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Bills On Capping Carbon, Charging Stations Still Alive In Salem

The legislative session in Salem passed a major deadline on April 21: Any bill that didn’t pass out of its original assigned committee is effectively dead. Some bills combatting climate change and protecting the environment didn’t make it out of committee before the deadline. 

A bill that would transition Oregon’s energy sources from coal to cleaner power died in committee, as well as bills to regulate aerial pesticide spraying and cultivation of GMOs. However, Rep. Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene) still has several bills with potential to pass in this session.

Barnhart sponsored HB 3470 after his constituent, climate activist Tom Bowerman, brought it to him. Bowerman directs the Eugene-based research center PolicyInteractive. His bill would direct the state to plan a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 35 years. By 2050, the state would have to emit 75 percent less than in 1990.

HB 3470 is modeled after legislation already in place in California. Bowerman says his goal is to achieve the goals the state of Oregon passed in 2007 to limit greenhouse gases. Since the goals haven’t been met, his idea is to give the regulations “teeth,” like California’s bill did.

Barnhart testified that the bill is “ready to work.” To reach the low level of emissions in 2050, the bill directs the Environmental Quality Commission and other state agencies to start studies, build regulations and develop an action plan. Barnhart says the timelines are reasonable and doable.

Barnhart testified that the bill only seems like a “heavy lift” if seen from a short-term political view. Bowerman and Barnhart say HB 3470 will improve the economy and leave the state with a better budget in the end. There are several legislators who disagree, saying this is an issue that is better addressed nationwide or globally.

HB 3470 passed on a 5-4 vote out of the House Committee on Energy and Environment on April 21. Most of the more than 50 people testifying on the bill at the state Capitol were in favor.

Another of Barnhart’s still viable 2015 legislative goals is making Oregon a friendlier place for electric vehicle (EV) owners. He proposed several bills to expand the availability of charging stations. Two may move forward this session.

HB 2585 and HB 3129 would require that landlords allow tenants and lessees to install EV charging stations for personal noncommercial use. HB 2625 would make it an offense to leave a non-electric vehicle in a space reserved for alternative fuel refueling. 

“If your tenants want to drive electric vehicles, it’s your job to accommodate that,” Barnhart told the House Committee on Energy and Environment. Some landlord groups voiced opposition because of concerns about who would pay for the installation of the charging stations, who would be responsible for the station if the tenant moved out and how the tenant would be charged for the electricity used for fuel. 

Barnhart reminded legislators that recharging an electric vehicle requires a new mindset when thinking about refueling. He said stations can cost from $100 to $1,000 and all costs should go to the lessee or tenant.

HB 2585 passed the House and is now in the Senate awaiting committee assignment. HB 2625 passed the House and is in the Senate Committee on Business and Transportation. — Lucy Ohlsen