State Legislators & Renewable Energy Experts Convened in Prineville Recently to Champion Economic Development for Rural Oregon

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Results of the meeting included a commitment from participants to work with local leaders and state legislators to monetize the benefits that clean energy projects can provide to small Oregon towns.

 
50 local leaders and energy experts met December 11 for a workshop hosted by State House Minority Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte), Representative Jules Bailey (D- Portland), and Portland based non-profit Sustainable Northwest at the Brasada Ranch in Powell Butte. The group discussed the need to revitalize Oregon’s small town economies through renewable energy projects, with a focus on electrical power needs. 

 
The workshop began with a tour of Facebook’s Prineville Data Center. Participants were shown the facility’s energy efficiency technologies. After the tour, workshop presenters Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe, City Manager Steve Forrester, and Crook County Judge Mike McCabe described their role in bringing Facebook to Prineville in 2012. The city officials recounted the pressing need to bring jobs to the county. “We were nimble in our ability and we did it gladly because we needed the jobs,” said Judge McCabe. 

 
Mayor Roppe reflected on the state of the local economy. “Crook County had 21 percent unemployment in 2009 which gave us a great sense of urgency. We only had timber and tires and we had been hit hard in the recession, we had to think outside of the box,” said Roppe. 
The passage of Oregon’s 2012 Data Center Jobs Bill was a key component that allowed the Prineville Data Center project to move forward. Representative McLane championed the bill, and will continue to work on renewable energy policies.

“It’s hard not to like clean energy. We need to find solutions that unlock natural resources and bring prosperity to rural Oregon.” This goal was a component of the priorities recently announced in Oregon Business Council’s Oregon Business Plan. McLane added “Now comes the hard part. How do you do that? One thing we can agree on is new energy projects. They absolutely bring value to rural Oregon. The next step is determining what are the policy implications and what can the legislature do.” 

 
Part of the success of the 2012 Jobs Bill was support it received from workshop co-host Representative Bailey, Chair of the Committee on Energy and Environment. Representative McLane described working collaboratively with Representative Bailey in 2012 for an economic solution for District 55, the hardest hit county in the state. “I went to Bailey and others to save one of the only economic development opportunities in Crook County,” stated McLane. 


Among the workshop participants were local leaders, ranchers, small wind developers, irrigation districts, Central Electric Cooperative, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. 


Results of the meeting included a commitment from participants to work with local leaders and state legislators to monetize the benefits that clean energy projects can provide to small Oregon towns. All involved in the workshop showed interest in having local energy co-ops and large investor-owned utilities work together to bring value to rural Oregon. Participants also called for more reliable state energy policy. There was shared concern that long term certainty around tax credits and incentives is needed to build a renewable energy marketplace. 


McLane and Bailey showed a commitment to continue working together across the political aisle and county lines to bring prosperity to rural Oregon through renewable energy projects. As Representative Bailey stated, “Portland residents are just as concerned about what’s happening in the rest of the state. We’re all rowing in the same boat.” 


Sustainable Northwest brings people, ideas, and innovation together so that nature, local economies, and rural communities can thrive. They foster economic development through renewable energy solutions. For more information visit www.SustainableNorthwest.org

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