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!


ODF Proposes Massive Clearcuts for Oregon’s State Forests

March 2, 2015

The Oregon Department of Forestry recently presented a timber-centered vision for the new Forest Management Plan on the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests.

Under the proposal, north coast watersheds like the Trask, Nehalem, Salmonberry, Kilchis, and Wilson (below) would be clearcut extensively:

Upper Wilson River - Clearcuts in RED

Upper Wilson River – Clearcuts in RED

Key proposals included:

  • Devoting 70% of the forest to industrial clear cutting and pesticide spraying to dramatically increase harvest.
  • Clear cutting most of the new High Value Conservation Areas that are currently protected for older forest.
  • A formal policy to prioritize cutting of oldest trees in the “production zone” so species cannot recover.
  • Using the extra revenue to increase the ODF budget by 30%.
  • Redefining conservation areas to include clearcuts.

No, we are not making this up!

ODF’s plan is very similar to the 70-30 proposal pushed by Hampton Affiliates, a private firm that wants the logs for their mills.

Maps based on ODF data provide images of the current plan and ODF’s devastating proposal. Red areas are removed from conservation protection and opened to clearcutting:

Fortunately, a conservation-minded member of the Board blocked this initial proposal, but ODF leadership have clearly made a power move to expand their budget as the Governor changes. The Department was directed to seek alternative revenues for their state forest program, but are clearly focused only on increasing harvest levels dramatically.

Tell Governor Brown to Reject ODF’s Clearcut Plan!


Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club Announces New Director

January 7, 2015

Sierra Club LogoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  January 7, 2015

Portland, Ore. – The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is pleased to announce that Andy Maggi will be taking on the Chapter Director role for the organization starting January 12th, 2015. bringing with him a strong dedication to Oregon’s environmental movement. Maggi most recently worked on Senator Jeff Merkley’s successful re-election campaign. Before that, he spent several years with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters where he was the architect of several of OLCV’s key political victories.

Maggi is eager to assume his new responsibilities with the Club, stating, “When it comes to protecting the environment there are few names more symbolic or powerful than the Sierra Club and I’m thrilled to be joining them as the Oregon Chapter Director. Oregon is a beautiful state, and we need to protect our rivers, lakes, mountains, oceans, and special places while addressing big challenges like Climate Change. I look forward to working with staff, leaders, and volunteers of the Oregon chapter as we grow this organization and lead the public and elected officials to making the right decisions when it comes to protecting our environment”.

Added Larry Pennington, Board Chair of the Oregon Chapter, “Andy’s experience with in the environmental and political communities will be invaluable to what we want to accomplish as a chapter. We are honored to add him to our team as we pursue conservation victories for Oregon.”

Maggi will be taking over as Chapter Director from Brian Pasko, who has led the organization since 2008.

The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is a diverse, volunteer-driven organization that empowers communities to protect the climate, preserve wild places, and experience the beauty of the natural environment.

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Salmon: Closer to home than you might think!

December 9, 2014

For most people, “salmon” is an expensive, unnaturally pink piece of fish at the grocery store. It is a potential meal, detached from its context by thousands of miles. Even those of us who are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest often have only a distant relationship to these iconic fish. However, there are places where we can bridge the gap and connect with an elusive and integral part of our history, culture, cuisine, and economy.

Just over an hour from Portland, and a mere 30 minutes from the fast-growing cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro, one can sit on an isolated stream bank and share hours with spawning coho salmon. For the uninitiated, this is an eye-opening experience that can open new ways of looking at the natural world on which we depend. However, these are also the last hours of the salmons’ lives. They travel over 100 miles up rivers like the Nehalem, the Salmonberry, the Trask, and the Wilson to spawn where they hatched 3-5 years before, dying in the process of continuing their line.

Photo Dec 06, 11 48 02 AM

Oregon coastal coho are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. 2014 saw a very good return, but ocean conditions and inadequately protected inland habitat remain concerns for these fish.  The Tillamook and Nehalem basins are producers of some of the strongest and most diverse wild runs of salmon in Oregon, but the emphasis given to industrial timber in the region threatens these strongholds.

