New legislation could provide financial relief to thousands of Oregonians struggling to pay their utility bills.
On May 25, Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2475 that enables the Oregon Public Utility Commission to set different rates for low-income Oregonians needing assistance with energy bills. The law also enables community organizations representing low-income and environmental justice communities to apply for funding and bring those customers’ voices to commission deliberations.
The OPUC regulates large electricity, natural gas, water and telecom providers in the state.
The Energy Affordability Act is a long-sought solution to structural income and social equity disparities that surfaced during public processes OPUC conducted beginning in 2017. Earlier attempts to address these inequities foundered during the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions but were renewed as Oregon’s economy was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A broad coalition of local community groups and statewide environmental and energy interests helped move the bill through an unusual, mostly remote legislative session. Their aim: To ensure state institutions have the tools and insights they need to address these economic and societal disparities.
The legislation received support from Oregonians and organizations throughout the state who provided moving personal testimony that shed light on the impacts of the pandemic and resulting economic uncertainty.
Though the Energy Affordability Act will not eliminate the need for energy assistance, it is expected to increase stability and predictability for Oregonians suffering from high energy burdens.
Read more about HB 2475 on the Oregon State Legislature website.