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!


Revolutionizing Oregon: the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan becomes law

March 24, 2016

SolarPanelsBy Francesca Varela

Nearly every day I hear news about climate change, and usually it’s not good. Just the other day I read something about how temperatures are rising more quickly than predicted; how the rate at which the seas will rise has probably been underestimated. I’ve been reading about water rationing, and superstorms; stagnant weather ridges, and marine life migrating north; shells disintegrating off the backs of sea snails, and mass extinctions rivaling the end-Cambrian. I read all these things with a sense of urgency and a sense of loss, but also with a sense of hope. Because, in the midst of these warnings, something good has emerged—a solution; one that will hopefully inspire others to follow our lead.

On March 11th, Governor Kate Brown signed the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (Senate Bill 1547) into law. The bill’s supporters included environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Oregon’s two largest utility companies, PGE and Pacific Power, who were well aware of the economic threat of coal decline and eager to prioritize clean energy.

WindFarm.jpgBy 2035, these utility companies will be completely coal-free. The Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan is an incremental process that allows the companies to ease into things while still maintaining a sense of climactic urgency. Improving upon existing Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), the Plan mandates that the companies derive a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources—27% by 2025, 35% by 2030, 45% by 2035, landing eventually at 50% by 2040.

This increased use of renewable energy and the eventual elimination of coal will allow Oregon to reach its goal of reducing carbon emissions to 75% below 1990 levels by 2050, and with no threat to consumers. The RPS can be temporarily suspended if meeting the requirement would interfere with grid reliability. Fair rates for customers are guaranteed long-term through the dispersion of renewable energy tax credits. And, if using more renewable energy would mean a rise in price of more than 4% for customers, the companies can postpone doing so. Considering the decreasing cost of renewables, however, they likely won’t need to.

Customers can also look forward to new opportunities, like a community solar program; a co-op of sorts in which you can invest in solar projects and claim ownership of them, reducing your electric bill while also making a positive environmental and social impact. 10% of the solar power generated from these programs is intended for low-income customers.

The Plan also includes a requirement that more energy come from small, local projects, including wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Local green energy means local green jobs, and a boost to Oregon’s economy.Powerlines

Some of this clean energy will be used to expand electric transportation, decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels even further. Charging stations for electric cars, electric buses, and expanded public transportation can be expected as Pacific Power and PGE work on plans to build up our electric transportation sector.

The Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan is revolutionary in its total commitment to eliminating energy from coal, but there’s still more that can be done. The Healthy Climate Bill (Senate Bill 1574)—a “cap-and-invest” plan that would fine polluting industries and use the money to fund green initiatives and to support communities threatened by environmental injustice—didn’t pass this legislative session, but the Sierra Club and its allies plan to resurrect it during the 2017 session with the hope of deepening Oregon’s commitment to a clean, just future. You can help by reaching out to your local representative and reminding them that the transition to a green economy is a high priority—and make sure to thank them for the work that has already been done on the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan.

News of Oregon’s new law has spread far and wide, making headlines in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, ABC News, and international newspapers like The Guardian. Oregon has become a world leader in the climate movement.

Haystack_Rock_Oregon.jpgThe sooner we do away with fossil fuels the less the oceans will rise, the less the water will acidify, the fewer animals will go extinct from habitat loss. Oregon will be coal-free by 2035. Only five years after that, at least half our energy will come from renewable resources. The passage of this act shows the rest of the country—and the world—that transitioning away from fossil fuels is positive and necessary. It’s without a doubt one of the most important things we will ever do as a society. Hopefully more states and countries will pass their own initiatives. Ours is a good beginning, and, hopefully, just that—the beginning.

 

 

 

 


2016 Legislative Wrap-up: Victory on Coal and Clean Energy!

March 17, 2016

Oregon capitol

It was a whirlwind session of the Oregon Legislature for 4 weeks of February (and 3 days of March). Sierra Club staff worked hard to track bills, provide testimony, and meet with legislators in Salem to advocate for renewable energy, wildlife protection, our state forests, and more. And though there were some real disappointments out of the session, passing the biggest climate legislation in Oregon in many years was a very significant victory!

