#NoFastTrack Events – Update Your Calendar!

April 28, 2015

Fast Track legislation was introduced two weeks ago and our opposition movement is growing!

Here is a list of upcoming events, please attend as many as possible! We are channeling our efforts toward Reps. Bonamici and Schrader, as neither of them have committed to a position yet. Please call their offices to express your concern over fast tracking the largest trade deal ever to be negotiated. More info at sierraclub.org/trade.

Rep. Bonamici: 503-469-6010, 202-225-0855

Rep. Schrader: 503-557-1324, 202-225-5711

5/1/15 – Sen. Wyden Town Hall at South Albany High School, Albany 1:30pm – express your disappointment in the Senator for co-sponsoring the Fast Track legislation.

5/2/15 – Sen. Wyden Town Hall at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg 2:00pm – express more disappointment in the Senator for co-sponsoring the Fast Track bill.

5/4/15 – Rally with Rep. DeFazio in Eugene.  Noon-12:30 at the Lane County Courthouse/Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza – thank Rep. DeFazio for his continued opposition to fast track and show our other Oregon Reps we stand strongly opposed to fast track.

5/4/15 – Phone bank with Sierra Club to urge members to call Rep. Bonamici and Rep. Schrader and invite to rallies. 6:15 pm, Oregon Chapter office, 1821 SE Ankeny St Portland

5/5/15 – Rally at Rep. Schrader’s office, 12:00pm 621 High St. Oregon City

5/8/15 – Rally at Rep. Bonamici’s office, 10:00am 12725 SW Millikan Way

Thanks to everyone who has taken actions and continues to do so! This is a daunting but very winnable fight!

As always, feel free to email me with any questions or concerns.

Onwards,

Morgan Gratz-Weiser, Community Outreach Coordinator Oregon Sierra Club

morgan.gratzweiser@sierraclub.org


Fast Track Introduced – What’s in it and what do we do next?

April 23, 2015

For the last few months, the Sierra Club, along with environmental and labor allies, have escalated pressure in opposition to fast track legislation. We succeeded in pushing back the introduction of fast track by a number of weeks, raising our voices to ask Senator Wyden to step away from negotiations with Senator Hatch (R-UT). However, last Thursday Sens. Hatch and Wyden co-sponsored the fast track bill, which looks conspicuously similar to the 2014 Camp-Baucus fast-track bill that died shortly after its introduction.

Now that the bill has been introduced, our opposition shifts to include the environmental analysis of the bill. First off, the bill includes the minimal protections that have been in all trade deals since 2007, with no legally binding or enforceable provisions against illegal logging, poaching and trade of endangered wildlife, or bans against shark finning or commercial whaling. According to the fast-track text, countries must “adopt and maintain measures implementing…its obligations under common environmental multilateral agreements;” however, reports indicate the United States is not on track to meet these negotiating objectives, and the bill is unenforceable anyway.

Popularized by Elizabeth Warren, the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause allows for increased lawsuits by corporations over nearly any environmental or climate-related law. Read here about the U.S. company Bilcon suing Canada for $188 million because Canada rejected a proposed rock quarry mining site along the highly biodiverse and sensitive Bay of Fundy coastline.

This fast track legislation is being implemented to speed the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress, before the public can read it, and before many members of Congress have time to synthesize it. Congressional staffers are not allowed to read the text, and although the bill must be made public 60 days before the president officially enters the U.S. into the agreement, no changes will be made to the text.

So, what’s next? We must impress upon our elected officials that the people of Oregon are opposed to the flawed fast-track system of pushing secretly negotiated trade deals through Congress without appropriate oversight. Help us by making calls to Representative Bonamici and Representative Blumenauer’s offices, write a letter to the editor in your local paper, and encourage your friends and family to learn more about what fast tracking the TPP could mean for them. Information is at www.sierraclub.org/trade. We have a very real chance at defeating this legislation, but we do need as much support as possible.

Please don’t hesitate to email with inquiries and for ways to get involved! Thanks for your advocacy!

Morgan Gratz-Weiser, Community Outreach Coordinator

morgan.gratzweiser@sierraclub.org


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.


Dirty Secrets: Trade Promotion Authority and the TransPacific Partnership

March 4, 2015

Upcoming trade legislation is poised to wash away our human and environmental rights around the globe! Oregon contributes dynamically to international markets – producing technology, wine and agriculture, and manufactured goods for export. It is imperative that we improve and maintain these good-paying jobs which support our local economy and utilize higher environmental standards rather than trade them away to corporate profits and lower human and environmental rights. Help pressure our congressional representatives to oppose this dangerous and damaging legislation. Click here to take action! Keep reading for more info.

Fast Track, often referred to as Trade Promotion Authority, is a piece of legislation that acts as a structure for trade legislation to be sent pre-signed by the president to Congress for a strict up-or-down vote. No edits or amendments, and limited discussion on the floor. This becomes exceptionally dangerous when applied to agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free trade agreement between twelve countries around the Pacific Rim and comprising 29 chapters on topics including the environment, labor, investment, internet freedom, and increased energy exports, to name a few.

