On Monday, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley announced that he secured key provisions that will help create jobs and improve infrastructure in Oregon communities in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water appropriations bill, which was voted out of committee late last week.
“One of the most gratifying parts of serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee is that I get to work with communities across the state to fund their needs, and then see the funding in action, benefitting Oregon’s small ports, irrigation districts, and more,” Merkley said. “This bill includes bipartisan efforts to strengthen our country in the future, such as the investment in wind energy, and supports programs that will help Oregonians in the near future, such as funding to dredge our small ports. I will continue to use my seat on this committee to push for investments that are important to Oregonians.”
Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.
Key elements of the legislation that will impact Oregon include:
Small Ports and Army Corps Navigation: The program, which is vital to help Oregon ports pay for dredging and other necessary infrastructure projects, received over $600 million for deep-draft harbor and channel improvements, $50 million for inland waterways, $24 million for navigation maintenance, and $54 million for small ports, which supports the small ports that are the lifeblood of Oregon’s coastal economy.
Water Conservation and Habitat Restoration: The WaterSmart program received a $26 million increase, to $60 million, to fund projects that will help irrigation districts comply with the Endangered Species Act. The WaterSmart program has supported the collaborative process that is underway within Central Oregon to conserve water, improve habitat for endangered steelhead and the spotted frog, and keep Central Oregon family farms in business.
Expanding Renewable Energy: Merkley and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were joined by 19 of their colleagues in a bipartisan push to increase funding for wind energy power. The bill includes $100 million—a $8 million increase—for wind energy and $10 million for distributed wind. The bill also includes a $55 million increase for water power research, which will support ongoing research at OSU, and $14 million increase for solar power programs.
Protecting Federal Assets in Oregon: Merkley successfully fought to prohibit the transfer or sale of power marketing assets, including the Bonneville Power Administration—a top priority for Oregonians.
Energy Efficiency Programs: In response to the Trump Administration’s proposal to restructure the popular Energy Star program, Merkley led 28 of his colleagues in an effort to successfully maintain the program. Merkley also secured language requiring the Department of Energy to explain why it has failed to meet deadlines for 25 energy-efficiency standards mandated by Congress. At Merkley’s request, the bill includes language directing the Department of Energy to conduct a comprehensive review of needed investments in energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy activities.
Electric Vehicle Deployment: Merkley secured $37.8 million for the deployment of electric vehicles through the Clean Cities Program, to support cities installing more electric vehicle charging infrastructure and getting more electric vehicles on the road.
SuperTruck II: Merkley secured $25 million for five awards to further improve the efficiency of heavy-duty trucks through cost-effective technologies. The program enables to develop and deploy cutting-edge vehicle technologies, including advanced batteries and electric drive systems, to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the transportation sector.
Energy Storage: Merkley secured $51 million for energy storage research and development, with a particular focus on grid-scale applications. This important funding ensures stability, reliability, resilience of the U.S. electricity grid as the country deploys and uses more renewable energy.
Scoggins Dam: Scoggins Dam received $2 million for upgrades. Scoggins Dam has been classified as one of the most seismically at-risk dams that the Bureau of Reclamation manages. This classification means that failure of the dam due to a large earthquake could result in significant damages or even loss of life to communities if the dam is not upgraded.
The next step for the bill is a full Senate vote, and eventually merging with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.