Legislative Update: We’re in the home stretch!

As we enter the final month of the 2017 Oregon legislative session, it’s becoming clear that this year won’t be notable for its environmental successes. We’ve had a few victories and are hoping for a few more, but right now, it may be all we can do to stave off some real rollbacks! We need your help to save the Clean Fuels Program and get us to the finish line on the Elliott State Forest, among other things. See below for ways you can help!

This year the Oregon Chapter’s top legislative priority has been to pass the “Clean Energy Jobs bill” to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and create a “cap and invest” program. House Bill 2135 currently sits in the House Rules Committee, as the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee have held periodic informational hearings to sort through the details of the proposal. It’s still possible we can move a bill in the 2017 session and you can help by contacting your legislators to tell them it’s time to act on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

(Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Our other top priority continues to be passing legislation that can help to solve the ongoing conundrum with the Elliott State Forest. After the State Land Board voted in May to keep the Elliott in public ownership, the focus has now shifted to finding a pathway to $100 million in bonding to begin the process of buying out the Common School Fund obligations of the forest. We would also like to pass Senate Bill 847, the Trust Lands Transfer bill, to prevent future Elliott-like situations. Take action here to contact your legislator and help find a real solution to preserve the Elliott for all of us.

As many of you know, the transportation package is one of the major focuses for the Oregon Legislature this year. We have been supporting our partners’ efforts to create a package that will invest in the infrastructure and services that most meet Oregonians’ needs: rural and urban transit, safe walking and biking options, clean air solutions, and public accountability. Unfortunately, that transportation discussion has again been hijacked by an effort to roll back the Clean Fuels Program in our state. We need for you to contact your legislator today to tell them we need BOTH transportation improvements and the Clean Fuels Program.

We do have one real victory already in this session in the form of Senate Bill 3! That legislation will go a long way toward limiting the impacts of suction dredge mining on our state’s waters. Governor Brown signed the bill on June 14 and will be holding a ceremonial signing of the bill very soon, so keep an eye for our pictures from that event. This victory was a long time in coming and it will have real benefits to salmon habitat in Oregon. Our coalition has worked for years to make it happen and we should all be proud of our accomplishment!

We are also still working on a package of bills to address the critical issue of oil trains in our state. House Bill 2131 and Senate Bill 7 will help to improve safety and cleanup standards for the trains that are coming through Oregon. SB 7 is in the Senate Rules committee and HB 2131 is in the Ways and Means committee and we are hopeful one or the other can move this session.

Senate Bill 1008 would have created more stringent standards for diesel emissions in Oregon. Unfortunately, that bill has been largely gutted and no longer really does much of anything useful. We are supporting our allies’ efforts to make it stronger in the Senate Rules Committee. This legislation will also pave the way for Oregon to receive $68 million in Volkswagen settlement money to fund clean air work in our state. So we hope that we can get the bill back to the point where it will also get dirty diesel out of our air.

So we’ve got lots to do in these last few weeks of the 2017 session! As always, our success depends on you, so keep calling, writing, and e-mailing your legislators and making a difference for Oregon!

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