Amazon AWS: Oregon’s data center clean energy bill dies, following Amazon lobbying

Apr 07, 2023 | Posted by MadalineDunn

House Bill 2816, which sought to impose greenhouse gas emissions standards to encourage data centers to cut their carbon emissions in Oregon, died in legislative committee this week. Amazon, which aggressively lobbied against the bill, has been cited as one of the major reasons for its defeat. These lobbying efforts were carried out despite the giant's big net-zero pledges and its widely-publicized wave of PPAs. 

CBC reported that while Amazon Web Services (AWS) spokesperson David Ward declined to comment specifically on the giant's lobbying, he said that the bill failed to address the "build-out of infrastructure" required to introduce more clean energy to the electricity grid. Meanwhile, Amazon told Govtech: "Accelerating energy infrastructure permitting and interconnections for renewables like solar and wind would have a greater impact on reducing emissions, bringing more clean energy to the grid, and helping achieve our goal of accessing more clean energy in Oregon." In addition to this, Amazon has also claimed that data center operators and owners were not consulted or engaged with during the creation of the bill. Democrat Representative Pam Marsh contested this.

Speaking about the bill's defeat, Marsh, the bill's co-sponsor, said: "There had been sufficient confusion planted in the community about what it might do." Further, Marsh said the giant "successfully nurtured fear" that energy requirements would "drive away the development of data centres… no one wants that… but we do want them to use energy responsibly and sustainably."

"We need to regroup," said Marsh, who pulled the bill on Monday. "Things quite often don't get through the Legislature on first go. Most of the time they don't. So, we started the conversation."

Marsh also outlined attempts to appease Amazon by adding provisions to opt out of the bill in exceptional circumstances: "We said,' OK, if it gets to be 2030 and there's been some major world disruption and you can't meet your clean energy goals, you can submit this paperwork and you can opt out because something might have happened beyond your control." However, Marsh said that this didn't change Amazon's position.

The same week, Amazon said that it is "proud" of its work in Oregon, and announced that it had reached "more than 85% renewable energy globally" across its offices, fulfillment centers, stores, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers.  It cited its latest agreement with Umatilla Electric Cooperative as an example of how it is "working closely with the community" and a way through which it will "stay on a path to meeting 100% renewable energy by 2025." 

In 2022, Amazon was called out for "drastically undercounting" its carbon footprint and has repeatedly been accused of greenwashing, by the likes of GreenPeace, and climate think tanks Carbon Market Watch and NewClimate Institute.