Senate modifies anti-coal bill

The amendment grants the Oregon Public Utility Commission more power to control transformation costs.

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The bill, one of the most far-reaching pieces of environmental legislation in decades, would see ratepayers of the state’s two largest utilities, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, stop paying for power produced at out-of-state coal-fired power plants by 2030. It would also require that utilities, by 2040, serve half their customers’ demand with renewable power sources such as wind and solar.

The cost of any new infrastructure projects — say, a new wind farm — would be included in ratepayers’ bills and paid off over time. The Senate’s amendment would give the Public Utility Commission authority to cut off those ratepayer subsidies if utilities don’t follow the plan that’s most cost effective for consumers, potentially leaving companies with huge costs.

The amendment was put forth by Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield. It followed reporting in The Oregonian/OregonLive that Gov. Kate Brown’s office cut commissioners out of talks on the plan. Utilities negotiated the bill with environmentalists to fend off a proposed ballot measure this fall with steeper requirements.

(READ MORE: Oregon Live)

Coal releases more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than any other fossil fuel, according to National Geographic.

Portland General Electric runs Oregon’s only coal plant in Boardman. It is set for closure in 2020, according to Natural Gas Intelligence. The plan to shut it down predates the energy bill, according to Oregon Live.