Our publicly-owned north coast forests, the Tillamook & Clatsop State Forests, likely hold the key to salmon habitat in northwest Oregon. The management of these lands is currently undergoing a revision. Some stakeholders would like to see these lands managed with even more emphasis on timber production, a move that would likely harm wild salmon and take away the possibility of connecting with these fish.

Click here to find out more about the Sierra Club’s efforts to protect these lands.


OREGON CHAPTER SEEKS NEXT CHAPTER DIRECTOR

October 22, 2014

Sierra Club LogoIn 2008, Brian Pasko joined the Oregon Chapter as our Chapter Director. After more than a decade of employment with the Sierra Club he will be leaving the Chapter around the end of 2014.  In preparation for his departure, the Oregon Chapter is actively recruiting our next Chapter Director.

This is an opportunity to work with the best environmental activists in the state on conservation issues close to home. We’re looking for that unique combination of a green fire in the belly, strong budget and team management skills, and the ability to work with a wide variety of stakeholders to accomplish great things, including increased financial support for our programs.

If you’re ready to tackle a leadership role for an organization focused on keeping the Oregon air clear, our trees green and our wildlife protected, please click here for all the details and to apply.


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.

colstrip

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.

 

 


What’s in a Plan?

October 1, 2014

The Oregon Board of Forestry continues to explore new Forest Management Plans that will both provide financial viability to the Department of Forestry and improve conservation outcomes on the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests. On September 29th, the Board weighed two options developed by ODF. A “Land Allocation” proposal suggested putting at least 30% of the forest into a conservation zone and managing other portions of the forest for different degrees of timber production. A “Landscape Management” proposal is similar to the current forest management plan, with various types of forest structure moved around the landscape over time. The latter proposal suggests sacrificing habitat in smaller forest districts, such as the Santiam. The Board moved a motion to explore/pursue land allocation proposal, but did not move any specifics such as those in the ODF proposal.

As Ian Fergusson, Resource Director for NW Steelheaders, put it, either proposal has the potential to succeed or fail. The devil is in the details, and as of now, the details haven’t been worked out. In order to improve conservation outcomes, any plan would likely need to improve riparian buffers to provide adequate shade and wood delivery to streams, increase the amount of older forest on the landscape, reduce clearcutting on steep slopes, and decrease the forest road network, which currently is very expansive and can lead to sediment problems in streams. Both ODF proposals include expanding no-cut buffer zones on fish-bearing streams to 115 feet, reflecting current scientific literature that suggests little or no riparian management is best for stream health. 115 feet is a good start, but it is unclear that it is adequate. Non-fish bearing streams would benefit from a no-cut buffer of at least 75 feet. Current standards are much less protective.

Buster Creek in the Clatsop State Forest

Buster Creek in the Clatsop State Forest

The timber industry delivered extensive testimony asking for a zoned approach, such as the “Land Allocation” proposal. However, timber representatives asked for a significant reduction in conservation areas. Their vision would see nearly twice as much landscape clearcut as the current plan! An Association of Oregon Loggers representative urged the Board to curtail public input and not seek public approval when devising a new plan, stating that the timber industry was a more important stakeholder than the Oregonians who own these lands.

The Trust Land Counties, who receive a significant portion of revenue from state forest timber harvests, did not advocate for either proposal nor did they put forward alternative ideas. They argued against the Department pursuing a Habitat Conservation Plan, which would provide habitat and timber predictability for the long-term. The Counties’ unwillingness to meaningfully participate in the process does not bode well for a new plan being created.

Sierra Club staff and volunteers, along with our ally groups in the North Coast State Forest Coalition urged the Board to move forward keeping conservation improvements in mind. The success of either plan hinges on balance, public input, and the best science available. Dollars cannot be the only driver determining the future of these forests. These lands have been over-logged and burnt. They are just beginning to recover, and their protection is crucial to Oregon’s economy and environment.

Read the Forest Grove News-Times’ coverage of this process here.


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