Working to Make Oregon’s Clean Energy Power Grid a Reality

April 12, 2017

Portland General Electric wants to build new fracked gas power plwind-and-solar_largeants which will lock us into decades of climate wrecking fossil fuel pollution.

PGE’s own analysis shows that our future energy needs can be reliably and affordably met with clean renewable energy which will create hundreds of new green energy jobs for our region.

There are 2 ways you can help us to create a landslide of comments to the Oregon Public Utility Commission

Download a comment card toolkit and gather comment cards from your neighbors and friends.

and

Send an email to your circle of contacts inviting them to use the Sierra Club’s website to submit an email comment.

 

Save the Date:

We just got news that the Oregon Public Utility Commission is going to hold a public hearing on PGE’s energy plan on the evening of Monday May 15th at the Portland Building.  The time is TBD, but very likely in the evening.  

They are holding this hearing specifically so that they can hear the public’s testimony. 

Please save the date and keep an eye out for details & ways that you can help make this a success!  

Keep the Frack Out: Clean Energy for Oregon! 

Thanks for all you do.

Contact Gregory Monahan at gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org if you need any help or have any questions


Update: Six weeks into the 2017 Oregon Legislative session

March 22, 2017

By Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director

As predicted in last month’s legislative preview, it’s been a challenging session in the 2017 Oregon Legislature. After several sessions with some real environmental accomplishments (but also partisan divisiveness), we knew we would have a hard slog in making much progress in 2017. So things have gone pretty much as expected so far, and here are some updates on a few of the issues we’re working on.

For the past several sessions, we have been a part of a coalition working to try to put a price on carbon in Oregon. We have gone through various iterations of “cap and trade” and “cap and delegate” bills and have had some good hearings and debates in the legislature. This year the Oregon Chapter’s top legislative priority has been to pass a “Clean Energy Jobs bill.” Right now, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee are jointly looking at what might be the best solution for Oregon to create clean energy jobs and hold polluters accountable. The primary contenders so far are Senate Bill 557 and Senate Bill 748, and the committees are holding weekly workgroup meetings to investigate the policies reflected in those bills. You can help move them forward by contacting your legislator and tell them it’s time to act on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

Another climate policy we’ve been spending some time on is an idea called the “Climate Test.” In essence, it is a scaled-down version of a State Environmental Policy Act that would apply to fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Oregon. Like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it would require cross-agency communications to consider the impacts of proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Such proposed projects would also be subject to an environmental impact statement (EIS) with full lifecycle accounting of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with an economic analysis that will show whether a project is viable in a world where climate goals are met. We have bills in both chambers – House Bill 3343 and Senate Bill 1007 – and we hope to be having a hearing on them in early April.

Our other top priority, along with the Clean Energy Jobs bill, will be to pass legislation that can help to solve the ongoing conundrum with the Elliott State Forest. As many of you know, the Elliott has been the subject of much debate recently, as the State Land Board tries to dispose of it in order to satisfy its obligations to the Common School Fund. Senate Bill 847 – a Trust Lands Transfer bill similar to what we worked on in the 2015 session – could be a part of that solution. That bill had its first hearing on March 20 and we are hopeful that it will move forward.

We are also working on a package of bills to address the critical issue of oil trains in our state. House Bill 2131 will help to improve safety and cleanup standards for the trains that are coming through Oregon. House Bill 3344 will make it more difficult to site oil train terminals here. Both bills had their initial public hearings in mid-March and we are awaiting further action on them soon.

A bill to limit the impacts of suction dredge mining on our state’s waters is making progress in the legislature. Senate Bill 3 is moving through the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee now and we are confident that it will have real benefits to salmon habitat in Oregon.

Another bill of interest is House Bill 2711, which would impose a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas fracking in Oregon. There is currently no fracking happening in Oregon and we’d like to keep it that way, so we’re pushing to move that bill forward in the House Energy and Environment committee.

Finally, on proactive legislation, we are supporting Senate Bill 1008, which will create more stringent standards for diesel emissions in Oregon. The bill had a public hearing in early March and we are monitoring its progress closely. In addition to getting dirty diesel out of our air, it will also pave the way for Oregon to receive $68 million in Volkswagen settlement money to fund clean air work in our state.

One bright note from the session is that we have had to play less defense and fight off fewer bad bills than we often have to do. There have been attempts to roll back public lands protections and to take aim at wolves and cougars. But for the most part, the same dynamic that is keeping some “controversial” bills that we like from getting much traction is also keeping the bad bills at bay!

So, as expected, the 2017 session has had both hazards and opportunities, and we’re trying to make the best of the latter while avoiding the former to the extent we can. As always, our success depends largely on you, so keep calling, writing, and e-mailing your legislators and making a difference for Oregon!


Working to Make Oregon’s Clean Energy Power Grid a Reality

March 21, 2017

Portland General Electric wants to build new fracked gas power plwind-and-solar_largeants which will lock us into decades of climate wrecking fossil fuel pollution.

PGE’s own analysis shows that our future energy needs can be reliably and affordably met with clean renewable energy which will create hundreds of new green energy jobs for our region.

There are 2 ways you can help us to create a landslide of comments to the Oregon Public Utility Commission

Download a comment card toolkit and gather comment cards from your neighbors and friends.

and

Send an email to your circle of contacts inviting them to use the Sierra Club’s website to submit an email comment.

Thanks for all you do.

