Throughout this year, I have shared with you my concerns about the Oregon Legislature’s push for an economywide cap-and-trade-bill and our efforts to address the new cost exposure to Central Electric Cooperative of more than $7 million between 2021 and 2030. The prevailing consensus assured us
the legislation would easily pass as Democrats enjoy supermajorities in both chambers. HB 2020 cruised through the House but then ran into a roadblock. Senate Republicans—as a political protest—walked out to prevent a vote, and Democratic leadership acknowledged it lacked enough party votes to pass the bill. Though the bill is dead, it is not over. Gov. Kate Brown recently stated she would bypass the Legislature and use regulatory authority to impose cap and trade. No matter the twists and turns left in this saga, CEC will continue to engage in whatever process lies ahead.
Vegetation Management and Safety
With fire season upon us, I encourage you to read “Preparing for Wildfires” on pages 28-29. The article provides vital tips to prepare and protect your families, homes, and businesses. Central Electric is doing its part. Our crews oversee the removal of hazardous trees and vegetation overgrowth along approximately 2,500 miles of transmission and overhead distribution lines.
The most trying efforts can occur before removal of vegetation along federal rights-of-way. CEC’s service territory comprises 5,300 square miles, 56% of which is federally managed land, requiring us to work closely with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Council on Environmental Quality and other agencies. All parties are committed to protecting the electrical infrastructure and preventing wildfires, but the pathway forward is fraught with time-consuming regulatory processes. Months—in some cases years—can pass before permits are issued to perform work otherwise routinely done within days.
For example, CEC identified 30 dead and dying trees along a federal right-of-way and requested approval to remove them. As months passed waiting for multiple USFS specialists to review, the delay raised doubts as to whether we would get the job done this year. Concerned, I raised the issue in May with CEQ and BLM representatives during a trip to Washington, D.C. Upon my return to Oregon, I learned, thankfully, we were permitted to move forward. Removal of these hazard trees took three days.
Congress did approve legislation—four years in the making—to address bureaucratic delays and to streamline the permitting process. The USFS, however, is still in the rulemaking process to codify uniform standards and set stricter timelines. While the process is moving forward, it is not fast enough. When it comes to the safety of our members and the reliability of the electricity we provide you, time is of the essence.