UPDATE #2: Portland Fossil Fuel Policy Zoning Heads Back to City Council

October 13, 2016

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

A governmental journey of a thousand miles begins with scaling multiple bureaucratic mountains – a step at a time.  Portland’s path to Keep It In the Ground – working to ban new fossil fuel storage and export infrastructure – got major trailblazing from the Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) this week.  We are now on track for groundbreaking new zoning code amendments.

So please Save the Dates: the mayor has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, November 10, at 2 p.m., with the City Council votes planned for Thursday, November 17.  As always, please wear red.

The high-level backstory, critically important for carrying momentum through to the City Council, was this: in split votes, the PSC basically rejected false equivalency.  Governmental agencies – like the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) – have long felt obligated to balance stakeholders, theoretically treating everyone as equal in a Civics 101 sense.

Of course, some animals were always more equal than others: typically, on zoning, it was developers and business special interests.  But the classic theory that everyone has a valid tale to tell no longer works on energy and sustainability issues, because of the rapidly-expanding climate crisis.

BPS has done some terrific work on this, but it is difficult for an agency to recognize that the fossil fuel industries cannot be allowed to be the deciders any longer.  Thankfully, an educated and courageous majority on the Planning & Sustainability Commission generally rejected the weakest parts of the newest BPS recommendations.  Notably, the PSC unanimously refused to carve out special exemptions from the most important infrastructure limits for Northwest Natural.   Overall, the PSC will be giving the City Council a pretty good road map for this effort at a climate landmark.

There are still some stumble-spots on the trail, of course, and we’ll be working with eco-coalition partners* to identify to the City Council how to smooth those out.  We will give you the full detailed wonk-post in the near future.

In the meantime, if you run into the mayor or a city commissioner at, say, a political event, or the grocery store, be sure to mention that:

 Just like false equivalency has been a core fallacy in our nation’s presidential race**, so too it is a dangerous trap on the path to solving the climate crisis.

The City Council’s core responsibility is to defend the commitments in their November 2015 binding policy resolution to ban new fossil fuel storage and export infrastructure.  Let’s make that happen!

* Columbia Riverkeeper, Audubon of Portland, 350PDX, Center for Sustainable Economy, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and many others.

** Sierra Club has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Rally sends clear message to State Land Board: “Keep the Elliott Public”

October 13, 2016
On October 11th, nearly 125 Oregonians from across the state gathered on the lawn of the State Land Board building in Salem to send a loud, colorful, and clear message to the State Land Board: the Elliott State Forest needs to be protected and it needs to be kept public. Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler are in the midst of a process that could see the Elliott sold off, most likely to a timber company with its sites set on logging some of the last remnant old growth forest in Oregon’s coast range.
Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

It was an excellent turnout with a broad cross section of Oregonians that included native Americans, Coos County residents, hunters, anglers, campers, educators, and kids who are growing up with access to the forest.  One of the most pressing and common concerns is the loss of access to the forest if it is privatized. It is unclear exactly how much and how often the forest would be made open to locals and visitors if it was sold. This is just one of the sale “sideboards” that is inadequate or vague. Protection for aquatic habitat would be reduced by the implementation of weak stream buffers from logging and it appears that much of the old growth would be on the chopping block.
Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

38 Oregonians testified before the Land Board, and all of the speakers, except one, provided excellent and powerful testimony on the importance of keeping the Elliott in the public trust. One comment that stuck out was by Fregus McLean.  The economic study commissioned by the state land board to determine the “market value” of the Elliott failed to account for carbon sequestration benefits. Mr. McLean, who is running for Oregon House District 7, provided the economic benefit of saving the Elliott for carbon credits.  His figures indicated that carbon credits could be worth as much as $1.25 billion which is six times greater than the “market value” estimate by LandVest Consulting, the State Land Board’s consultant. It is also worth noting there may be a potential conflict of interest by LandVest that should be investigated.
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Speaking up for all the salmon who couldn’t make the trip to Salem (photo by Josh Laughlin)

The economic value of the Elliott far exceeds the value of timber if you account for carbon sequestration and sale of credits plus recreation, habitat preservation, coho salmon fishery, and many other attributes. This is on top of the hugely important ecological and climate values that the Elliott represents. The Oregon coast range is dominated by private timber holdings—lands that have largely reduced to monoculture tree plantations with bare hillsides and a steady stream of toxic herbicides being sprayed from above. Oregon’s three largest state forests, the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Elliott are some of the last refuges for threatened coho salmon, endangered marbled murrelets, threatened northern spotted owls, and an abundance of other fish, wildlife, and plants. These forests are also a massive carbon sink that has the potential to slow and mitigate climate change.