Contact Gregory Monahan at gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org if you need any help or have any questions


Electricity From Clean Renewable Energy Sources

February 16, 2017

Portland General Electric (PGE) wants to build 2 new gas fired electrical power plants next door to the Boardman Coal Plant. If allowed to go forward these plants would lock us into another 40 years of emissions from fracked gas and destroy our chance to move to a clean energy future.

210 kW PV system at SMUD's Hedge substation that is used for grid support

Last year Portland General Electric (PGE) came to the table to help pass the groundbreaking Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act. They committed to sunset their coal use in Oregon and double their clean energy commitments.

Now, less than a year later, PGE has already violated the spirit of our partnership by proposing huge investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. Building new gas-fired power plants will lock Oregon into decades of climate-disrupting fossil fuel energy at a moment when clean energy sources like wind and solar are more affordable than ever. This is the wrong path for our state, and a disappointing step backward from Oregon’s largest utility.

Oregon doesn’t need more fossil fuel powered electricity. PGE’s own analysis concluded that it can meet customers’ power needs reliably and affordably by investing in renewable energy rather than dirty fossil fuels. Plus, the science is clear: from extraction to production to consumption, gas is a dirty fuel that produces significant amounts of pollution.

The Sierra Club is working with a broad coalition of groups to stop Portland General Electric’s plan to build two new gas-fired power plants next door to their Boardman coal plant.

Like all of our campaigns, our strength comes from the bottom up.  So we need people like you get informed and organize our community to stand up to PGE and say “no” to new fossil fuels.  They have financial and political power, so we must have organized people power.  

Join us to learn about our shared campaign to get PGE to break their addiction to fossil fuels.

There is widespread public support for moving away from expanding fossil fuel use and towards clean, renewable energy. People recognize that the only way to lesson the worst impacts of climate change to start NOW, with no more new fossil fuels added to our energy supplies.

For more information Contact:
Gregory Monahan
Chair, Beyond Gas & Oil Team
at: gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org


PGE Tests Biomass at Boardman Coal Plant – New Report Highlights Climate and Forest Consequences for Country’s Largest Biomass Proposal

December 20, 2016

On December 7th, 2016, we released a report analyzing a proposal from Portland General Electric (PGE) to convert the state’s last coal plant in Boardman, Oregon into one of the world’s largest biomass facilities. The report finds that the proposal may pose major implications for air quality, forest health, and carbon reduction goals. The Boardman Power Plant in northern Oregon is slated to retire in 2020. However, this month, staff are testing the plant’s capacity to run on woody material and energy crops. If the test succeeds, the Boardman plant could be converted to run on 100 percent forest biomass for 5 months of the year.

The new report demonstrates the likely implications if the conversion is made. Key findings include:

 An average biomass power facility emits 40-60% more carbon than coal plants do per megawatt hour of energy generated.

 Over 3.8 million tons of trees and woody material would be needed to operate the plant for 5 months a year. Despite claims by biomass advocates, waste feedstock levels are negligible when compared to the facility’s needs. Therefore, whole trees from public lands would constitute the majority of the feedstock needed.

 Over 800 trucks a day would be required to supply the Boardman facility during peak operation.

 PGE is growing a highly invasive species of giant cane as a feedstock. Arundo Donax causes major damage to ecosystems and watersheds and is opposed as a viable energy solution by dozens of environmental grboardman_coaloups.

“The retirement of the Boardman facility creates an opportunity to replace coal with clean energy like wind and solar, which would be in keeping with the landmark coal transition legislation passed in Oregon earlier this year,” said Rhett Lawrence, legislative director for the Oregon Sierra Club. “There is simply no need to turn our forests into fuel because cleaner energy alternatives are already at hand.”

 

Even though the carbon consequences of biomass are well established, Congress is currently considering legislation that would designate biomass energy as “carbon-neutral.” Just as oil, coal, and gas must be kept in the ground, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, so too must trees be kept in the forest.


Union Pacific Rail Double Track Project through Mosier, OR Denied

November 14, 2016

At their Nov 10th meeting Wasco County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 to finalize their Nov, 3rd decision to deny the permit for Union Pacific’s proposed rail expansion. To read more about the decision

http://gorgenewscenter.com/wasco-county-commissioners-complete-their-denial-of-union-pacific-plan-for-second-main-line-track-at-mosier/

Highlights from the Nov 3rd Wasco Board of Commissioners meeting:

Gary Kahn, an attorney representing Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Riverkeeper and Physicians for Social Responsibility presented the case that the project would violate the National Scenic Area Land Use Development Ordinance in many ways.

The testimony from the Tribal Nations was powerful and moving. Austin Greene, Warm Springs Tribal Chairman, drove from Warm Springs in order to testify. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation was represented by attorney Amber Penn-Roco, who spoked to the Yakama Nation opposition to this project and that it violated tribal treaty rights. She also read a letter from the tribal elders. Testimony was given from Lana Jack of Celilo Village, of the Wyam people. She spoke of the daily challenges and dangers her people face in crossing the railroad tracks.

beyond-gas

Source: KGW-TV screenshot

During the process, Wasco County Planning Director Angie Brewer reminded county officials of their duty to deny the permit unless they could reach a determination that tribal treaty rights were not impacted, citing the National Scenic Area Land Use Development Ordinance. In the end, The Wasco County Board of Commissioners stood up to the Union Pacific Railroad, and voted unanimously to oppose the project. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

In all likelihood, Union Pacific is going to appeal this decision to the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

Contact Gregory Monahan, Chair of the Beyond Gas and Oil Team, if you would like more information or if you would like to volunteer at gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org


Will Portland Abandon its Pledge Against New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure?

August 8, 2016

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!