Graduate Project


Uncommon Alliance : Understanding the Passage of Oregon's Senate Bill 1547 Public Deposited

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  • In 2016, the state of Oregon passed landmark legislation that doubles the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and eliminates the use of coal-fired electricity for the state’s two major electric utilities by 2030. The legislation was the first of its kind in the country to outright ban the use of a particular fossil fuel source and fits into national and global energy trends relating to coal and renewables, which in turn relate to the actions jurisdictions are taking to address climate change. The research presented here sought to find the most important factors that contributed to the passage of the legislation. To explore these factors, I interviewed 29 individuals who were intimately involved in the bill’s passage or who have extensive knowledge of energy policy in the state. The findings were analyzed using the Collaboration Forming Model, which is a modification of the Multiple Streams Approach developed by Kingdon (1984) and accounts for collaborations that take place between the private and non-profit sectors to enhance the sustainability of a business. The research revealed that cooperation between the utilities and environmental groups in promoting the bill was crucial to its passage. Another key factor that led to the legislation was a threatened ballot initiative that prompted the utilities to negotiate the alternative that was eventually promoted in the legislature. The context of the passage of the bill, which took place during a five-week long legislative session that did not allow for extensive discussion and excluded certain groups, also contributed to an erosion of trust and damaged relationships. These unintended side effects have policy implications, which include attempting to ensure full discussion and full participation by interested parties in the passage of a bill. The successful collaboration between the state’s two major electric utilities and environmental groups in passing the bill represents a positive example of passing environmental legislation that can be emulated in the future.
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