It was a session marked by bitter partisanship on many fronts, underscored by parliamentary brinksmanship and some very long floor sessions. Many important bills got mired in the legislative quicksand and we were lucky to have emerged with something as important (and bipartisan!) as our Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill, given those circumstances. Clearly, it was your e-mails and phone calls that made the difference!

Here are some of the highlights of the 2016 short session:

  • Clean Energy and Coal Transition Plan: If you’ve paid any attention at all to the news recently, you’ve likely heard the inspiring news about the passage and signing of Senate Bill 1547, the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Bill. When Governor Kate Brown put her pen to this landmark legislation on March 11, it set Oregon on a path to eliminate its use of coal power by 2035 and double the amount of clean, renewable energy serving Oregonians to 50 percent by 2040.

The Clean Energy and Coal Transition plan was crafted by bringing diverse parties to the table, including Oregon’s two largest electric utilities, energy industry and business groups, and advocacy and community organizations. Chapter staff worked closely with the national Beyond Coal Campaign on this critical legislation. With it, Oregon has charted a bold course for the nation as we accelerate the transition away from dirty fuels of the past. Sierra Club members and supporters should be very proud of the role we all played in this victory!

  • Healthy Climate Act: Unfortunately, we did not see similar success with our other climate priority for the 2016 session. Senate Bill 1574, the Healthy Climate Act, would have held big polluters accountable for the cost of what they are dumping into our air and water by instituting a “cap and invest” program in Oregon. Similar to the program put in place by AB 32 in California, the bill would have put a cap on carbon emissions and helped to achieve Oregon’s goal to reduce pollution while creating incentives to accelerate the transition to a   clean energy economy. And though we failed to move the legislation this year, our coalition fully intends to be back in 2017, more motivated than ever to continue this critical work!
  • Solar energy: The Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill included some important provisions to help create a “community solar” program for Oregon and ensure that at least 10% of the program’s capacity be provided to low-income customers. We also worked to help pass House Bill 4037, which will dramatically increase the amount of solar energy being produced in Oregon by helping to ensure that 16 to 18 new large-scale solar projects will be built in Oregon over the next two years. In addition to the clear carbon reduction benefits of these large solar projects, they will also create hundreds of jobs and pour millions of property tax dollars into the coffers of rural Oregon communities that need it the most.
  • Defending Wildlife: Unfortunately, we did not do so well on wildlife bills in the 2016 session. On the bright side, for once we did not have to contend with any bills related to the hunting of cougars, and we did see the passage of House Bill 4046, which increased penalties for wildlife poaching.

However, one very disheartening loss was the passage and signing of House Bill 4040. Though this legislation was framed by its proponents as a mere “ratification” of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s decision to remove gray wolves from the state’s endangered species list, the effects of the bill were much more sinister. In addition to setting a bad precedent for the legislature to step in and review scientific decisions of administrative agencies, the bill was also revealed to be a blatant attempt to moot out a lawsuit that had been filed by several groups that disputed the scientific basis of the Commission’s delisting decision. Despite the best efforts of the conservation community, the bill passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor on March 15.

  • Suction Dredge Mining: One other disappointment from the session was the failure to pass Senate Bill 1530, which would have taken steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. Though the bill appeared to have had the votes to pass, it unfortunately got caught up in the partisan wrangling and bill trading at the end of the session and it died without a floor vote. Some questionable tactics by the opponents of the bill added to the frustration over failing to pass it and led to some strong statements of disappointment by the bill’s lead sponsor on the Senate floor. Again, it was a discouraging end to some common-sense legislation, but we hope to work with partners to bring back similar legislation in the 2017 session.

So that’s a wrap on the 2016 session! Many thanks to our members for all of their e-mails and phone calls to legislators; we could not have passed the historic Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill without you! Relish that victory, folks, and here’s to even more successes in 2017!


Investing in the Future: The Healthy Climate Bill and the Coal Transition Plan

February 4, 2016

2167696800_4dedae718d_oWhen I was a kid, teachers always gave us the same piece of environmental advice: reduce, reuse, recycle. The emphasis was always on what we could do as individuals. We could pick up litter. We could recycle cans and bottles. We could donate our old clothes. If everyone did these small things, they would add up and make a difference in the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle, and everything would be okay.