All this could be lost if Governor Brown and Treasurer Wheeler don’t step up with a real, innovative, and collaborative solution. It would be a low point in Governor Brown’s nascent governorship. For Wheeler, who begins his first term as Mayor of Portland in January, selling the Elliott would run counter to the progressive policies he has promised. Hopefully, our elected leaders heard what they needed to.  Lon Otterby, Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club Many Rivers Group and long-time forest advocate said, “in all my session with the State Land Board this was the most exciting and effective event I have participated on.” Let’s hope Lon is right!
Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Written with significant contributions from Howard Saxon and Lon Otterby of the Many Rivers Group. To get involved in the Sierra Club’s effort to protect the Elliott, email Chris Smith (chris.smith@sierraclub.org).

UPDATE: Portland Fossil Fuel Policy Work Moves from F to B-Minus

September 7, 2016

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

Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) has proposed zoning amendments for review by the Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) that are substantially less destructive than the agency’s original plan.  But “less bad” does not equal “good.”

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BPS was charged with implementing parts of the ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure for export and storage that the City Council approved unanimously last November.  Their original draft zoning amendments were filled with loopholes, and basically gave the industry an open door to unlimited expansion.

BPS was flooded with more than 700 comments to the draft plan, the vast majority calling for a true ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.

To their credit, agency staff reworked their zoning ordinance proposals with very thorough and diligent staff work.  BPS has now proposed to narrow the opportunities for industry expansion in four important ways:

  1. The new zoning would define “Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminal” as a tank with more than five million gallons of capacity – a tad smaller than the current 300+ tanks in Portland, but still huge.
  2. New Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would be banned, but new tanks under five million gallons could still be built so long as they do not include the infrastructure necessary to transload the fuels for export.
  3. Existing Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would be defined as “non-conforming uses” – a zoning designation that means ‘they are already here but we don’t want to let them in again.’
  4. Changes and expansions to the non-conforming current Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would require approval by a hearings officer after a public hearing.  Any approvals could be challenged in court under land use law (which does not include, for example, increased climate destruction).  Almost all of these tanks are in the earthquake liquefaction zones, on dredged soils along the Willamette River north of downtown Portland – a truly insane place to build or expand anything, but especially not dangerous flammable explosive fossil fuel infrastructure.

The basic problem now is that important parts of these proposals do not yet reflect the clear understanding in the City Council’s binding policy in Resolution No. 37168 to move beyond fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

Activists pack City Hall in Portland

Activists pack City Hall in Portland

The new formal proposal will be reviewed by the Planning & Sustainability Commission on Tuesday, September 13, in an open public hearing at 1900 SW 4th Ave., scheduled to run from 12:30-4:30 pm.  You do not need to be a Portland resident to participate in this critically-important hearing!

The PSC will then decide in early October, after an open meeting without additional testimony, whether to forward any zoning amendments to the City Council for review, possible amendment, and approval.  If they do, the Council itself will hold public hearings and vote in late November or early December.

For more information, or to join in as part of the Oregon Sierra Club team in the September 13 PSC hearing, please contact Ted Gleichman, ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org, 503-781-2498.  And please stay tuned!


Portland Rocks Hard Against the TPP!

September 2, 2016
 By Alexander Harris
Night Crowd - Signs

Artists and organizers on stage for the finale!

On Saturday, August 20, over a thousand Oregonians came together in downtown Portland to “Rock Against the TPP” with musicians, comedians, and activists from around the country. The concert tour’s stop in Portland not only had outstanding music and spectacular speeches, but also featured a photo petition with huge props (TPP Death Star), a beer garden, trade-themed carnival games, and more!

Earlier in the afternoon, dozens of climate activists attended an educational workshop on how the TPP’s policy failures would exacerbate climate change and degrade the planet. Expert panelists drilled into the shortcomings of the environmental chapter and also discussed how the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process could hinder local climate action in the Northwest. The workshop was followed by a lively march with chants and creative street theater, eventually arriving to the concert venue just before the show began.

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Over a hundred marched and joined the creative street theater!

Erica - Rock Against

Erica Stock, new ED of OR Chapter

The next day, Portland’s Rock Against the TPP festivities ended with a TPP 101 teach in, which gave the 100-or-so attendees a solid foundation to better understand this complicated issue. In all, 58 labor, environmental, and human rights organizations throughout the state played a role in this weekend of action. With the strong leadership of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, the Sierra Club, and many others the trade justice movement continues to grow in Oregon!

To continue to build the pressure, Sierra Club members have created a TPP working group open to anyone interested in stopping this trade deal! Our first monthly meeting is Thursday, September 8, at the Sierra Club office (1821 SE Ankeny, Portland). Come learn how you can plug into this important campaign to stop the largest free trade deal in history!

