Help with Energy Costs for Low Income Oregonians Could be Coming

Low-income Oregonians pay a larger portion of their income in energy costs and are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. 

Last week the Oregon House of Representatives passed House Bill 4067, which aims to address this problem by promoting energy affordability for low-income state residents. The bill would give the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) the authority to offer rate discounts and explore other avenues for providing aid to low-income customers and reducing the statewide energy burden.  

WHAT IS AN ENERGY BURDEN? The federal government defines energy burden as paying greater than 6% of household income in energy costs, while severe energy burden equates to paying more than 10%. According to the bill’s press release, Oregon households with incomes below 50% of the federal poverty level paid nearly a quarter of their annual income on home energy bills in 2017. This is more than double the rate that is considered severe.  

Although the state does offer energy assistance programs, they are currently underfunded and do not provide enough demographic data to ensure equitable distribution among all low-income Oregonians, including senior citizens, people with disabilities, communities of color, and rural communities.  

In the press release, Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell (D-Astoria) claims “This bill seeks to achieve environmental justice by centering these communities, incorporating culturally-specific advocacy groups, and collecting data to inform our future decisions.”  

The legislation passed 44 to 10 and will now go to the Oregon Senate for consideration. 

By JD Brookbank