It took me until college to question this. In fact, it was in one of my very first college classes—intro to environmental studies—that my professor brought it up. I can still remember what he said: our lifestyle decisions as consumers are important, but they also distract from larger issues. What we need is not just for individuals to change, but for the entire infrastructure of our society to change. We need movements, protests, political change. And I remember him saying something about how there was “no free lunch”, how even just sitting in that lecture hall we were taking part in the dirty energy economy, what with the lights and the heating system, and if we went to the library, or the city hall, or anywhere in town, really, we would come upon the same problem, because it wasn’t just us—it was the way things were set up.

I always thought that part was particularly unfair. coalThis isn’t our mess. None of us in that lecture, none of us who went on to graduate in 2015, are responsible for the way things have been set up. We’re the inheritors of greed and chaos. I mean, look at what they’ve left us: heartbreaking mass extinctions, an ocean full of plastic garbage, an economy dependent on polluting fossil fuels that threaten the existence of all life.

But I also saw this beautiful possibility—this vision of change, of the sustainable society we could create. This isn’t our mess, but we can be the ones to fix it.

I’m not the only one with such a vision, of course. The quest for positive change is one of the main tenets of the Sierra Club. They’ve long been champions of clean energy, environmental justice, and conservation. In a way, they’re the embodiment of that big change, that infrastructural shift that my professor was talking about. I’m honored to be interning with them, especially at this moment of climactic urgency. With the hottest year on record behind us, and all this evidence of widespread droughts, reduced snow-packs, and crazy weather events—well, climate change is progressing right before our eyes. We have a small window here in which we can prohibit catastrophic warming.

Now is the time to make those big changes, and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is taking action. During the 2016 legislative session, the Sierra Club is promoting two bills that work together to revitalize Oregon’s energy system.

windmillsThe Healthy Climate Bill, Senate Bill 1574, proposes a “cap and invest” system. This means that polluting industries would actually pay the true price for the environmental havoc they impose upon us, and for their disastrous contributions to climate change. The money would then be invested in the clean energy sector. We’d have reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a proliferation of local, well-paying clean energy jobs. Not only that, but investments would be targeted towards those who, today, are most threatened by environmental injustices—low-income and rural communities, as well as communities of color.

The other bill—the Oregon Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (House Bill 4036—also seeks to reduce emissions, but does so in partnership with PGE and Pacific Power, Oregon’s two largest utilities. Under this bill’s provisions, Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard would double to 50% by 2040. Though Oregon’s last coal-fired power plant will close in 2020, PGE and Pacific Power still source much of their electricity from coal-fired plants in other states, such as Montana. This plan would make them completely coal free by 2035 and enable them to transition to renewable energy projects, like community solar programs that prioritize low-income communities. New infrastructure would be created to encourage green transportation, such as charging stations for electric cars, thereby lessening our dependence on gas and oil. I mean, imagine that: driving an electric car powered by 100% solar or wind power. Or going into almost any building in the state and knowing it’s powered mostly by clean energy.

These two bills complement each solar farm. 1st pictures. September 2012 30192Dother in that they have varying timelines and methods to achieve a shared vision. This is way more than reduce-reuse-recycle. This is the big stuff; the big changes that need to happen if we want a better future. These bills make clean energy more affordable than dirty energy. They lift disadvantaged communities into positions of climate leadership. They create new jobs for local community members. And, of course, they reduce carbon emissions. Oregon could serve as a model of justice and sustainability. We could provide the rest of the country—and even the world—with the glimpse of a promising future. These bills work because they address our issues at the source. They not only fix old problems but they lead us on to better things, to a cleaner, healthier, healed future, in which the next generation can look back, smile, and say, look at what they’ve left us.

Take action today by contacting your legislators in support of these bills!

 

 

 

 


Some things to know about the Clean Power Plan

August 5, 2015

Its here!

Yesterday President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy revealed the Clean Power Plan. As McCarthy put it, it was “an incredibly wicked cool moment.” But what does it mean?

In short, the plan aims to reduce carbon pollution nation wide by 32% by 2030 by putting limits on how much carbon can be put into the atmosphere by power plants. This is the first time such limits have ever been set, truly a “wicked cool moment.” But I’m sure you want more than the short of it.

