By Rory Isbell

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As a volunteer leader with the Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board (CUB), I strongly support House Bill 2020, the “Clean Energy Jobs” legislation that addresses climate change by reducing statewide carbon pollution. Oregon voters created CUB through a 1984 ballot measure to advocate for residential utility customers. That makes HB 2020’s carefully written provisions related to utilities and ensuring minimal bill impact on utility customers of particular importance to me.

HB 2020 is the most important climate bill under discussion anywhere in the U.S. today. This bill builds on energy efficiency improvements that have long been a priority for CUB and facilitates additional efficiency investments that will reduce carbon pollution and save people money — money that will stimulate job and income growth and lead to additional carbon pollution reductions.

Bend and all of Oregon are affected by climate change. Increased wildfires are a particular concern in Central Oregon, bringing a heightened risk of loss of life and property, as well as smoke threatening public health and our strong quality of life. Reduced snowpack and annual water supplies will make worse our existing challenges to maintain stream flows for fish and wildlife. Our friends in coastal communities face rising sea levels, increased storm surges, reduced salmon fisheries and ocean acidification that harms shellfish like crabs and oysters.

All of this will only get worse in the coming years and we need action now. Oregon has a huge opportunity to demonstrate the kind of polices needed throughout the country. HB 2020 strategically harnesses the efficiencies of using existing market tools but takes Oregon-specific approaches.

For customers of Oregon’s major electric utilities, the bill works in harmony with coal-to-clean mandates that require utilities to replace coal with renewables. HB 2020 recognizes that as Oregon is on the way towards being coal-free, there is no point in raising electricity prices to penalize customers for these aging and soon-to-be jettisoned coal investments.

Keeping electricity affordable will also encourage transportation electrification. This is necessary to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector, which makes up almost 40% of Oregon’s carbon pollution. HB 2020 will encourage innovative approaches for electric vehicle charging options, including for multifamily housing projects. It will also provide new investments in transit, active transportation and repairs of existing infrastructure. Reduced reliance on gas-powered vehicles alongside electrification of our transportation grid will result in less carbon pollution, and also savings on vehicle fuel, maintenance, and operating costs.

It is important to note that HB 2020 has provisions to protect low income Oregonians, and to provide rebates to natural gas customers and gasoline customers who may be negatively impacted. Natural gas utilities will develop more energy efficiency programs to help customers reduce natural gas consumption, while simultaneously increasing the supply of natural gas from appropriate renewable sources like municipal solid waste facilities.

HB 2020 provides other significant benefits to Oregonians like reducing health hazards, particularly to children and the elderly, caused by air pollution. Having more efficient homes and businesses also reduces the cost of heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.

HB 2020 will move Oregon to a leadership role in developing products, services, and strategies needed for decarbonization across our country and the world. For the sake of our climate and for the sake of residential utility customers’ pocketbooks, Central Oregon’s representatives in Salem should support this important and innovative legislation.

— Rory Isbell is an Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board member.

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