With just three-plus days left in Oregon's legislative session, the state's House of Representatives on June 25 passed the "100 percent clean energy" measure House Bill 2021 and sent it to the Senate.
It has already been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, although no meeting of the panel had been scheduled as of the afternoon of June 25.
The bill passed by a party-line vote of 35-20, although Republican Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner) voted for the version that came out of the Revenue Committee on June 20, but was absent for the subsequent Ways and Means and floor votes.
Prior to the House vote, the Republican caucus issued a press release saying the bill "raises electricity costs for Oregonians and will likely make the state's energy grid unreliable."
But Meredith Connolly, Climate Solution's Oregon director, said in a tweet, "Could there be a more terrifyingly fitting backdrop as the #orleg House gets ready to vote this morning on #HB2021 to transition Oregon's electric grid from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy?" referring to record-breaking temperatures forecast for the Northwest in the coming days.
The measure requires retail providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity bought by Oregon consumers to 80 percent below baseline levels by 2030, to 90 percent below by 2035 and to 100 percent below by 2040. It would also ban the construction or expansion of fossil-fueled power plants.
The bill also includes provisions regarding environmental justice and labor.
One provision that garnered the support of Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp would pause meeting the GHG targets if that would cause reliability problems or become an economic hardship for electric customers. The utilities are already reducing their GHG levels, led there by current state policy and company goals.
Off the record, proponents of HB 2021 are optimistic about its chances of ultimate passage, certainly much more so than attempts to pass cap-and-trade bills in 2019 and 2020 thwarted by Republicans who boycotted votes in the Democrat-dominated Legislature, dropping member numbers below the quorum needed to vote.
This time, the clean energy approach has broader support, in addition to PGE and PacifiCorp. This was due in no small measure to the efforts of the Oregon Just Transition Alliance. One of HB 2021's prime sponsors was newly elected Rep. Khanh Pham (D-East Portland), a former interim director of the organization.
In the day before the floor vote, Pham urged colleagues in an open letter to support HB 2021, saying it was "both ambitious and practical, well-vetted, and contains strong protections to ensure Oregonians have stable energy bills and reliable power as we make this transition to clean energy."
She added, "The bill provides an opportunity for Oregon to attract renewable energy investments to our state, create good-paying jobs in the clean energy sector, and reduce air and climate pollution, all in an equitable way for Oregon's communities. It will lead to economic development and clean energy projects throughout Oregon, a vital component of our state's economic recovery."