July 2nd, 2003 12:00 am | Rogue of the Week

Portland General Electric, Republican lawmakers, neighbors with wood chippers

PGE is double-dipping with its pollution tax credits for the Trojan nuke.
IMAGE: jan fardell
The list of malefactors branded with the scarlet "R" this week is too long to fit in this space, but it includes Portland General Electric, Republican lawmakers and that pesky neighbor who runs his wood chipper all weekend.

Here's what they all have in common: a piggish reliance on Oregon's pollution tax credit, a gaping loophole established in 1967 and impervious to closure efforts ever since.

Last week, the Republican-controlled Oregon House voted to lengthen and strengthen the program, which, unless the Senate objects, will be extended for another seven years.

Fans of the program--which cost the state $27 million in the past two years--say the give-backs are an economic-development tool, providing relief to Oregon businesses struggling to comply with expensive environmental regs.

But an analysis by the state's department of administrative services claims that 75 percent of the $219 million in credits awarded since 1995 paid for work that was mandated by federal or state laws and would have been done with or without the credit. Moreover, many of the credits don't appear to provide much economic development.

Want an example? Enron subsidiary Portland General Electric is building a storage facility for spent nuclear rods from the defunct Trojan nuke plant. Although PGE has already built the full cost of decommissioning the plant into its electric rates, under the pollution-credit program it could still get tax credits worth $27.5 million over the next decade. (Utility activists say PGE paid only $10 in state income taxes last year.)

But the pork associated with pollution tax credits extends far beyond corporate behemoths. Of the 833 pollution tax credits granted in the past two years, about 500 went to individuals who bought wood chippers for backyard cleanups. "These guys are buying wood chippers, not creating jobs," says Rep. Mark Hass (D-Washington County). "Neither is PGE. Why were we giving them a tax break to begin with? They're a monopoly; they're not going to relocate."

Seen a rogue on the loose? Call us at 243-2122 ext. 380 or email newsdesk@wweek.com.

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