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Audit: Shuttered Oregon Tax Credit Program Issued Money For Suspicious Projects

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

More than a third of the credits issued under a tax credit program for renewable energy companies in Oregon went to problematic projects. That's according to an independent analysis issued Thursday by the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

A Portland-based consulting firm that specializes in financial crimes conducted the analysis paid for by the Oregon Secretary of State's office. Their conclusion: The state gave away more than $300 million in tax credits to projects that showed shoddy bookkeeping, direct conflicts of interest, or never got off the ground.

The Business Energy Tax Credit was created in the 1970s, but the Oregon Legislature vastly expanded it in 2007 at the urging of then-governor Ted Kulongoski. Lawmakers wanted to spur more investment in renewable energy projects in the state.

But the program turned out to be far more generous than anticipated. It was reduced and then phased out entirely in 2014.

In a response, the head of the agency that oversaw the Business Energy Tax Credit acknowledges "significant mistakes" were made. Oregon Department of Energy Director Mike Kaplan says the agency failed to implement the program "with care and duty."

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.