Oregon House sends coal bill to Senate for final vote

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The state House passed a bill on Tuesday that would eliminate coal from Oregon's energy supply and double state mandates on use of renewable power. It now goes to the Senate for a final vote.

"This bill significantly reduces the utilities' greenhouse gas emissions, putting us on a path to meet the goal our state adopted for reducing carbon emissions," Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, D-Portland, who helped sponsor the bill, said during floor debate.

Senate Bill 1457 cleared the House on a 38-20 vote.

The proposal is being touted by environmentalists and clean energy groups as one of the strongest pieces of pro-climate legislation the U.S. has seen in years.

It's opposed by state utility regulators and most Republicans in both chambers over concerns about consumer costs and environmental benefits.

The legislation will likely spark a lively debate on Wednesday in the state Senate.

For Democrats, who control both chambers, it's one of their last big agenda items of the year.

The bill would require the state's two largest utilities, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, to stop supplying coal-fired energy to Oregonians by 2030. Utilities must also serve half of their customers' energy demand with renewable sources by 2040.

Most Republicans say they're worried about the cost to consumers in the long run. They also question whether the benefits to the environment are being overstated.

"It's more of a 'feel good' bill and we don't really look at things to see if it is going to be a good thing to do to make a difference," said Rep. Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill. "The thing that we're guaranteeing is that rates are going to go up."

Republicans have used delay tactics to try to stall action on the bill, saying it is too big an issue to tackle during the short 35-day session that ends Sunday.

Democrats have pushed the measure, hoping to avoid an ugly fight between environmentalists and utilities and to counter threats by climate groups to place a more stringent measure on the November ballot.

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