishing a cap-and-trade carbon market.
Ted Case, executive director of the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association, testified on February 7 at a public hearing before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee. In his testimony, Case thanked Dembrow and Helm for improving the legislation, but said Oregon’s electric cooperatives “cannot support SB 1507 or HB 4001 until the state of Oregon recognizes their current environmental policies are not only inconsistent with the proposed cap-and trade-legislation, they are punitive for rural Oregonians.”
In his testimony, Case cited Gov. Kate Brown’s policies that devalue the federal hydropower system, increasing electric rates for rural Oregonians and increasing carbon emissions equivalent to putting 180,000 new cars on Oregon roads.
“It is clear the state of Oregon will not be able to meet its carbon goals if federal hydropower continues to be devalued,” Case said.
SB 1507 and HB 4001 faced stiff opposition from a wide range of agriculture, industry and transportation groups. House Republican Leader Mike McLane said the legislation could cost Oregon families hundreds of dollars a year, with no meaningful impact on global climate change.
Statement of Ted Case, Executive Director Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association on SB 1507 Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee and House Energy & Environment Committee
February 7, 2018
Chair Dembrow and Chair Helm and members of the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee and House Energy & Environment Committee:
For the last few months, ORECA worked collaboratively with the Clean Energy Jobs Utilities and Transportation Work Group to address our initial concerns with SB 1070, particularly with respect to the ability of electric cooperatives to comply as regulated entities under a state cap-and-trade program. We greatly appreciate the efforts of Sen. Dembrow and Rep. Helm to work constructively with us to improve the legislation. However, we cannot support SB 1507 or HB 4001 until the state of Oregon recognizes their current environmental policies are not only inconsistent with the proposed cap-and-trade legislation. They are punitive for rural Oregonians.
ORECA members purchase their power from the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the power produced at federal dams. The state of Oregon continues to aggressively pursue policies and operations that significantly reduce hydropower generation at the federal dams in the Columbia River Basin. Spilling water at these dams has far-reaching ramifications for electric cooperatives and the environment that the state of Oregon refuses to acknowledge. For example, increased spring spill is estimated to cost $40 million to consumers, will increase carbon emissions by approximately 840,000 metric tons a year and have unintended consequences for migrating juvenile and adult salmon. It is clear the state of Oregon will not be able to meet its carbon goals if federal hydropower continues to be devalued. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the state of Oregon has been unwilling to find common ground with respect to the operation of the federal dams.
While we also appreciate the sponsor’s sincere interest in developing a carbon proposal that invests in rural Oregon, we have many unanswered questions about how the cap-and-trade policy will impact electric utility rates, transportation costs and jobs in rural Oregon and “frontier” Oregon areas like Harney County. These questions require significant examination that the short session cannot provide. Nevertheless, ORECA and Oregon’s electric co-ops stand ready to work with the Oregon Legislature and Gov. Brown on these issues, including opportunities to reduce carbon through the electrification of the transportation sector using carbon-free hydropower.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.