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Global Warming Commission chairman seeks to merge voluntary group with embattled state energy agency


With highly publicized problems in its energy tax credit and loan programs, including ongoing state and federal criminal investigations into the tax credits, the Oregon Department of Energy might not seem like the type of entity with which other government bodies would want to associate.

But for Angus Duncan, chairman of the volunteer Oregon Global Warming Commission, an alliance between the commission and Department of Energy could increase the commission’s power and funding.

Duncan suggested in a Dec. 10 email the state should give the commission authority over the Department of Energy. Duncan, who is also president of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, sent the email to chairs of the House Committee On Energy and Environment and the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, two House Democrats, Gov. Kate Brown’s energy policy adviser Ruchi Sadhir and Andrea Durbin, a member of the Global Warming Commission and executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council.

Duncan made the pitch a day after State Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, announced they would create a legislative committee to determine whether the state should overhaul or eliminate the Department of Energy.

“I see that Peter and Tina are calling for an ODOE review,” Duncan wrote in the email. “In that context, I want to briefly reiterate my proposition that fixing ODOE’s woes, my Commission’s structural ineffectiveness, and the utter absence of a center to Oregon’s climate strategies, could all be addressed — not wholly, but partially — by recasting the OGWC as the State Climate and Energy Commission and tethering it to ODOE.”

Duncan noted the energy agency was the only major state agency without a governing board “to set policy, approve program design, and oversee program implementation.”

“At the same time, the OGWC would find a home and staff support it now must beg, borrow and steal,” Duncan wrote. “While ‘energy’ and ‘climate’ are not synonymous, greater than 80 percent of the state’s emissions are driven by its utility, industry and transportation energy choices. Positioning the OGWC (or OCEC) to require reporting accountability from other agencies and their governing bodies for their piece of the State’s climate policy implementation (but not intruding on the line authority of the governing bodies) would create the center, and the accountability, that are lacking. We are paying a daily price for its absence.”

Duncan wrote that the Global Warming Commission would be a better oversight body for the Department of Energy, compared with the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

Duncan wrote that the Public Utility Commission “is an economic regulatory entity” and officials should consider “the limited (Oregon Public Utility Commission) reach to investor-owned utilities that are a significant but still a minority greenhouse gas contributor. Transportation, industrial emissions, agriculture and forestry are wholly outside its purview.”

Duncan concluded by noting he had discussed the “transition proposition” with the governor’s administration and “while some of it could be accomplished by Executive Order, legislated reorganization would be a far better remedy.”