Quantcast

Oregon Passes Historic Bill to Phase Out Coal and Double Down on Renewables

Energy

Oregon just became the first state to pass legislation to get off of coal and double down on renewable energy instead. The Oregon Legislature voted Wednesday to eliminate coal generation from the state's future and committed its largest utilities to supply at least half of their electricity from renewable resources by 2040.

Combined with Oregon's existing hydroelectric base, that means the state will be on track for an electricity system that's 70 to 90 percent carbon-free by that date. The legislation will make Oregon's energy among the cleanest in the country and puts the state in the growing top tier of renewable energy standards, along with California, New York and Hawaii.

The Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act that received final approval yesterday prevailed with bipartisan support because, as explained in this previous blog, stopping dirty coal deliveries into Oregon will cut off the market for coal plants and open up the state to more wind and solar power, just as the costs for those emissions-free resources are dropping dramatically.

Under the bill that gained final passage by the Senate yesterday, Oregonians will no longer have to pay for any coal power by 2035, at the latest. This legislation, which Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign in the coming weeks, will drastically clean up the energy Oregonians use and eliminate the need for new large gas combustion turbines as old coal plants go the way of the dinosaurs.

Cleaning up its electricity grid will also help Oregon clean up its carbon emissions from transportation by converting the gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles on Oregon's roadways to electric cars and trucks and plugging them into its low-carbon grid. The legislation directs utilities to propose significant investments to accelerate the deployment of charging stations for electric cars, trucks and buses in a manner that also supports integrating renewable power onto the electric grid.

Success from Consensus

Oregon's new clean energy future was charted by unique coalition—not the usual environmentalists vs. utilities, but true consensus: regional and national environmental groups worked with the two largest electric utilities in Oregon—Portland General Electric and Pacific Power—and the state's utility consumer advocate. Each had good reasons to support the bill. Environmentalists will get a long-term strategy to clean Oregon's energy mix. The utilities, which import coal electricity from power plants in Montana, Wyoming and Utah, gained an assured pathway, allowing them to plan and invest for a stable and affordable power supply, which also is important in planning their compliance across the region with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan to limit power plant emissions. Although the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama administration's plan to fight climate change by cutting the emissions fueling it, Oregon's action is further proof that climate action can—and must—continue.

Meanwhile, the consumer advocate, the Citizens' Utility Board, was able to ensure that Oregon customers would not have to pay to keep aging coal plants puffing and sputtering along indefinitely. Reducing the amount of electricity generated by burning coal also will help avoid the worst effects of climate change—which could have huge financial and health costs to households in the state. If we needed another reminder of the risks of failure, just last week there was news that sea levels were rising faster than at any time in the last 2,800 years; and that this effect, as so many others, is traceable directly back to ballooning carbon emissions.

Oregon's commitment to a clean energy future—added to other promises made by states and cities across America and complemented by strong EPA actions—are critical to making real the Paris commitments to cut carbon emissions as promised by 187 nations earlier this year.

Worth noting in this respect, for those who think cutting carbon is a purely American or northwestern concern: China's carbon emissions appear to have fallen again in 2015, for the second straight year, reflecting a two-year drop in that country's coal combustion that is equal to all of Japan's coal consumption. At the same time, China brought 32.5 megawatts of new wind and 18.3 megawatts of new solar online in 2015, both records.

Commitments add up; commitments persuade. Commitments like Oregon's are essential to the global effort to contain and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels that can protect the Earth for future generations.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

A Behind the Scenes Look at How Solar Energy Beat the Odds

Top 25 American Cities With the Best Public Transit

Presidential Candidates Talk Climate, Energy on Super Tuesday

2015 Was Record-Breaking Year for Investment in Renewable Energy

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Two silver-backed chevrotain caught on camera trap. The species has only recently been rediscovered after being last seen in 1990. GWC / Mongabay

By Jeremy Hance

VIETNAM, July 2019 – I'm chasing a ghost, I think not for the first time, as night falls and I gather up my gear in a hotel in a village in southern Vietnam. I pack my camera, a bottle of water, and a poncho; outside the window I can see a light rain.

Read More Show Less
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 11, 2005. NOAA Photo Library / Lieut. Commander Mark Moran

The most destructive hurricanes are three times more frequent than they were a century ago, new research has found, and this can be "unequivocally" linked to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less