To help answer the question I’ve compiled information from a few great articles and sources (all at the bottom) from the internet for you. If you have others you like feel free to post in the comments or tweet at us, @ORsierraclub:

The Plan will cut carbon pollution that is fueling Climate Change:McCarthyvideostill

Power Plants are the largest emitters of carbon pollution in the United States. They total about one third of all the emissions we generate. When fully implemented in 2030 the Clean Power Plan will reduce our carbon pollution by 870 million tons. That’s 166 million cars or 70% of our passenger vehicles off the road.

It will protect6a00d83451b96069e201a3fd38a3db970b our health:

By 2030, each year there will be 3600 fewer premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks, 1700 heart attacks, and 300,000 missed days of school and work. That’s because when we limit carbon emissions we are also limiting 318,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 282,000 tons of nitrogen dioxide. Both gases contribute to soot and smog that make people sick.

 

It will help protect low income communities and communities of color:

The impacts of burning dirty fuels are disproportionately felt by low income communities and communities of color. Van Jones put it best in his CNN piece about the Plan: “The clean power plan will massively help minorities and low-income Americans. After all, one in six black kids and one in nine Latino children has asthma. Seventy-eight percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a dirty, polluting coal plant. African-Americans are also more likely to live in coastal areas and die during heat waves.” You should read his entire blog linked in the notes.

It will save us money on our utility bills:

When you total up the health and climate related benefits of the Clean Power Plan we’re looking at upwards of $45 billion of savings when fully implemented. That’s a lot of money that could be going to a lot of other great causes and issues. Bottom line, by 2030 the average American household can expect save around $7 a month on their utility bills. That’s not chump change.

It puts our state in the driver’s seat:

The Clean Power Plan sets carbon pollution standards for power plants across the country, but sets individual state goals based on each state’s current energy mix and what unique opportunities exist in each state. To make is easy the EPA has even created a model rule that states can adopt that guarantees their compliance with the Plan. If they don’t like that plan they can cut carbon pollution anyway they want as long as they meet the goals. This mean big opportunities to be leaders for states like Oregon.

We’ve got a good start to build from in Oregon:

Its Oregon’s time shine. We are already doing some things to move the energy sector to a fossil fuel free future and are on our way to meeting our goals in the Clean Power Plan, but there is a great deal more that needs to be done.

Renewable energy production in Oregon has grown 159% since 2008 and Oregon has a renewable portfolio standard that require utilities to generate 25% of their electricity with renewable sources by 2025. Our only coal fired power plant is already scheduled to go offline. Many Oregon cities and counties have climate plans of their own. Our Low Carbon Fuel Standard will reduce carbon pollution from our transportation sector.

More to do:beyond-coal-campaign-sierra-club-logo-large

Did you know that Oregon already has goals to reduce our carbon pollution 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Unfortunately those are just goals and aren’t enforceable in any sector. We could challenge the nation and lead by making these goals rules rather than aspirations. Leading this way will spur clean energy and efficiency development and create a center for innovation here in Oregon and the economic benefits that come with it.

Utilities are also looking to replace their coal fired energy production with natural gas fired power plants instead of clean renewable energy. We must move away from fossil fuels, not toward them. Gas is not clean and added are the impacts of fracking and methane releases from wells. Natural gas is not a long term solution. We need our utilities to be planning for a fossil fuel free future.

Multinational corporations are also hoping that Oregon and the Pacific Northwest will be a tap for dirty fuels on the global market. We need our elected officials and state agencies to stand up and say “no way.”  We have to decide if we want to talk about climate leadership or really show what that leadership looks like. We can’t talk about reducing our own carbon pollution while allowing big oil, gas, and coal to ship their dirty fuels around the globe for others to burn.

It is equally important that as we begin to comply with the Clean Power Plan and take further climate action that our changes are not burdens to low income communities or communities of color. These communities disproportionately  are impacted by the negative consequences of our current energy system, both from climate change and pollution. Our Climate Action Plan should serve as a means to lessen those impacts on those most in need of relief, not add to them. In addition the benefits of clean energy should be shared equally and not go to further these inequalities and benefit some more than others.

