Mixed Results from Oregon's 2024 Legislative Session

Oregon’s 2024 legislative session has now come and gone at its typical sprinter’s pace. Here’s a quick rundown of what happened — and what didn’t happen — to make further progress on climate over those 35 days. And don’t miss a big opportunity to help rebuild momentum this year at the end of this update! 

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First, the good news from Salem: legislators made some key funding decisions that will bring tangible benefits for people in Oregon, most notably investing $15M in the state’s Healthy Homes grant program and $4M in the Rental Heat Pump program. They also passed a handful of bills that address longer-term issues impacting Oregon’s clean energy transition and start moving the needle on siting, energy markets, offshore wind, and divestment from coal. 

But apart from those bright spots, there is not too much to celebrate this year on the climate front. Legislators did not pass bills to leverage federal funding to grow our clean tech sector, update our state greenhouse gas targets, or grant funding requests to invest more dollars in the state’s Charge Ahead EV rebate program or solar + storage program, among others. 

It was particularly frustrating to see opposition to multiple bills intended to grow Oregon’s clean energy economy from conservative business groups like Oregon Business and Industry, rather than just fossil fuel interests. The Oregon Legislature is leaving federal money on the table by not passing these bills and missed another opportunity to support the burgeoning clean energy economy in Oregon. 

Frankly, this was the most lackluster legislative session in recent years for climate progress. That is tough to accept in the face of the growing climate crisis, as we’re still reeling from the recent destructive ice storm amidst the warmest winter months in global history. We need more progress from our Legislature every year to protect Oregonians from climate extremes like heat waves, drought, destructive wildfires, and smoke and ensure everyone can afford clean energy solutions that save money and reduce fossil fuels.

Here’s a rundown on how our legislators did on top priorities this session:

Mixed results for a 2024 Climate Budget 

We’re thrilled that the legislature provided the full $15M requested for the Healthy Homes Program along with $4M for the Rental Heat Pump program as part of SB 1530 (a funding bill in the Housing Package), contributing to greater housing security for our most vulnerable Oregonians. Healthy Homes is an innovative grant program that supports essential home repairs and improvements like radon and mold abatement and energy efficiency upgrades across the state. Now the program can continue to keep low-income families healthy, reduce medical costs and energy bills. This was a top priority for the Oregon Just Transition Alliance and other environmental justice and community groups.

We’re extremely disappointed that the legislature failed to invest any additional funding into the popular Charge Ahead EV rebates. The Charge Ahead Rebate reduces the cost of purchasing a new or used EV for low-and moderate-income Oregonians. Increasing equitable access to EVs can improve household budgets and reduce climate and air pollution. Due to unprecedented demand and without this additional state funding, the Charge Ahead rebate program will only be available for two months in 2024. We are hoping there is an opportunity to secure federal funding for this critical program that ensures everyone can afford to go electric — stay tuned!

Progress for Removing Barriers to Siting Battery Storage Projects

The legislature passed HB 4015, which updates our state’s siting processes to allow for newer technologies like stand-alone battery storage. This bill lessens the barriers for a developer who wants to build a much-needed battery energy storage system by allowing them to use the state Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) process to site the project. Looking ahead, we need even bolder legislation to ease permitting and siting hurdles to building clean energy and transmission projects in Oregon, and look forward to tackling that challenge with many others in 2025.

Progress for Harnessing the Potential of Offshore Wind

Floating offshore wind on the Oregon coast has the potential to add 3 gigawatts of clean energy into our regional grid (enough to power at least one million homes). The legislature passed HB 4080, which authorizes the state to develop a “Roadmap” process for offshore wind in Oregon, which will engage stakeholders more deeply to ensure an inclusive, robust, and transparent process in developing this renewable resource. The bill also mandates fair labor standards for the construction and manufacturing of component parts.

Failed to modernize the State’s Greenhouse Gas Goals

The legislature has not updated Oregon’s statewide goals for reducing climate pollution in 15 years. These pollution reduction targets are a critical way to demonstrate Oregon’s commitment to climate action and to measure our progress toward achieving those goals. The legislature failed to move forward SB 1559, so now Oregon will fall further out of step with neighboring states and the federal government, who are aligning with best available science and the Paris Climate Accord’s goals.

Failed to Show Clean Tech Leadership

Oregon should be a leader in attracting clean energy businesses and manufacturing. By leveraging federal funds under the Inflation Reduction Act, this bill offered a trifecta of solutions to maximize Oregon’s competitiveness in attracting, expanding, and sustaining new and existing clean energy technology manufacturers. Unfortunately, the Ways & Means budget committee did not pass HB 4112, and now Oregon risks missing this historic opportunity to grow our economy.

We are happy to see the legislature pass the Divest COAL Act (HB 4083), which directs the Oregon Investment Council and the State Treasurer to make efforts to eliminate coal investments, as well as act on the Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO) reporting bill (SB 1581) that requires PGE and PacifiCorp utilities to report annually on progress toward joining a regional energy market.

Thank you for all you did to help secure some wins and ensure legislators heard loud and clear that we cannot take a year off from taking major climate action. We have a lot of work ahead to get done during the 2025 legislative session.

And there is one more major opportunity for climate progress this year! A top priority this year will be reinstating the Climate Protection Program, the landmark emissions-reduction program that launched in January 2022, but was invalidated late last year by a state court due to a procedural technicality.

As the Department of Environmental Quality begins efforts to reinstate the program, fossil fuel and industry opponents of climate action are already mobilizing to limit its effectiveness. Your advocacy matters to reinstate these climate protections for clean air, clean water, and a healthy future and to ensure meaningful investments in frontline communities.

Let us know that you're ready to stand with us! Join our Super Advocates list, and you’ll be the first in the know when opportunities arise to help reinstate our Climate Protection Program, and make sure that this delay to Oregon's climate progress is over soon.

Author Bio

Meredith Connolly

Oregon Director, Climate Solutions

Meredith brings over a decade of climate policy experience to her work accelerating Oregon’s transition to a clean energy economy. She advocates for innovative and equitable policy solutions to reduce pollution and create clean energy jobs across the state. Currently, Meredith leads a team diligently working to electrify everything from cars, trucks, and buses to homes and buildings, and power it all with 100% clean electricity.

Prior to joining Climate Solutions, Meredith was a Climate and Energy Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. At NRDC, she advanced renewable energy policies in the U.S. and internationally. She also implemented programs to protect public health and improve climate resilience to heat waves and air pollution in India’s growing cities. Before NRDC, Meredith practiced law in the private sector.

Meredith is a member of the Oregon and California State Bar Associations. She holds a JD from Boston College Law School and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and French from Santa Clara University. In her free time, Meredith enjoys exploring her incredible home state of Oregon with her family and rooting too loudly for the Portland Thorns and Timbers.