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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Advance Measure To Phase Out Coal From Power Supply

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File photo of the Boardman Coal Plant in Boardman, Oregon.

By the year 2030, the electricity that most Oregonians use won't be powered by coal. That's the goal of a measure that's moving through the Oregon Legislature. The state House approved the plan Tuesday.

The bill would require the state's largest utilities to stop buying electricity from coal-powered plants. It's backed by those utilities, who base their support on environmental groups agreeing to back away from an initiative that would have set more aggressive goals.

Republican Representative Mark Johnson said it's a fair trade-off.

”It's vastly, vastly, vastly superior to that which we would have to deal with if a ballot measure passed,” Johnson said. “There's no question about that."

But many of Johnson's fellow Republicans oppose the measure. Representative Jim Weidner said he doubts the bill would result in cleaner air for Oregonians.

"The only thing we're doing here is guaranteeing that it's going to cost them more for their power,” Weidner said.

The measure passed 38-20 and now heads to the Oregon Senate. Its fate there is far from certain. House members voted on a different bill in February that contained similar concepts to those contained in SB 1547. That bill still hasn't come to the Senate floor for a vote.

Supporters hope the latest version of the plan will come up for a vote before the legislature adjourns, which can be no later than March 6.