2010 a Big Year for Oregon’s Environment

2010 was a great year for the environment in Oregon, and the Sierra Club played BIG role in a number of key victories!  Here’s a brief list of our major successes in 2010 with a look ahead to 2011!

Thousands of Sierra Club volunteers took action around the region in 2010, calling for early closure of the Boardman coal plant.

Boardman Close Down Date Secured

After a multi-year effort, we locked down major air quality improvements and an early closure of PGE’s Boardman coal fired power plant the state’s single largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In December, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) approved a final rule requiring significant reductions in haze and acid rain causing pollution at the plant in the next few years and an end to coal-fired operations by the end of 2020.

However, closure could come much earlier: last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to Portland General Electric over the Boardman plant due to violations dating back to at least 1998. And a federal judge is expected to rule in 2011 on the Sierra Club’s lawsuit against PGE which exposed the long history of Clean Air Act violations. These factors, plus new hazardous air toxics regulations for coal plants coming next year, convinced the EQC to leave PGE options to affordably close the plant as soon as 2015. Boardman, which began coal fired operations in 1980, will be among the youngest U.S. coal plants closed for environmental reasons in the country. The Boardman victory is one in a string of Sierra Club victories helping to shutter dirty coal plants across the West – http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/how-the-west-is-winning-against-coal/.

A press conference outside the Sierra Club office following the demise of the Bradwood Landing LNG proposal.

Bradwood Landing LNG Terminal Stopped

After years of community organizing and court challenges by the Sierra Club and our allies, Northernstar Natural Gas, the Texas company proposing a  the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas terminal and pipelines near Astoria declared bankruptcy. In a final blow, in November the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned Bradwood’s land use approval because of the huge impact dredging would have on traditional Columbia River fishing grounds and key salmon habitat  (http://tdn.com/news/local/article_ab7a3ae4-e864-11df-b838-001cc4c03286.html). The Sierra Club and others are still fighting the two remaining LNG proposals (one in Coos Bay, and another near Astoria) and hundreds of miles of proposed gas pipelines. But we believe its only a matter of time before these two bad ideas go the way that Bradwood Landing did last year.

Approximately 1000 people attended an environmental gubernatorial debate co-hosted by the Sierra Club in 2010.

Governor Kitzhaber Elected

The Sierra Club played an important role in helping elect John Kitzhaber as Governor, reaching out to thousands of Sierra Club members across Oregon to talk about the importance of this election for the environment. We went on the attack when Kitzhaber’s opponent, Chris Dudley, bombed on multiple environmental questions in the only televised debate in the election. Earlier in the year, we co-hosted and organized the state’s only environmentally focused debate of the Governor’s race, with participation from major candidates from both parties, attended by over 1000 people (http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/debate-2/).

Clean Energy Works and Green Job Creation

Throughout 2010, the Sierra Club played a role on the implementation Portland’s Clean Energy Works program, helping to spur the weatherization of hundreds of homes in Portland, creating at least 20 new green jobs, and promoting social equity and quality job training. The Clean Energy Works program ultimately received a $20 million federal grant to weatherize thousands of homes across Oregon beginning in 2011, and over the summer the Sierra Club teamed up with partners in labor and faith groups in a 100 home pilot project in Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, testing out the ability of community organizations to organize people to take advantage of energy efficiency programs offered by the city and utilities. By the end of the summer, and due to extensive member and neighborhood outreach,  Sierra Club members accounted  for 12% of those applying for extensive energy efficiency upgrades in the neighborhood, a significant accomplishment showing what a positive difference our members can make in helping create green jobs while using energy more efficiently and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Sierra Club volunteers collaborated with the Forest Service, loggers, and other conservationists in 2010 on a small-diameter thinning project at Glaze Meadow near Sisters, Oregon. Though hard at times, we won important concessions to minimize potential harm to meadows, wildlife, and large fire-resistant trees. In total, we watchdogged over 400,000 acres of proposed management actions on four national forests and multiple BLM Districts across eastern Oregon in 2010, helping protect roadless areas, old growth forests stands, and key salmon habitat.

State Land Board Holds ODF Accountable

In June, the State Land Board required that a science review be conducted before implementing  rule changes pushed by the Oregon Department of Forestry to significantly increase clearcutting on state forests. The Land Board, made up of the Governor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State unanimously voted to hold off on the new logging plans until the completion of a scientific review and the presentation of its results to the Board of Forestry and the State Land Board, allowing time to make alterations to better protect fish, wildlife and water quality based on the results of the review.

Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets Ordered Destroyed

In early December, a U.S. District judge delivered a stinging blow to Monsanto and the USDA after the unlawful planting of genetically engineered beets in Oregon earlier this year. The judge ordered the immediate destruction of 256 acres of genetically engineered (GE) beets in Oregon and Arizona, citing the irreparable harm of cross-contamination of GE plants with normal ones. (http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/judge-uproots-gmo-beets-in-oregon/

Sierra Club volunteers pulling barbed wire fence near Steens Mountain - one of many actions to protect Oregon's high desert areas.

BLM Wilderness Gets Interim Protection, Oregon Wilderness Bills Almost To Finish Line

Late in 2010, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar overturned the Bush-era policy of ‘no more wilderness’ on BLM lands. The result is that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will once again have the authority to conduct wilderness inventories, identify lands with wilderness character, and give them interim protection until Congress acts. In Oregon the Sierra Club has been working to protect roughly 2 million acres of BLM wildlands in the Owyhee Canyonlands in the southeast part of the state, and 60,000 acres of wild old growth forest along the Rogue River managed by the BLM. In a small setback, the US Senate failed to pass three Oregon wildlands bills that had Sierra Club support, including protecting 21 miles of the Molalla River near Portland as Wild and Scenic, adding 4,000 acres to the Oregon Caves National Monument, and protecting nearly 30,000 acres of coastal forest outside Eugene as the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness. However, these bills did pass the House and we will continue to work build on this success to pass these and other Oregon wildlands bills in 2011 and beyond.

Offshore Drilling Blocked by Oregon Legislature, LNG Pipeline Bill Blocked

It seems so long ago, but in February 2010 the Oregon Legislature held a month long session which featured a couple of key environmental victories. Even before the Gulf oil disaster, the Oregon legislature passed a Sierra Club supported bill to extend the ban on drilling for oil and gas off of Oregon’s coastline for another ten years. Additionally, the Sierra Club helped block an attempt to fast-track the state permitting process for LNG companies seeking permission to fill and remove wetlands and cross streams with pipelines on private lands. We unfortunately expect the LNG pipeline fast-track bill to come back again during the 2011 legislature, and we hope we can stop it once and for all.

Want to help us succeed in 2011?
Please consider making a donation to the Oregon Chapter.
Click here to make your donation today!  

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