The Sierra Club, along with dozens of environmental, labor, and food safety organizations are deeply concerned about Fast Track, as it removes the important checks and balances system of our elected officials, and places near complete power in the hands of the executive branch, the U.S. Trade Representative, and hundreds of corporate “trade advisors”.

The TPP contains a vast array of concerning chapters, including a step backwards with Multilateral Environmental Agreements – changing language that holds signatory countries accountable to “adopt, maintain, and implement” to now  “affirm its commitment” to the regulation, and relaxation in environmental enforcement, should a party be in violation of the agreement.

Environmental damage is incurred due to a variety of clauses, including:

1) Corporations would be allowed to sue governments in private tribunals over nearly any law they allege infringes on the value of their investment, (read Elizabeth Warren’s position here)

2) the US Dept. of Energy would be required to automatically approve exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to signatory countries (including Japan, the current leader in LNG imports), therefore encouraging increased fracking and dangerous transportation,

3) Regarding global fisheries, countries “shall seek to operate a fisheries management system…that is designed to prevent overfishing and overcapacity”, however there is no mention of fisheries by-catch nor any ban on shark finning – despite many of the signatory countries being traders of shark fins, and requirement under United States law to seek broader bans on such countries, and

4) TPP countries are significant exporters of plant and wildlife products, a trade that has lead to dramatic declines in biodiversity and endangered species. Unfortunately the TPP contains extremely weak wording regarding the enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

These are a few of the concerning portions of the TPP, issues that should be debated on the floor of congress and commented on by the public, not drafted behind closed doors in extreme secrecy. So – is there any hope? What can we do?

Yes – there is hope. In a group effort by the Sierra Club, Citizens Trade Campaign, and a host of environmental, health, and labor organizations we are pressuring Senator Wyden (ranking member of Senate Finance Committee), House Rep. Blumenauer, and House Rep. Bonamici to vote down Fast Track legislation and pursue responsible alternatives. And we’re making progress! Senator Wyden has delayed the introduction of Trade Promotion Authority, calling it “premature” – citing needs for increased transparency and accountability. We must keep encouraging Senator Wyden to delay agreement on this deal, and continue to work for improved environmental standards and labor regulations.

Please join us in making our voices heard – call, email, and write letters to our congressional representatives, stay tuned to the Oregon Chapter Facebook page and Twitter updates, and please reach out to stay updated on rallies and press events.

Morgan Gratz-Weiser
Community Outreach Coordinator – Oregon Chapter
morgan.gratzweiser@sierraclub.org


The Oregon Chapter in the 2015 Oregon Legislature

March 2, 2015

The 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature Session is in full swing, and Sierra Club staff are closely tracking proposed bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for clean, renewable energy, wildlife protection, and our state forests. For starters, as members of the Oregon Conservation Network, we are advocating for the Priorities for a Healthy Oregon. Here are some of the specific bills we are working on:

Oregon capitol

  • Coal to Clean Energy: One of those OCN priorities, Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 2729, will move Oregon’s investor-owned electric utilities – Pacific Power and PGE – off coal by 2025. The legislation will ensure that the replacement power for coal is 90% cleaner, allowing for a replacement mix that is primarily clean, renewable energy like solar and wind. Whenever possible, the bill will also give preference to local clean energy that creates jobs in and around Oregon for the replacement power. Oregonians overwhelmingly support the idea of getting coal out of our energy mix and legislators are very interested in the proposal as well. We hope to have Senate Bill 477 heard in bill co-sponsor Senator Chris Edwards’ Environment and Natural Resources committee in late March.
  • Solar Energy: The Sierra Club is working on a number of bills related to solar energy in the 2015 session. House Bill 2447 will extend the very successful Residential Energy Tax Credit. HB 2941 would help to encourage the creation of community “solar gardens” so that neighbors and communities could come together to share solar power. HB 2632 would help to incentivize the creation of utility-scale solar power in the state. HB 2745 would extend the state feed-in tariff program, and we hope to expand that legislation to make other changes to encourage the promotion of solar power in Oregon.
  • 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 and the State Land Board plays out to determine the ultimate future of the Elliott, we are working in the legislature to set up a process by which such a solution could be implemented. In addition, we are working 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 are two of the many introduced bills that would allow counties to opt out of a statewide ban on the practice of hunting cougars with dogs. Oregon voters have twice decided that such a practice is not something that should be available to the general public, though it can still be done by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to control problem cougars. Furthermore, the idea that counties could start opting out of state laws they didn’t agree with opens up doors to all kinds of mischief. We will be working hard to ensure that these bills do not pass in anything like their current form.

We are also tracking many other bills, including legislation on land use, water quality, toxic chemicals, and other energy proposals. There’s certainly no shortage of legislative activity to keep us busy in Salem, so stay tuned for more developments!


Vote Yes on Measure 88

October 7, 2014

The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club has joined dozens of other organizations in endorsing a YES position on Measure 88.

Voting yes on Measure 88 will mean that residents of Oregon, regardless of their citizenship status, will have the option to obtain a driver’s card so they can legally drive to work, take a family member to the hospital, or attend a rally. And yes, even access trails and wilderness areas accessible only by vehicle. This will make the roads safer for all of us and allow people to contribute to their own well-being and the state’s economy.

