Legislative Update: Suction dredges, clean energy jobs, Elliott, and nukes!

May 15, 2017

We’ve now passed the midway point of the 2017 Oregon legislative session, and so far, it’s been something less than a walk in the park. As noted in previous updates, after several sessions with some real environmental progress (but also partisan divisiveness), we knew we would have a hard slog in making much progress in 2017. So things have gone pretty much as expected so far, and here are some updates on a few of the issues we’re working on.

This year the Oregon Chapter’s top legislative priority has been to pass the “Clean Energy Jobs bill” to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and create a “cap and invest” program. After the Senate version of the concept (SB 557) met an untimely demise, the focus has shifted to the House version, HB 2135. That bill currently sits in the House Rules Committee, as the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee hold periodic informational hearings to sort through the details of the proposal. It’s still possible we can move a bill in the 2017 session and you can help by contacting your legislators to tell them it’s time to act on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

Another climate policy we were working on was the “Climate Test”, which was essentially a scaled-down version of a State Environmental Policy Act that would apply to fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Oregon. Like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it would require cross-agency communications to consider the impacts of proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects and subject such proposals to an environmental impact statement (EIS) with full lifecycle accounting of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, though we had good hearings in both the Senate and House environment committees, the bills failed to make it out of committee. But we hope to be back with this idea next session!

Our other top priority continues to be passing legislation that can help to solve the ongoing conundrum with the Elliott State Forest. As described elsewhere in this month’s Oregon Update, we had a real victory on May 9, when the State Land Board voted to keep the Elliott in public ownership. Many details remain to be sorted out, including finding a pathway to $100 million in bonding and passing Senate Bill 847, the Trust Lands Transfer bill. But we are hopeful that a real solution can be found to preserve the Elliott for all of us.

One potential bright spot for this session might come with the bill to limit the impacts of suction dredge mining on our state’s waters. Senate Bill 3 passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote in April and it is scheduled to be voted on in the House any day now. While this bill has been compromised from its initial version, it will still have real benefits to salmon habitat in Oregon. We hope to see this legislation enacted into law very soon!

One bill that recently sprung to our attention is SB 990 – the “nuke in a box” bill. This bill would create a loophole for local government sponsored small modular reactor nuclear power plants that would sidestep Oregon’s 1980 voter-enacted moratorium on nuclear power plant construction until a permanent waste disposal site for high-level radioactive waste is established by the federal government. Unfortunately, this misguided bill escaped the attention of just about everyone in the Oregon environmental community and it passed the Senate without serious opposition. We are working now to make sure that it doesn’t have such an easy glide path in the House.

Another bill we’ve been working on is House Bill 2711, which would impose a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas fracking in Oregon. The bill passed out of the House in April, though unfortunately in a fairly partisan fashion, so its prospects in the Senate are slightly less bright. We are also working on a package of bills to address the critical issue of oil trains in our state. House Bill 2131 and Senate Bill 7 will help to improve safety and cleanup standards for the trains that are coming through Oregon. Both bills currently sit in the Rules committees of their respective chambers.

Senate Bill 1008 would have created more stringent standards for diesel emissions in Oregon. Unfortunately, that bill has been largely gutted and is no longer nearly as strong as it needs to be. We are supporting our allies’ efforts to make it stronger in the Senate Rules Committee. This legislation will also pave the way for Oregon to receive $68 million in Volkswagen settlement money to fund clean air work in our state. So we hope that we can get the bill back to the point where it will also get dirty diesel out of our air.

Finally, as many of you know, the transportation package is one of the major focuses for the Oregon Legislature this year. We are supporting our partners’ efforts to create a package that will invest in the infrastructure and services that most meet Oregonians’ needs: rural and urban transit, safe walking and biking options, clean air solutions, and public accountability. The outlines of the proposed transportation package have just been revealed and we are currently assessing how best to engage in that discussion.

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


Climate Recovery’s Essential Ingredients

May 12, 2017

If you’re concerned about climate change, you know that time is of the essence. To meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 Degree Celsius target (that Climate scientists recommend), the world must reduce GHG emissions to essentially zero by 2050[1]. To accomplish this we must immediately start to replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy and energy efficiency.  However, at the national level and even at the state-level here in Oregon, it’s hard to get effective and sufficient carbon reduction legislation passed. That’s why work at the city level is becoming increasingly important.

The Sierra Club’s YouCAN Corvallis group, in partnership with Our Children Trust, is working to pass a Climate Recovery Ordinance to ensure implementation of Corvallis’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).  The City is set to propose an ordinance and a way to implement the CAP, but it’s missing essential ingredients, such as: up-to-date, science-based GHG reduction goals that the City can be held accountable to; and annually tracking our progress with ways to get back on track if we’re not. We need these ingredients so that the earth doesn’t reach the 6+ Degrees Celsius that’s predicted if President Trump’s pledge to expand fossil fuel extraction to the max is followed through with. We might not be able to influence Trump’s administration right away, but we can influence our local leaders right now.

YouCanCorvallis Team Members

Therefore we submitted to the City Council Climate Recovery Ordinance, and we’re asking people to add their name here, in support. By adding your name you’ll let the Corvallis City Council know you support adding all the essential ingredients needed to make a greenhouse reduction ordinance meaningful.  –Thank you from the YouCAN Corvallis Team!

[1] On the last day of the Paris Summit, a panel of leading climate scientists evaluated what would be necessary to achieve its targets.  Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that for any chance of reaching the 1.5C target the richest nations need to reach zero fossil fuel use by 2030.  Kim Nicholas, “Top Scientists weigh in on current draft of Paris climate agreement,” Road to Paris, December 11, 2015, http://roadtoparis.info/2015/12/11/top-scientists-weigh-in-on-current-draft-of-paris-climate-agreement/.


