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State moves on environment

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Historians looking back at the 2007 Oregon Legislature may call it the session of the environment. Several important pieces of legislation are restoring Oregon's reputation for environmental leadership.

Serving on the House Energy and Environment Committee has put me in the thick of this work. The committee recently moved the most ambitious of several proposals promoting clean energy - a 'renewable portfolio standard' for electricity.

Under this standard, electric utilities must deliver 25 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2025. A number of other states have enacted a requirement for renewable sources of electricity. But Oregon's target is the highest of any state so far.

The legislation defines renewable energy to include wind, solar, wave, geothermal, certain biomass and new hydro sources. Without a requirement to use these renewable sources, additional electric generation is likely to come from burning coal or other fossil fuels.

Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will avoid contributing to global warming. It also will promote economic development in both rural and urban areas of the state.

Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy is likely to come from Oregon. We have abundant wind power already on line and geothermal and wave projects are in development. Amounts invested in these sources will be spent in our rural areas.

Furthermore, Oregon is building a reputation as an intellectual center for renewable energy development, attracting talented young workers. Whether they're found in a lab in Corvallis or a high rise in Portland's Pearl District, these workers produce innovations and generate incomes that propel our economy forward.

Another environmental landmark came with passage of a new system of electronic waste recycling. The system applies to computers and televisions, both of which contain toxic metals. Computer and television screens, in particular, contain large amounts of lead. These products should not be dumped in landfills.

The E-waste legislation requires manufacturers to handle collection of their products for dismantling and recycling of the materials. It advances the principle that producers should take responsibility for the entire life cycle of what they make. The cost of proper disposal then can be built into the price paid by consumers.

The renewable electricity standard and E-waste recycling would stand as major achievements if they were all the environmental legislation this session passed. But they follow the expansion of the bottle bill to cover water containers and the requirement that transportation fuels contain biodiesel and ethanol.

This legislation signals Oregon's return to leadership on environmental policy. As important as this work is, one might wonder why the environment saw more progress than other pressing problems, such as Oregon's disinvestment in public education at all levels over the past 15 years.

One answer to this question is that environmental legislation does not require spending a lot of public funds. Instead, customers will support a cleaner environment when they pay their electric bill, buy a computer, or stock up on bottled water.

This session has not seen a serious run at comprehensive tax reform. As long as Oregon relies on limited revenue sources, significant needs in education, health care, and public safety will go unmet.

I would like to hear your comments about legislative issues. E-mails should be sent to rep.greg

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and regular mail to 900 Court Street N.E., Salem, OR 97301.

Rep. Greg Macpherson, Lake Oswego, represents Oregon House District 38.