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Measure 88 is also a step toward creating a more inclusive, democratic society, something the Sierra Club is deeply committed to. It’s even stated in the National Sierra Club Board policy: 11 million immigrants in our country ultimately need a pathway to citizenship so they can participate as full members of our democracy.

As an advocacy group, we value and depend on civic engagement from all communities. Undocumented immigrants are often most affected by environmental pollution and cannot speak out without fear of deportation. All people must have a voice if we are to achieve the conservation victories that protect our natural resources and help our communities thrive.

Learn more about Measure 88 and vote YES this November!

Not yet registered to vote? There’s still time! Register here.


Some good, some not-so-good in the 2014 session of the Oregon Legislature

March 12, 2014

state capitolWe can all breathe a sigh of relief now, as the 2014 “short session” of the Oregon Legislature wrapped up on Friday, March 7.  The frantic pace of the short session – with its tight deadlines and quick turnaround times – was a real eye-opener for us and made it even harder than usual to keep up with everything that was happening.  As an example, on one day in the first week of the session, we had four bills up for a hearing in three different committees at the same time!

At any rate, it’s safe to say the outcome of the session was a mixed bag, without a significant amount of either progress or setbacks.  Here’s a quick summary of what happened to some of the bills we were tracking:

  • We had a minor loss on Senate Bill 1510, which would have created a process for a more coordinated and comprehensive environmental review of large projects in Oregon by essentially implementing a state-level version of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  While the bill did not make it out of committee, there is still likely to be an interim workgroup to work on the issue and report back to the 2015 Oregon Legislature.
  • One nice victory was Senate Bill 1516, which establishes a planning process for turning an old railroad corridor between Banks and Tillamook into a “Salmonberry Trail.”  Since we are active members of the North Coast State Forest Coalition, we are enthusiastic about such a trail and strongly supported SB 1516.  It passed the Legislature and now awaits the Governor’s signature.
  • In sad news, Senate Bill 1569 failed to move.  This bill would have begun the process of phasing out certain toxic chemicals from children’s toys sold in Oregon.  Unfortunately the bill was first scaled back to just require the creation of a list of chemicals of concern and require manufacturers to notify Oregon public health officials when their children’s products contain these chemicals.  Then, even that watered-down bill failed to make it out of the Ways and Means Committee, which was a major disappointment.  It’s hard to believe that a bill designed to keep toxic chemicals out of our kids’ toys cannot pass in Oregon, but these proposals will be back.
  • We had another minor victory in the stalling of Senate Joint Memorial 201, which was merely a statement from the Legislature to the U.S. Congress and to the Administration that reforms are necessary on Oregon’s “O&C Lands”.  While such a measure is essentially meaningless, we believed the language of the memorial was heavily slanted toward timber production on our backyard forests and neglected the important functions the O&C Lands provide for recreation, tourism, and clean water.  And fundamentally, decisions about O&C Lands are simply outside the purview of the Oregon Legislature.  We opposed SJM 201 in its original committee hearing and it was sent to the Senate Rules Committee, where it remained at adjournment.
  • Another important win was the passage of House Bill 4126 – a critical bill to help defend Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).  A very destructive ballot measure had been proposed for 2014 ballot to incorporate large-scale hydroelectric power into the RPS, which would have rendered the RPS essentially meaningless and dramatically undercut the development of real renewable power in the state.  HB 4126 was the result of a settlement between many parties to the debate over the hydro ballot measure and its passage removes the specter of that ballot measure.  The settlement was not perfect, but we supported it as a way to make the ballot measure go away.  It passed both houses essentially unanimously and is now with the Governor.
  • House Bill 4042 extended net metering to wave energy in Oregon.  While wave energy technology is still in its infancy in Oregon, we believe that it could offer another viable source of renewable energy for our state.  Since net metering is a well-established mechanism to help facilitate the distributed generation of power, we supported HB 4042, which passed both houses without objection and was signed by the Governor on March 6.
  • We were disappointed in the Legislature’s failure to move House Bill 4100.  That bill would have required labels for products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients and would have created a legislative referral to allow Oregon citizens to sign off on that proposition in the November 2014 election.  We have concerns about the potential impacts of GE foods on our environment and on public health, but also fundamentally believe that this is a right-to-know issue that will allow consumers to make informed choices about the products they purchase.  The bill was still sitting in the House Rules Committee at adjournment, but there will very likely be a similar initiative measure on the ballot in November 2014 anyway.
  • Finally, we were pleased to see the demise of House Bill 4113 – the bill to move forward on the Oregon-only funding approach for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC).  While we did have some concerns about potential environmental impacts of the current version of the CRC, we also opposed HB 4113 because we believe the project is simply fiscally irresponsible as it is currently proposed. Notwithstanding the tremendous amount of political momentum behind the bill, the opposition was even greater and the legislation never really got moving.

So all in all, things could have been a lot better in the 2014 session, and they certainly could have been worse.  Now, with this session barely in our rearview mirror, we will begin the process of determining our priorities for the 2015 full-length session!  It’ll be an exciting year, so stay tuned.


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