POLITICS
03/05/2016 01:08 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2016

Oregon Set To Become First Coal-Free State

The state commits to doubling renewable energy use by 2040.

Oregon lawmakers have approved legislation to eliminate coal from the state's electrical supply by 2035, the first U.S. state to do so.

The bill, called the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition plan, commits the state to doubling its use of renewable energy, including solar and wind, to 50 percent by 2040.

The measure makes Oregon the first state to eliminate coal by legislative action, The Associated Press reports. 

Nikolay Zurek via Getty Images

The bill, passed this week by both legislative branches, now heads to Gov. Kate Brown (D). Brown said in a statement that the legislation "equips Oregon with a bold and progressive path towards the energy resource mix of the future."

Today, roughly one third of Oregon's power is produced from coal, according to the Oregon Department of Energy. Hydropower, at 43 percent, accounts for largest percentage of the state's electricity generation.

The legislation was backed by environmental advocacy groups, as well as the state's largest electric companies.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, called the bill's approval "historic" and "the most significant legislative action the U.S. has taken since the Paris climate agreement" in a statement. 

Republicans argued the legislation will drive up energy bills and do little to help the environment. But Pacific Power, one of the state's largest utilities, said it will reduce carbon pollution by 30 million metric tons -- equal to taking 6.4 million cars off the road.

"We are pleased that we were able to work with a broad group of stakeholders to help craft a policy that will put Oregon on a path to meet the state’s carbon reduction goals -- while ensuring it will keep the lights on, and costs to our customers low," Pacific Power CEO Stefan Bird said in a statement. 

Oregon will join a select few states making such an aggressive push toward renewable energy production. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oregon is matched only by Hawaii, with a 100 requirement by 2045, Vermont, with a 75 percent target by 2032, and California and New York, with 50 percent goals by 2030. 

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