Will Portland Abandon its Pledge Against New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure?

By Ted Gleichman, policy advisor, Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team

Last November, the Portland City Council voted unanimously for a binding policy resolution to stop any fossil fuel exports through Portland and to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure for exports or storage.  This unprecedented measure put Portland on a state-of-the-art path for regional, national, and global leadership in fighting the climate crisis.  Oregon Sierra Club was one of many leading groups* that worked hard for this.  Together, we flooded the Council hearings with more than 500 people, helping to motivate our City Council for this bold action.

BGO Overfill

Activists pack City Hall in Portland

With leadership from Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the other Councilmembers – Commissioners Nick Fish, Dan Saltzman, and Steve Novick – joined in to make it unanimous.  Next time you see any of them, be sure to thank them!  This fall, they will need to take this on again.

The Council resolution directed city agencies to develop ordinance and regulatory changes to implement this unprecedented plan.  First up to bat is the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), and they are on the verge of fouling out.  Fortunately, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) serves as the umpire on BPS work, with a public hearing set for Tuesday, September 13: save the date (time and place TBD).  We fans are going to pack the stands to root for the home team: Planet Earth!

OK, I’ve beaten that seasonal metaphor into infield dust.  But make no mistake: this is no game.  The current BPS zoning ordinance plan completely guts the clear intent of the pioneering Council resolution by giving the fossil fuels industry all-but-unlimited opportunity for growth.

MAP

When I testified to the Council last November, this was my key point: “There is no fossil fuels solution to the fossil fuels crisis.”  The audacious Portland resolution is a great reflection of that shared understanding, and we can’t let the City abandon it.

Two leading organizers, Mia Reback of 350PDX and attorney Nicholas Caleb, presented summaries of the BPS problem to the City Council on July 13, and Oregon Sierra Club joined in with an Open Letter to the Council.

Portland City Council

350PDX lead organizer Mia Reback testifying to Portland City Council last November, while attorney Nicholas Caleb tweets

Please take a few minutes to read our two-page Open Letter.  To support the Council resolution, we start with big picture, Keep It in the Ground, and move through the next three steps: Do No More Harm, Reduce the Need, and Make the Just Transition.

For more information, please see the formal comments we submitted to BPS on July 27.  Great comments also went in from our regular allies 350PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), and Columbia Riverkeeper, among others.

We are in this for the long haul, and Portland’s leadership is vital to our metropolitan area, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, the United States, and our long-suffering overheated earth.

If you want to help, please send me a note or give me a call; see below.  We will update you regularly as this evolves through the rest of this year.

Thanks for all you do!

Ted Gleichman ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org 503-781-2498

* Great work for Oregon Sierra Club was done last year by Beyond Gas & Oil Team chair Gregory Monahan (who also testified, along with then Chapter Director Andy Maggi) and long-time ace National Beyond Coal organizer Laura Stevens.  Other key organizations included 350PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network (a project of CSE), Raging Grannies, Climate Action Coalition, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, EcoFaith Recovery & Beyond Fossil Fuels, Climate Solutions, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and others.  It was a terrific team effort!

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