Oregon Republicans no-show to block work on state climate bill

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Republicans in the Oregon Senate refused to attend an evening session on Wednesday night as a way to block quick work on a host of bills, including a major piece of environmental legislation. 

Seventeen of the chamber’s 18 Democrats were on the floor Wednesday night, but no Republican attended the session, The Oregonian reports, denying the bipartisan 20-member quoroum needed to convene the Senate.

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Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli said later that Republicans had orchestrated the walkout as a way to slow down legislative work in the Senate. 

"This session we've seen the Democrat majority put their partisan agenda ahead of both the needs of Oregonians and the law,” he said in a statement. "Senate Republicans will not work late into the night to fast track an agenda pursued by the Democrat majority that features back room deals between Democrats and special interests and numerous broken promises of collaboration and compromise."

Republicans’ main target is a climate bill approved by the state House earlier this month. 

The legislation would require the state’s ratepayers to stop paying its two largest utilities, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, for electricity generated at out-of-state coal-fired power plants by 2030. It would also require those utilities to get up to half their customers’ energy from renewable sources by 2040. 

The utilities affected by the legislation support the bill, as do environmental groups. But Republicans have targeted it, warning it would cause rate hikes for Oregon ratepayers. Ferrioli pledged earlier this week to “do almost anything we can think of to slow or stop the process.”

The bill, he told the Portland Business Journal, is “something that was created not to reduce our carbon footprint, but will exponentially increase energy prices for every Oregonian, whether they’re served by an investor-owned utility or otherwise. They can’t differentiate between power, coal-created or otherwise enters, our mix.”