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Tug-of-War Between Clean Energy, Coal on Capitol Steps

PHOTO: A giant inflatable coal plant is near the steps of the Capitol today for a rally in support of legislation that would require power companies to eliminate coal-generated electricity from the grid by 2025. Photo courtesy of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
PHOTO: A giant inflatable coal plant is near the steps of the Capitol today for a rally in support of legislation that would require power companies to eliminate coal-generated electricity from the grid by 2025. Photo courtesy of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
March 24, 2015

SALEM, Ore. - Renewable energy and coal are in a tug-of-war in Salem today.

It's a literal demonstration in front of the Capitol steps to draw attention to debate on the Coal to Clean Energy legislation (SB 477; HB 2729), which would move electric utilities toward more local, renewable energy.

Amy Hojnowski, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, says more than 200 people are expected at the rally, which will feature speakers from the public health field, academia and business.

"It's better for our state to create well-paying local solar and wind energy jobs that can support families than it is for us to continue to send millions of dollars to out of state coal plants," she says.

Hojnowski adds that Oregon gets about one-third of its electricity from coal, with much of it coming from out of state. Supporters of coal say it provides a stable supply in terms of consistency and price, and warns that consumer prices could rise if coal is eliminated.

The rally is part of the Oregon Conservation Network's Clean Green Lobby Machine day at the Capitol, and several environmental bills will be highlighted.

Linfield College chemistry professor Jim Diamond will be at the rally to show support for the legislation from a scientific perspective.

"Recent studies indicate that the social costs of carbon associated with coal leads to costs on the order of 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, as opposed to the 11 or 12 cents per kilowatt-hour most people pay," says Diamond. "It's due to the health and environmental effects of coal."

Diamond is also encouraged by polling conducted by Strategies 360 that shows 71 percent of Oregon voters support the legislation, which would require Pacific Power and PGE to eliminate coal from their energy mix by 2025. Oregon's last in-state coal plant is scheduled to retire in 2020.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - OR