Senator Larry George: Schools shorted on energy upgrade money

Energy Trust of Oregon budget grows 480% in last 8 years
State Senator Larry George

Salem, OR ­— While more than 8 out of every 10 Oregon classrooms are considered substandard from years of unfunded maintenance needs, the Energy Trust of Oregon has grown from an original budget of $30 million in 2001 to $146 million today. Senate Bill 476 would redirect $100 million to pay for energy upgrades, renewable energy and conservation efforts for schools and local governments.”This is a question of priorities; what do we value most, energy conservation for classrooms or corporate give-aways?” said Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood), one of two chief sponsors of SB 476 along with Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose). “The unchecked growth in this program has left Oregon classrooms in the dust while big corporations can feed at the government trough.”

Watch George petition his Senate colleagues to hear Senate Bill 476.

In 2001, the Energy Trust of Oregon was established by rule of the Public Utility Commission to oversee a portion of the 3% public purpose charge leveled on Oregon utility ratepayers. The self-appointed board at the Energy Trust of Oregon now hands out more than $120 million every two years in large part to high-priced consultants and out-of-state corporations while schools go without vital energy conservation dollars.

Senate Bill 476 would free $100 million to create better learning environments, significantly save schools energy costs in the long term and create over 4600 jobs. The bill is supported by Innovation Partners, a non-profit aimed at solving community problems like the classroom maintenance crisis with creative, sustainable solutions.

“Classrooms are crumbling and maintenance schedules are falling further and further behind,” said Ruth Scott of the Center for Innovative School Facilities. “This bill is the best hope of creating learning environments that breeds knowledge and save schools money. With a modest allocation of the public purpose charge to school facilities Oregon has the opportunity to begin to catch up with the rest of the nation. These funds would have a three-fold benefit by creating jobs, improving the learning environment and reducing Oregon’s carbon footprint while delivering annual public cost savings.”

Senate Bill 476 is currently in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Senator Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland).