For the past few months, the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association has worked collaboratively with the Oregon Legislature’s Clean Energy Jobs Utilities and Transportation Work Group to address our initial concerns with its cap-and-trade legislation, 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. Michael Dembrow and Rep. Ken Helm to work constructively with us to improve the legislation. However, we cannot support their carbon legislation in the February session until the state of Oregon recognizes their environmental policies are not only inconsistent, they are punitive for rural Oregonians.

The state of Oregon continues to aggressively pursue policies and operations that significantly reduce hydropower generation at federal dams in the Columbia River Basin. ORECA members are reliant on the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the power produced at federal dams. 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 provide little benefit for fish. Despite our best efforts, the state of Oregon has shown no interest in finding 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 seeks to invest in rural Oregon, we have many unanswered questions about how this will affect electric utility rates, transportation costs and jobs in rural Oregon, and “frontier” Oregon areas such as Harney County. These questions require significant examination that the short session cannot provide.

Accordingly, ORECA looks forward to working with the Oregon Legislature and Gov. Kate Brown on a carbon policy that is fair, effective and consistent.

Ted Case
Executive Director