Oregon’s new governor, John Kitzhaber, wasted little time in announcing his plan for revitalizing the Oregon economy and creating new jobs. One day after his inauguration. Governor Kitzhaber announced that he was directing $2M of unspent federal stimulus funds in the state to perform energy audits of 500 public schools in the state. A central plank of the Kitzhaber campaign had been on using energy efficiency as a means to keep Oregon energy dollars in the Oregon economy and to put the hard hit construction industry back to work. At a press conference held on January 11th, Kitzhaber announced the school move along with his commitment to push the federal government on changes greenhouse gas rules for woody biomass projects (proposed EPA rules would not credit these projects as carbon neutral). While details on the succeeding steps for the school energy efficiency effort in the state have not yet emerged, the outline of the Kitzhaber concept is documented on the Governor’s web site. Kitzhaber hopes to commit up to $70M for this effort and has eluded that the source of the funds could well come from the state’s public benefit charge system. SB 1149 created a 3% public purpose charge on the state’s two investor owned utilities, PGE and Pacific Power. This fund is used to fuel the Energy Trust of Oregon and also has dedicated funding for Oregon schools and for low income weatherization activity in the state.
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