Contact Tom Sincic for more info:
503-901-7519  –  sincict@q.com
      Climate Warriors!
Over a thousand activists from around the entire state demonstrated their opposition to the TPP
Huge crowd

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!


Hood River County Votes Against Nestlé!

May 21, 2016

 

KeepNestleOutOfTheGorgeCoalition

The Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition celebrates the passage of Ballot Measure 14-55

by Francesca Varela

On Tuesday, the people of Hood River County voted to block Nestlé from building a water-bottling plant near the city of Cascade Locks. Ballot Measure 14-55—a countywide ban on commercial bottled-water facilities—passed easily, and has set an important precedent, not only for Oregon, but for the rest of the country.

Massive corporations like Nestlé are not invulnerable; they can be challenged by citizens, by people. Environmental groups like the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, and BARK joined with the Alliance for Democracy, AFSCME, and several others to create the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition, which has led the effort against Nestlé. It’s been a long fight, one spanning almost eight years, but well worth the effort.

Nestlé’s plan was to bottle 100 million gallons annually from state-owned Oxbow Springs. A public resource turned into a commodity; fresh, wild spring water entrapped on grocery store shelves, branded as Arrowhead and Pure Life, and sold at a steep profit. Shipping trucks would have rumbled continuously through the Gorge, carrying away the water that once wove through its hills. In a time of increasing droughts, this just didn’t seem right. Why should we have our own water sold back to us?

Climate change is making droughts more common throughout the Pacific Northwest, and, ironically, the bottled water industry is contributing to the situation; just think of the shipping, the energy intensive factories, and the bottles themselves, which are made of petroleum-based plastic. These bottles, once empty, usually end up in our oceans, or our rivers, until they’re eaten by aquatic life and leach plastic chemicals into all layers of the food web, or lie tangled in a mass of floating garbage for millennia.

Farmers, orchardists, fishermen, and Native peoples from varied backgrounds supported the measure, citing their worries about water depletion and the chance that, if Nestlé’s plant was built, other companies might follow their lead, bottling up the cold, clean water needed for agriculture, salmon, and life in Hood River County.

With their supposed omnipotence, multi-national corporations like Nestlé are difficult foes to face, but, as we’ve seen, they’re far from unbeatable. Rather than Oregon being the first state to transfer state-owned water rights to a private entity, we’re the first to house a county ban on water bottling. This is thanks in part to the efforts of Sierra Club members Joy Keen and Nancy Hatch, and their work with the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition. They kept Nestlé at bay long enough that, despite spending $105,000 to defeat the measure, citizen voices have still been heard, saying that water is life— and our lives are not for sale.


Join us in Salem on May 23 to speak out for the Owyhee!

May 18, 2016

The Owyhee needs you NOW.

South Fork Owyhee (photo credit: Chad Case)

South Fork Owyhee (photo credit: Chad Case)

Will you join us in Salem on Monday, May 23, to ensure our Oregon lawmakers know Oregonians want the Owyhee Canyonlands protected?

The House Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water Committee will meet to discuss permanent protection for the Owyhee. A group opposing protection will be there in force, so it’s critical that supporters like you show our leaders how much you care about protecting the Owyhee.

We’ll meet at Oregon Capitol Building’s main entrance (900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301) at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 23. See map.

Schedule
8 a.m. Arrive at Capitol
8:30 a.m. Committee session starts
Noon: Owyhee Rally!
1:30 p.m. Grab a slice of pizza and head for the bus or your car to travel home!

Getting There
Drive yourself: Arrive at Capitol Building’s main entrance (900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301) at 8 a.m. Get parking information here.

Get on the bus: We’ll have coffee and pastries for early risers!

 

  • Bend Bus: Departs Oregon Natural Desert Association’s office (50 SW Bond St. Ste #4, Bend, OR 97702) at 5 a.m. Monday. Returns by 4:30 p.m.

 

What to bring
Please wear bright blue to show you’re an Oregonian who is #WildForTheOwyhee! We’ll have buttons and posters for everyone. Birder? Kayaker? Backpacker? Bring the gear you love to use in the Owyhee. And bring family and friends!

RSVP!
Let us know you can make it AND if you’ll be hopping on the Portland or Bend bus. RSVP here by noon on May 20.

Thank you for being a strong voice for the wildlife, lands and waters of the Owyhee. Together, we’ll ensure this Oregon treasure is protected, forever!

P.S. Can’t make it? Please send an email telling the House Committee that you love the Owyhee and want to see it protected, now! Send your note to hrcluw.exhibits@state.or.us