Oregon Capitol at night
Edmund Garman
Assessing climate progress at the Oregon legislature

Oregon’s 2017 legislative session ended this month, and it goes down as a mixed bag for climate and clean energy.

We stopped a major rollback and secured a suite of important investments in transportation, but overall we didn’t see the aggressive action needed at the state level to address the urgency of climate change.

With your help, we saved Oregonians’ access to Clean Fuels. Thank you! Despite attacks from the fossil fuel industry (again!), we protected this essential program that accelerates the transition to electric vehicles and cleaner, renewable fuels. With this victory, we’re hopeful that Oregonians’ ability to choose lower carbon will continue with more long-term certainty. 

Other victories in transportation include a new incentive for electric vehicles and hybrids, and major investments in transit service, walking, and biking. We also succeeded in enabling renters and businesses to install electric vehicle charging stations, and extending the property tax exemption for solar panels.

But overall, the legislature failed to take major steps forward. They failed to pass a range of climate strategies, and we will be looking closely at bringing these bills back next session:

  • Clean Energy Jobs
  • Residential Energy Tax Credit (will expire at the end of 2017)
  • Integrating climate into the mission of the Department of Energy
  • A range of bills aimed at reducing the dangers of fossil fuels: oil train safety, a ban on fracking, and diesel standards.

While legislation to move toward zero energy buildings did not pass, the Governor is pursuing an Executive Order instead. Increasing energy efficiency in buildings would have a huge climate impact, and we are working with the Governor’s office and other stakeholders to move this important strategy forward.

The biggest piece of unfinished business is the Clean Energy Jobs bill to put a price on climate pollution and invest in clean energy solutions. Together with our Renew Oregon partners, we made real progress this session and are seeing growing momentum. Not only have we solidified the policy, but Governor Brown recently announced that she supports passing Clean Energy Jobs in 2018 and more than a third of state legislators sponsored a priority bill at the end of this session.

Over 500 small businesses support the plan, and business leaders have stepped forward to create the Oregon Business Alliance for Climate. In addition, California just extended their cap and trade program, which will allow Oregon to link up with their system, reducing costs and giving businesses more options to reduce their emissions. Together, we have strong momentum going into 2018.

It’s going to take a range of strategies at the state, local, business and community level to create a thriving, equitable Northwest, powered by clean energy. With global warming already harming our health, economy, and natural systems – slow progress at the legislature just isn’t good enough. 

We look forward to working with you to push for greater legislative progress in 2018, including passing the Clean Energy Jobs bill!

Author Bio

David Van't Hof

Senior Fellow, Climate Solutions

David is an attorney with his own policy and law practice in Portland Oregon. He focuses his practice in the areas of sustainability, clean technology, renewable energy and carbon regulation, drawing from his experience as Sustainability Policy Advisor to former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.  In that capacity, he led the state’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative and in developing the state’s nationally recognized climate change and renewable energy policies. David has served on numerous renewable energy and energy efficiency boards and works with others on a contract basis both providing legal and policy expertise.

David was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal (1989-1991).  He earned his law degree (J.D., cum laude, 1994) from the University of Michigan Law School and his undergraduate degree (B.A. Philosophy 1988) from Trinity College, Hartford CT.

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