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Oregon Lawmakers Asked for More "Coal to Clean" Leadership

Full page newspaper ads and a social media blitz are reminding Oregon lawmakers of one priority they didn't advance in the 2015 Legislature. Courtesy: Sierra Club
Full page newspaper ads and a social media blitz are reminding Oregon lawmakers of one priority they didn't advance in the 2015 Legislature. Courtesy: Sierra Club
September 4, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Legislature doesn't start again for five months, but advocates for clean energy are already trying to get lawmakers' attention.

The Sierra Club launched an Oregon ad campaign this week on social media and in some major newspapers, suggesting legislative leaders step up and take a tougher stance on coal power, after mostly skirting the issue in the last session.

Andy Maggi, Oregon's Sierra Club chapter director, says a bill to require utilities selling power in Oregon to get it from sources other than coal didn't make it out of committee last year.

"We're at a time where clean-energy policy, policies that move us away from fossil fuels, that move us away from dirty coal shouldn't be falling on the floor of the Capitol building," says Maggi. "They should be moving forward; they should be passed."

Maggi says some people may not realize the state gets one-third of its energy from coal, mostly from out-of-state sources - and Oregon's second-largest utility, Pacific Power, gets two-thirds of its energy from coal.

Pacific Power says at least some of that will be retired or converted to burning natural gas by 2034. Maggi thinks it will take legislation to prompt significant changes.

Sierra Club polling has indicated just over 70 percent of Oregonians would support a bill to transition the state off coal power by 2025. Without it, Maggi says Oregon is losing ground on clean-energy policy compared to other West Coast states.

"There's a lot of opportunity when you look at what California's doing, what Washington might be doing in the future, that not just Oregon but the West really becomes an example to the rest of the nation about what can really be done with energy," says Maggi.

From a consumer standpoint, he says his organization is also concerned that Oregon ratepayers will be on the hook for cleaning up the air and water pollution problems at out-of-state coal plants that their utilities co-own.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR