At long last, the 2013 Oregon Legislative session is winding down. We’ve tracked many bills this session, had countless meetings with legislators, and provided important testimony to legislative committees on numerous occasions. And while the final gavel hasn’t dropped yet, we’ve got a pretty good sense of where the Oregon Chapter stands with regard to our legislative wins and losses. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:
- Waldo Lake: Perhaps our biggest accomplishment of the session was the passage of Senate Bill 602, which banned the use of motorized boats and floatplanes on Waldo Lake. Waldo Lake is one of Oregon’s largest natural lakes and is a destination for paddlers, hikers, and cyclists. Motorized boats and floatplanes disrupt the peaceful serenity recreational users seek and the planes also pose safety concerns. But as of May 16, when the Governor signed the bill, those motors and floatplanes are no longer allowed at Waldo!
- Solar Resource Value: The original intent of House Bill 2893 was to establish a rate for solar power that electric utilities would be required to pay individuals who produced excess solar power on their homes and businesses. However, as often happens, the bill the Governor signed on May 28 was quite different, but is still a step in the right direction and sets the stage for more meaningful action during the 2015 legislative session. It directs the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a study over the next year to evaluate the barriers to the generation of solar power, determine the effectiveness of various programs to advance solar generation, find methods for establishing a resource value for solar power, and make recommendations for modifying existing programs or creating new programs for the development of solar power. The bill also extended the existing solar feed-in-tariff through 2016 and adds 2.5MW of capacity to advance mid-sized commercial solar projects.
- Appliance Efficiency Standards: Senate Bill 692, signed by the Governor on June 13, established new and strong energy efficiency standards for battery chargers, televisions, and some outdoor lighting. This bill, which was one of the Oregon Conservation Network’s Priorities for a Healthy Oregon, will save Oregonians millions of dollars annually and will help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will also prevent Oregon from becoming a dumping ground for inefficient appliances as California has already adopted these same standards.
- Clean Fuels Program: Another of OCN’s priorities, Senate Bill 488, is unfortunately stuck in limbo at the moment. This bill would extend Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, which set forth standards for reducing the amount of carbon in transportation fuels. These standards are set to sunset in 2014, but SB 488 would extend the program, ensuring a significantly lower amount of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Please contact your legislator today to help get SB 488 moving before time runs out!
- Energy Performance Standards: Senate Bill 242, signed by the Governor on May 16, amends and extends the Energy Performance Standards adopted in 2009, which prevent Oregon utilities from entering into contracts to provide coal-generated electricity to Oregonians. In light of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to move Oregon past its dependence on fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy, this was an important priority for us.
- Endangered Wolves: In a victory brokered by our partners at Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands, we weighed in to help ensure the passage of an historic agreement to protect Oregon’s endangered wolves. House Bill 3452 memorializes an agreement between conservation groups and ranchers that sets up standards by which problem wolves can be dealt with. And while the agreement doesn’t stop the killing of all wolves, it does provide strong sideboards and requirements for the livestock industry and requires the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to work in a more transparent way and prioritize conservation and conflict prevention. As of this writing, the bill has passed both chambers and was on its way to the Governor for his signature.
- Defense of Renewable Portfolio Standards: Like every legislative session in recent memory, we saw numerous attacks on Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standards, which require that large utilities source 25 percent of their energy from clean, renewable sources by 2025. Luckily we worked with our conservation partners to ensure that none of those attempts were successful this session.
- Hunting Cougars with Dogs: There were several attempts this session to roll back the 1994 decision by Oregonians to ban the hunting of cougars with dogs. One of those bills, House Bill 2624, would have allowed counties to vote to opt out of the statewide ban. Not only would that be bad for cougars, it would also have set a terrible precedent for counties to be able to avoid complying with statewide laws. We and our allies worked hard to stop HB 2624, which passed the House but never made it out of its Senate committee.
- O&C Lands: We worked with coalition partners to prevent the passage of Senate Joint Memorial 10, which would have put the Oregon Legislature on record as supporting weakened protections for O&C Lands in our state. SJM 10 would have recommended the creation of a trust that would result in increased logging and lessened environmental protections for these lands. Even though the bill had broad bipartisan support at the outset, we helped convince legislators that such an approach was unwise and the memorial never made it out of the Senate Rules committee.
- “Heritage Guest Ranch” in the Metolius Basin: House Bill 3536 would have created an exemption from Oregon land use laws for a single family to build a resort-style development outside Sisters, Oregon. The bill would have allowed the developer to avoid destination resort requirements that protect natural resources and nearby property owners from adverse impacts. We worked with our partners to put a stop to this bill which would have gutted Oregon’s long-established goal of preventing sprawl and preserving natural resources by encouraging building within urban growth boundaries.
- Canola Ban for the Willamette Valley: House Bill 2427 effectively bans the growing of canola in the Willamette Valley until at least 2019, though it does allow Oregon State University to grow some pilot projects for research purposes. We worked with our allies at the Friends of Family Farmers to support this bill in order to protect the many specialty crops in the Willamette Valley which could be cross-contaminated by the growing of canola. HB 2427 passed the Senate on July 1 and now heads to the Governor for his signature.
- GMO Crop Pre-emption: We worked with coalition partners to put a stop to Senate Bill 633, which would have disallowed Oregon counties from banning the planting of genetically-modified crops. The bill was specifically directing at pre-empting voters in Jackson County from voting on a measure in 2014 that would ban GMO crops in the county in order to protect organic farmers. This anti-democratic bill was simply bad policy and had seemed dead much earlier in the session, only to raise its head from the grave in the waning days. As of this writing, however, it seems to have crawled back into the grave for good.
We hope no other shenanigans take place in the waning days of the 2013 session. But crazy things can happen in the frenzy before sine die, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on things in Salem. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned for more developments!