UO forum helps Oregonians access billions for climate

Oregonians may be surprised to learn how much green is available for some very green purposes.

In recent years, Congress passed two historic acts designating billions of dollars for infrastructure and clean energy. Some funds from this landmark legislation can be accessed now, with more on the way.

On June 16, the University of Oregon’s Environment Initiative convened an online forum of national experts to help Oregonians make the most of the opportunities and advance the state as a leader in the fight against climate change.

“A very significant amount of resources is being leveraged by these bills,” said Greg Dotson, an associate professor of law and a senior faculty fellow with the university’s Environment Initiative, which organized the webinar.

“For Oregonians to benefit from these bills,” Dotson said, “they have to know the opportunities exist.”

As the chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Dotson played instrumental roles in moving both spending packages forward. A nationally recognized expert on climate policy, Dotson is a faculty member with the UO School of Law’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center.

More than 100 city and state officials, business organizations, nonprofits and community partners joined the online forum to learn about incentives, grants and loans designed to reduce carbon emissions and boost Oregon industry.

In prerecorded remarks, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek thanked the participants for helping ensure Oregonians get the information they need about these rare opportunities.

“Our appetite for climate efficiency resources at this moment in time is an important factor in ensuring that Oregon achieves our climate and clean energy goals to set in motion a next generation of green manufacturing for a sustainable future,” Kotek said. “And our workforce is dependent on these opportunities coming back to Oregon.”

For Oregonians who want to act now, panelists discussed tax incentives for solar panels, heat pump hot water heaters and electric vehicles and chargers. Families that can’t take advantage of tax credits may be eligible for rebates from the Oregon Department of Energy.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Over more than three hours, panelists discussed incentives for major investments in clean energy, sustainable transportation, electric vehicles, decarbonization industries, energy efficient homes, greener construction materials and more.

When President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, it was the largest infrastructure funding bill ever passed by Congress. The bill authorized $1.2 trillion for highways, bridges, broadband access, clean water, electrical grid improvements and more.

For Oregon, the bill promises $1 billion for roads, $200 million for public transit and $268 million for aging bridges. It also includes support for electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle and pedestrian projects and transportation plans designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The second bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, was passed in 2022. It includes at least $370 billion in incentives for investments to mitigate climate change. Those are delivered through federal loan and grant programs, traditional state channels, and tax policies.

Based on more recent forecasts of tax revenues and projected interest in the incentive programs, the financial impact of the act may exceed $1 trillion. Dotson added that the private sector could push the total investment opportunity created by the act to $11 trillion by 2050.

By Ed Dorsch, University Communications