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Governor unveils environmental agenda for Legislature

Mitch Lies, Capital Press 12/24/08

SALEM - Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Thursday, Dec. 18, unveiled a sweeping environmental agenda he plans to bring before the 2009 Legislature.

Included in more than 30 bills he will introduce to lawmakers in the session that begins Jan. 12 are bills to implement a cap-and-trade program, end field burning and develop a statewide water resources management strategy.

The bills, Kulongoski said, will create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the state's renewable energy portfolio.

Included in the list Kulongoski's office released Dec. 18 are bills to expand solar pilot projects, adopt low-carbon fuel standards, increase renewable energy use in state government and create new funding options for Oregon's renewable energy fund.

Kulongoski also has proposed funding an aggressive transportation infrastructure improvement program through a 2-cent increase in the state gas tax and increases in vehicle registration and title fees.

Projects funded with these investments will create and maintain 6,700 jobs per year across Oregon in the next five years, Kulongoski said.

The governor's cap-and-trade legislation will authorize Oregon to participate in a regional cap-and-trade program and expand the state's existing greenhouse gas reporting system. It also creates the Oregon Climate Initiative Task Force to assist in developing detailed rules to implement the program.

Those rules will be brought before the 2011 Legislature before going into effect in 2012, according to the bill.

The governor's package also includes expanding the state's Business Energy Tax Credit program by creating a renewable energy fund that would create funding options for smaller renewable energy projects.

The package includes a bill to end field burning in the Willamette Valley. It cuts acreage that can be burned in half from the current 65,000 acres in 2010 before eliminating it in 2011.

Grass seed growers in the Willamette Valley burn fields to control pests, diseases and remove crop residue.

The governor previously announced he was including $200,000 in his budget to develop the rule to end field burning and help identify alternatives to the practice.

The funding also is intended to support a position at DEQ to coordinate smoke management across state agencies and across regions.

Also of interest to farmers in the governor's announcement Dec. 18 is a call to put $3.3 million to develop an integrated water resources management strategy for Oregon and to invest in efforts to enhance water conservation to help meet future supply needs.

"This legislation provides state agencies the direction and funding needed to develop solutions to the critical water issues and future water needs in Oregon," Kulongoski said.

The package also includes a bill facilitating the removal of four Klamath River Basin dams. The bill authorizes the Public Utility Commission to raise rates to pay for the dam removal.
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