I fully applaud the President and Administrator McCarthy for their leadership and for producing the Clean Power Plan. I also call on our elected officials to not rest here, to continue to lead and push for further carbon reductions and an end to the fossil fuel era. I also call on you to make sure elected officials are accountable for their actions or lack of action when it comes to climate. As the President said yesterday in his announcement “If we don’t do it nobody will.”

Notes:

EPA Blog post: Six things every American Should Know about the Clean Power Plan

Oregonian: Oregon Already on a path to meet Obama’s new clean power goals

CNN: Busted: Three Myths About Obama’s Climate Plan by Van Jones

EPA: Clean Power Plan State Specific Fact Sheets

Whitehouse: What the Clean Power Plan Means for America

Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Statement on the Clean Power Plan

 


News from the Oregon Legislature

April 23, 2015

Whew! We’ve just crossed the midpoint of the 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature, and it’s been a whirlwind of a session. Sierra Club staff have been closely tracking bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for clean, renewable energy, wildlife protection, and our state forests. So here, halfway to sine die and just after a first critical deadline for bills to have passed out of their committee of origin, it’s good time to reflect on where we stand.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

In short, while we have had some real disappointments on Coal-to-Clean Energy and on the Elliott State Forest, there are some glimmers of good news to go along with the letdowns. Here’s a summary of some of the work we’ve been doing in our state capitol:

⇒ Coal to Clean Energy: One of our biggest priorities coming into session – and also one of the Oregon Conservation Network’s Priorities for a Healthy Oregon – was our Coal-to-Clean package. Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 2729 would have moved Oregon’s investor-owned electric utilities – Pacific Power and PGE – off coal by 2025 and required that the replacement power for coal was largely renewable energy like solar and wind. And even though Oregonians overwhelmingly support the idea of getting coal out of our energy mix, and even though many legislators were initially on board with the proposal, it appears that our coal-to-clean legislation will not be moving forward in 2015. We are quite disappointed with this outcome and hope to bring these concepts back in the future, as we are committed to finding the right path to reach the broader goals of transitioning off coal to clean energy.

⇒ Solar and other clean energy: Even though coal-to-clean stalled out, the Sierra Club is still working on a number of other bills related to clean energy that remain alive in the 2015 session. House Bill 2447 will extend the very successful Residential Energy Tax Credit for home solar energy. HB 2941 would help to encourage the creation of community “solar gardens” and HB 2632 would help to incentivize the creation of utility-scale solar power in the state. All of these solar energy bills are currently still moving through the legislative process.

In addition, several bills relating to limiting or putting a price on carbon were introduced this session. However, after the first committee deadline, only House Bill 3470 remains alive. This bill enforces existing state climate goals, established by the legislature in 2007, and requires DEQ to create an action plan for hitting those targets. That plan could use different strategies, including market-based mechanisms, to maximize feasible and cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

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⇒ Elliott and North Coast State Forests: The Sierra Club played a leading role in the coalition that got the Elliott State Forest designated as an OCN priority. As a process within the Department of State Lands (DSL) plays out to determine the ultimate future of the Elliott, we were working in the legislature to set up a process by which such a solution could be implemented. But in a very disheartening turn of events, the trust land transfer program we and Rep. Tobias Read were working to establish with HB 3474 died in committee on the bill deadline day. Now we are left only with HB 3533, which would give the State Land Board and DSL license to sell off parcels of the Elliott to the highest bidder. We are still evaluating how this situation will play out, but at this point we are not optimistic that we can reach a good solution for the Elliott with this legislation.

However, we continue to work in the legislature to support some requests for general fund dollars from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to increase recreational potential and research and monitoring in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. We and our partners in the North Coast State Forest Coalition believe that this money could help ODF provide the balanced management that Oregonians expect from these lands and move the agency away from its current timber-dependent funding sources.

⇒ Defending Wildlife: Just two weeks into the 2015 session, we saw renewed attacks on Oregon’s wildlife. House Bills 2050 and 2181 were two of the many introduced bills that would have allowed counties to opt out of a statewide ban on the practice of hunting cougars with dogs. Thankfully, those bills – along with a bill that would have prohibited the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission from including the gray wolf on the list of threatened or endangered species – were pulled from the committee hearing agenda on the deadline day. We hope we have seen the last of the bad wildlife bills in this session, but we’ll continue to keep an eye open for future mischief.

