Significant 2021 Legislation Impacting OMEU Utilities

100% Clean Energy Standard, House Bill 2021

View the Enrolled House Bill 2021 (PDF)

  • HB 2021 requires Oregon’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and electricity service suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below a 2010 baseline 80% by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040. The legislation provides exemptions if compliance would affect system reliability or lead to rate increases in excess of 6% of annual revenue requirements.
  • Significantly, municipal electric utilities and other consumer-owned utilities are exempt from the new requirements due to our clean hydropower from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The only fossil in the BPA mix comes from unspecified market purchases that are necessary to balance the system. On average, our energy mix is 95% carbon-free today. View more information about Oregon’s Electricity Mix at the Oregon State Government Website.
  • HB 2021 prohibits new generating facilities that produce electricity from fossil fuels (e.g. – natural gas plants) from being sited in Oregon.
  • Creates a Community Renewable Investment Fund at the Oregon Department of Energy with $50 million in grants for renewable energy projects that are less than 20 megawatts. Consumer-owned utilities are eligible to compete for these grants.

Wildfire Prevention and Response, Senate Bill 762

View the Enrolled House Bill 762 (PDF)

  • Following the devasting impacts of the 2020 Labor Fires, SB 762 establishes several new programs and requirements relating to wildfire prevention and response. Many elements of the bill are based on work from the 2019 Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response (PDF)
  • In recognition of the threat wildfire poses to our mission of safe, reliable, and affordable electricity, OMEU worked with the Governor and Legislature on Section 4 of the bill. Section 4 requires consumer-owned utilities to develop “wildfire protection plans” by June 30, 2022. These risk-based plans must be updated regularly and are subject to approval by our local governing boards and councils.

Accelerating Transportation Electrification, House Bill 2165

View the Enrolled House Bill 2165 (PDF)

  • Removes sunset on vehicle privilege tax to continue the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program
  • Changes eligibility for the low/moderate-income “Charge Ahead Rebate” to 400% of Federal poverty guidelines and doubles cap to up to $5,000.
  • For IOUs, requires a monthly customer charge set at .25% of total revenues to support transportation electrification.

Public Power Frustrated with Latest Litigation by State of Oregon

  • On August 11, 2021, OMEU joined over 70 electric utilities and associations asking Governor Kate Brown withdraw the State’s request for a preliminary injunction calling for more spill at federal dams. If the District Court orders anything close to what Oregon demands, it will could cost ratepayers over $100 million per year, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and led to system blackouts.

Dear Governor Brown:

We are writing regarding your Administration’s July 16th Federal District Court preliminary injunction filing and asking that Oregon put this matter on hold to give the Columbia Basin Collaborative, that you helped start, a chance to solve what decades of endless litigation have not.

In February of 2020, several signatories to this letter, along with many others, including environmental organizations, wrote to you and the governors of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. We requested that you use the power and influence of your offices to convene sovereigns (States, Tribal and Federal) and stakeholders to attempt to find negotiated solutions to solve salmon and other related issues in the Columbia Basin—the decades of ESA and salmon focused litigation have become labeled the “Salmon Wars” by many.

Our hopes rose temporarily when you and the Northwest governors launched the Columbia Basin Collaborative. We are convinced that the only way we will recover salmon and other listed species is through collaborative efforts that seek comprehensive solutions to address all aspects, including hydropower operations, harvest, hatchery, habitat, and all factors that impact salmon. Focusing solely on hydropower operations and dam removal is misplaced and the overwhelming evidence is that this will not be a silver bullet, because there is no silver bullet. To recover salmon, we must look at everything, including human actions like harvest, which some have not been willing to address.

We want to be clear that not only is Oregon’s motion for preliminary injunction misdirected in terms of recovering salmon, if the District Court orders anything remotely close to what Oregon demands, it will have extremely negative and dire consequences for everyone. First, spill will cost our customers, including your citizens, potentially over one hundred million dollars per year. Second, spill will result in substantial increases in greenhouse gas emissions, which goes against the policy direction of Oregon and electric utilities. Finally, and extremely concerning, spill of this magnitude is going to increase the risk of blackouts. All these impacts are well documented in the federal government’s EIS, along with mounting empirical and physical evidence. Furthermore, these impacts hit lower-income and underserved communities the hardest.

Oregon’s motion for spill puts the entirely speculative impact of salmon benefit ahead of clear and present harm to the economy, environment, and electric system reliability. Put plainly, additional spill of this magnitude is going to cause blackouts if we continue down this dangerous course. There were important reasons that the “Flex Spill” arrangement was negotiated by Oregon, the federal government, and others to find ways to protect salmon while not harming the economy, environment, and electric system reliability. We should let the Flex Spill arrangement continue so we can see if the additional spill in that arrangement helps salmon.

The recent record-setting heat wave in Oregon and Washington further demonstrated the critical value the Federal Hydropower system plays in our reliability. It is a complete myth that we can spill much more water (i.e, lower production) or remove dams and not impact reliability. More spill and dam removal will make electric system reliability far worse.

In addition to our substantive issues with Oregon’s motion we have serious concerns about Oregon’s real intent and messaging. To be honest, this move was a major disappointment, but frankly not surprising. Officials in your administration assured us that earlier legal moves by Oregon were purely procedural to preserve the option to litigate and that Oregon was committed to the Columbia Basin Collaborative. This recent move by Oregon is not a commitment to collaboration. It is simply a tactical move to create maximum leverage. This is what attorneys and litigators do and it is not what statespersons and leaders do who are committed to finding peace to end the Salmon Wars. The Flex Spill agreement that Oregon signed on to was at least a temporary truce. The Columbia Basin Collaborative is intended to find a permanent and fair peace. Oregon resumed active litigation just when we are about to start the negotiation and collaborative effort. Unfortunately now, energy, attention, and resources will be diverted from negotiation and committed to more endless litigation. Is this what Oregon intended?

Oregon’s 56-page motion is filled with chapter and verse of litigation history, arguments, case citations, and references. One might conclude that this is a strong legal motion and bold move. Another, and we think appropriate, read is that it is a glaring example of why endless litigation has been and remains a complete failure. If we are going to solve the salmon issues in the Columbia Basin, we need all sovereigns and stakeholders to come together and talk seriously about comprehensive solutions.

We are convinced and remain committed to seeking comprehensive solutions as part of the Columbia Basin Collaborative. However, we do not accept simultaneously litigating and negotiating. Oregon’s move is a maximum leverage strategy that we reject. Our request is that Oregon withdraw or stay its action and return with a full commitment to the Columbia Basin Collaborative. Absent that, we think Oregon has risked delivering the fatal blow to finding a lasting peace in the Salmon Wars.