By David Steves
Posted to Web: Thursday, Feb 12, 2009 12:01AM
Appeared in print: Thursday, Feb 12, 2009, page A7
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The Associated Press
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PORTLAND — Gov. Ted Kulongoski thinks Oregon’s push to build “green” highways and buildings will do more than downsize the state’s carbon footprint — he’s also hoping it will give it a leg up in competing for $37 billion in federal grants for public works.
Kulongoski on Wednesday announced his strategy — which he dubbed “The Oregon Way” — to position Oregon in the national derby for stimulus dollars. The grant money is part of a $790 billion economic stimulus package agreed to Wednesday by congressional leaders.
The governor announced the formation of an Oregon Way Advisory Group, to be made up of business and development leaders and government officials. The advisory group is charged with helping craft the state’s proposals for grant money to build schools, prisons, highways and other public works.
Kulongoski said at his announcement that he was counting on the advisory group “to help use Oregon’s leadership and expertise in the green economy to capture as many of these competitive grants as we can so that we can create jobs immediately and for the long term.”
Kulongoski said such projects could occur statewide. As Lane County examples, he cited the upgrade of the University of Oregon physical plant and the prison complex and mental hospital being built on 240 acres south of Junction City, where solar energy and reusable wastewater are being built into the proposed designs.
Based on Oregon’s 1 percent share of the U.S. population, it would get about $370 million of the public works money to be awarded through competitive grants. The governor said his high hopes for a larger share are based on the high priority the Obama administration seems to be placing on projects that meet green standards in addition to creating jobs and contributing to long-term economic growth.
Kulongoski has devoted the past two years to a sustainability agenda. It has included tax breaks and other incentives to attract manufacturers of renewable energy components such as solar panels and wind turbines, to set standards for utilities to produce more environmentally friendly renewable energy, and to lure electric vehicle producers to the state. He also has pushed for state agencies to incorporate green standards into the highways and institutions they construct and vehicle fleets they maintain.
Given that track record, he said Oregon should do well in competing for public works dollars in the stimulus package.
Mark Edlen, a Portland developer who specializes in sustainable design, said Oregon already has several projects in the pipeline that should match up well when vying for federal dollars — which could offset the need for Oregonians to put up tax dollars through the repayment of bonds.
He cited the $80 million UO physical plant project, which will provide expanded heating, cooling and electricity capacity while reducing the campus’s carbon footprint, as an example that might fit the bill.
He said the convergence of the economic crisis, a federal government awarding dollars for public works with a strong “green” component and a state well-positioned to compete represents a “trifecta” for Oregon.
“Oregon is already a leader in the field of sustainable development, and now we have a president and administration that believes in creating green jobs,” said Edlen, managing principal of Gerding Edlen Development in Portland.
Another Lane County project mentioned: the minimum- and medium-security prisons and state mental hospital planned for near Junction City.
Oregon Corrections Director Max Williams said the projects are being designed with such elements as solar panels on rooftops and covered parking, systems to capture and reuse “gray water” and steam from a laundry facility, and the storage and use of storm and rain water, among other sustainable design features.
So far, state planners have been trying to figure out how long it would be until the higher costs of such design features are offset by lower electricity and water costs, he said. But the availability of federal stimulus dollars would allow the state to go ahead and build in those elements and realize the cost savings immediately, he said.