The 2017 Legislative Session ended on July 7. ODOE went in to the session hoping to build on a multi-year effort to fix legacy problems, bolster existing programs, and implement common sense oversight measures within the agency. So how’d we do?
Mike Kaplan, agency director, offers this assessment: “Following the thoughtful recommendations of Governor Brown and the hard work of the Joint Committee on Department of Energy Oversight, the Legislature made important decisions that support our ongoing efforts to rebuild our agency. That work is not yet complete, but we’re far closer than at the beginning of 2017.”
ODOE went into the session with three agency bills; all were passed by the Legislature. Senate Bill 99 makes the appointment of the agency director by the Governor subject to Senate confirmation, while Senate Bill 100 cleans up and moves the SHOW program to Oregon Housing and Community Services. House Bill 2343 updates statutes related to state energy reporting, with a new framework for a Biennial Energy Report due from the agency in 2018.
Following Governor Brown’s June 2016 recommendations, ODOE staff also advocated for ODOE’s residential and commercial energy tax credit programs to meet their legislative sunset. The Legislature agreed. By the end of the 2017 tax year, ODOE will no longer administer energy tax credits of any kind.
“The energy challenges Oregon will face over the next 40 years demand that state government learns and evolves,” explains Kaplan. “The current team at ODOE is committed to transparency and change. We’ve implemented countless improvements, cleaning up legacy problems and building confidence in our diverse slate of energy programs. Right now, we’re focused on these current programs – siting energy facilities, overseeing Hanford cleanup, preparing for energy-related emergencies, and working on meaty energy policy issues that touch every corner of the state.”
ODOE continued efforts to streamline our operations through budget and position reductions. Following last biennium’s cut of more than 20 percent, we reduced our budget by another 10 percent this session. The Legislature ultimately approved additional investment in the agency’s information technology capabilities in the 2017-19 budget.
This was the first legislative session following the conclusion of the Joint Interim Committee on Department of Energy Oversight. The year-long Joint Committee process highlighted our agency’s diverse energy programs, which have often taken a backseat to legacy issues with energy tax credit programs. “The Joint Committee gave us a forum to talk about the full breadth and depth of our work, and an opportunity to advocate for all current energy tax credit programs to end,” says Kaplan.
Stakeholder feedback to the Joint Committee included recommendations to revisit the agency’s statutory mission, which was established in the 1970s and reflected a different set of energy challenges than what Oregon deals with today. Legislation passed this session will help modernize the agency and its role in Oregon. Notes Kaplan, “The team at ODOE will continue to advocate for and implement the changes needed for this agency to serve Oregon well into the future.”