Oregon Becomes First State to Ban Coal Power

Abandoned Coal Plant

By Maura Forrest

March 17, 2015

Oregon has become the first state to legislate a ban on coal for electricity, as part of a groundbreaking bill passed by Governor Kate Brown.

According to the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Plan, passed earlier this month, Oregon will completely phase out coal from its energy supply by 2035. The state’s two major utilities will also have to supply half their power from renewable sources by 2040.

“I’m proud to sign a bill that moves Oregon forward, together with the shared values of current and future generations,” Brown said in a statement.

The legislation will contribute to Oregon’s goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 75 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

In a blog post, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that, with the new law, Oregon’s electricity sector will be 70 to 90 per cent carbon-free by 2040.

Coal currently accounts for about 30 per cent of the state’s electricity.

“This landmark climate legislation puts Oregon on a bold new course,” said Kristen Sheeran, Oregon director of climate solutions, in a statement. “Moving away from coal and oil toward clean, renewable electricity raises the bar for clean energy in other states.”

DeSmog reports that Oregon is one of just a handful of states aiming to supply at least 50 per cent of their electricity with renewables. The group includes Hawaii, California and New York.

Oregon’s decision might also provide an opportunity for British Columbia. BC Hydro is part of a power-sharing consortium that includes utilities in Oregon, California and Washington.

And the province is looking at a potential electricity surplus once the Site C dam is built on the Peace River.

After the B.C. Clean Energy Act was passed in 2010, a BC Hydro backgrounder described exactly this sort of scenario as a possible boon to the province.

“With many states and provinces seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing electricity generated by hydrocarbon-based fuel sources such as coal,” it reads, “British Columbia is uniquely positioned to offer clean, reliable power at competitive prices.”