⇒ Suction Dredge Mining: One other bill we are supporting is Senate Bill 830, which would take great steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. Oregonians know that it is vitally important to have strong protections in place to safeguard our rivers and salmon habitat. In addition to putting a cap on the total number of suction dredge mining permits, SB 830 will place limitations on mining – both in-river and on uplands – where it would undermine Oregon’s investment in habitat restoration for salmon and other critical species.

We’ll keep plugging away in Salem, tracking the legislation on land use, water quality, toxic chemicals, other energy proposals, and who-knows-what-else. But we can’t do it without you, so stay tuned for ways to get involved and help pass good legislation to protect the Oregon we all love.


Pacific Power has you hooked on coal

October 7, 2014

 

By Amy Hojnowski

Over two-thirds of the energy Pacific Power supplies to their half-a-million customers in Oregon comes from out-of-state coal.  Recently the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a final order on the long-term energy mix of PacifiCorp, operating as Pacific Power in Oregon. Their final decision was clear: no more business as usual for coal-dependent Pacific Power.

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For the last year, the Commissioners have been outspoken in their skepticism that Pacific Power’s fleet-wide, multi-billion coal expenditures provide the least-cost option for Oregon customers. In their final decision, the Commissioners refused to acknowledge Pacific Power’s coal expenditures at two of the Jim Bridger units in Wyoming and one unit at the Hunter plant in Utah, which means that Pacific Power will likely face significant challenges seeking additional rate hikes to pay for their coal.

The company’s rates in Oregon have already increased 61 percent during the last seven years, accounting for the billions spent to prop up dirty coal plants in other states. PGE, for example, uses half as much coal and their rate increases have been significantly less than Pacific Power’s.

The PUC’s final order reflects their findings that Pacific Power is putting its customers at risk of large price increases by investing in its coal fleet rather than honestly considering real investments in viable alternatives like wind and solar that create jobs here in Oregon. The Commission is charged with making sure that Pacific Power and all utilities are providing their customers with the least cost, least risk energy options, and clearly coal doesn’t cut it anymore.

While other utility companies in Oregon, like PGE, are more quickly moving away from coal, Pacific Power continues to cling to its outdated coal plants. Cheaper, safer and cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar are available now but account for less than 10% of Pacific Power’s energy mix and their long-term planning shows virtually no change.

Pacific Power’s customers expect more from their utility and are often shocked to learn how much coal they buy in their monthly bill. The reality is that the coal industry is dying out and the future is in modern solutions like wind and solar. Looming overhead are further public health protections and the first national standards limiting carbon pollution from power plants—a key driver of climate disruption—making dirty coal even more expensive and a shaky investment proposition. Even new analysis from Citigroup shows that coal is priced out of the market, while solar and wind power are already competing on costs with dirty fuels.

Meanwhile, Oregon is home to a burgeoning clean energy economy. There is no reason for Pacific Power to continue to burn coal in other states to power homes here in Oregon, other than to continue business as usual. Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for total wind energy installation and there is enough solar energy installed in the state to power over 7,000 homes. Investments in local solar and wind power will keep money in Oregon and provide jobs. A new report from the American Wind Energy Association shows that the states with the most wind power see electricity prices decline, while other states see price increases. Renewable energy development in Oregon has already brought over 5,000 long term jobs and over 9 billion in investment.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission stood up for Oregonians and sent a clear signal to Pacific Power that the utility cannot keep dumping money into outdated coal plants and expect customers to pick up the bill. Now it’s time for citizens and elected officials to engage and call for a truly coal-free Oregon. Together we can stop importing dirty coal from Pacific Power and start investing in clean energy.

The Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign is launching a statewide effort to transition Oregon completely off of coal power and onto clean renewable energy. We held launch events this past month in both Bend and Portland that rolled out our organizing campaign to build a broad coalition of environment and health care organizations, business and community leaders to educate and motivate Oregonians. Our goal is to bolster the great work of the PUC and create a transition plan and become a truly coal-free state. We’ve seen a lot of successes in Oregon- from the grassroots campaigns to set a retirement date for Boardman and the victory over coal export terminals. Now is the time to take the next step and reject all coal use in our electricity mix while promoting clean energy alternatives and jobs here at home.

Amy Hojnowski, of Portland, is the Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.