We welcome a new face!

February 15, 2017

Version 2

Nakisha Nathan joins us as our new Organizer. In her new role, she will start off with legislative organizing the clean energy jobs bills, and other climate work.

Nakisha’s love for nature and commitment to Environmental Justice stem from spending her formative years living in Panama, Canada, Texas and throughout the United States.

A few years after graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in bioenvironmental science, Nakisha began her community organizing journey with Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) where she and her colleagues generated statewide pressure that helped convince Dell and Apple Computers to establish a free Computer TakeBack program.

In the Summer of 2012, Nakisha moved to Portland and began her studies toward earning a Master of Science degree in Education, with a specialization in Leadership for Sustainability Education from Portland State University. During her time at PSU, she worked as a  STEAM Garden Educator, cultivating students’ curiosity and facilitating experiential learning opportunities.

She joins Sierra Club after working as a Community and Environmental Justice Organizer with Neighbors for Clean Air, and as the Program Coordinator for the Organizer-in-Training program at OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon.

When she’s not at work, Nakisha can be found playing a variety of games with her friends and family; camping with her partner and two dogs; photographing Oregon’s natural landscapes, flora and fauna; or, gleefully pursuing her quest to find every member of the Araucaria araucana species in Portland.


Developing a Rapid Response Team

January 26, 2017

In response to the Trump administration’s anti-environment, anti-justice agenda – Oregon Sierra Club is creating a state-based Rapid Response Team. The Rapid Response Team is a powerful network of grassroots volunteers who want to take immediate and regular action to defend Oregon’s progress and values. By uniting and raising our voices, we will defend justice and equity in our communities; ensure clean air and clean water; protect public lands, forests, fish and wildlife; and continue our transition to a clean energy economy.

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This team will offer opportunities to build highly skilled volunteer organizers and leaders, foster movement building through cross-issue events, and push Washington, D.C. and local decision-makers to stand strong on key issues. 

Please fill out our Rapid Response Team form so we can let you know when we need your help and support. And stay tuned for more information.


Unite Against Hate with the One Oregon Coalition

January 11, 2017

It’s been two months since the election and I’m still reeling.

Donald Trump’s victory represents an assault on people of color – undocumented people and  other immigrants in particular. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented over 700 hate crimes committed in the week following the election. The danger for LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, refugees, people of Muslim faith and others with marginalized identities is very real, and will only grow after inauguration day.

The Sierra Club will not be silent in the face of injustice. We will not sit idly by as our volunteers, our staff, and our friends and neighbors are deported. We will unite in the face of hatred and rise to the greatest challenge the modern progressive movement has ever faced.

That’s why we’re in solidarity with the One Oregon Coalition, ready to fight against inhumane new immigration laws and policies at every turn. We are mobilizing to Salem on Saturday January 14th for the United for Immigrant Rights March and Rally.  We’ll have an #envirosforimmigrantrights contingency, wearing green scarves. Please join us.

WHAT:  United for Immigrant Rights March and Rally

WHERE: Oregon State Capitol Front Steps, 900 Court St NE, Salem, Oregon 97301

WHEN: Saturday, January 14th, 11:30 am – 3:00 pm

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See here for transportation from Portland thanks to The Bus Project and the event Facebook page.

We support Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives in their struggle for basic human dignity and respect for the sanctity of human life. We stand with the Standing Rock Sioux, and with all Indigenous people around the globe fighting for their sovereignty and right to self-determination. We are ready to confront any and all challenges to the safety of our queer and trans friends and family and to women’s right to control their own bodies. Now more than ever, we must clearly and loudly articulate our solidarity with all people threatened by the frighteningly violent and nativist rhetoric coming from the new presidential administration.

The Sierra Club’s mission is to “enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.” The human and social environment in which we live just got a whole lot less safe and healthy for a whole lot of folks. It is our mission, our obligation and our moral imperative as people of conscience to resist any attempts from our federal government to tear apart Oregon families with attacks on immigrant and refugee communities.

This is not normal, and will never be normal. On January 20th when Donald Trump takes office, I will be in the streets, marching arm in arm with my community to express our resistance to the racist, sexist, homophobic and nativist policies he has promised to enact. And before then, we hope you’ll join us on January 14th, to rally to make sure that immigrant and refugee communities know that folks with privilege have their backs.

History has its eye on us in this dark moment. This is a time we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives, and we haven’t got a second to waste.  Today I ask you to join me in committing to stand with the One Oregon Coalition against hate – and I hope to see you in the streets on January 14th and January 20th.

Erica Stock

Executive Director, Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club


Solar Inclusion Project

October 26, 2016

The Marys Peak Group (MPG) has developed a project to support the Sierra Club’s efforts to increase the use of solar power and to become more inclusive of diverse communities. Up to this point, the marketing target and users of solar energy have primarily been restricted to the upper economic classes of our society.

The MPG has long taken the position of “action over words” and “put our money where our mouth is.”  In an effort to broaden the usage of solar power throughout the economic spectrum, the MPG initiated and collaborated with Benton Habitat for Humanity, Seeds for the Sol and Abundant Solar, LLC to initiate the Solar Inclusion Project (SIP).

SIP has 3 goals:

  1. Inclusion and Independence – Provide solar energy systems on Benton Habitat for Humanity homes to include a wider economic diversity of families into the solar energy revolution and to provide a greater opportunity for the recipient families to experience economic independence.
  2. Collaboration – Create a unique collaboration of a social services organization, environmental non-profit, a funding organization and a for-profit business to help resolve some fundamental community problems.
  3. Model Project – Create a project model and process that can be used at the community, state or national levels by both the Sierra Club and Habitat for Humanity organizations.

The MPG provided $6,500 to kick-start and help fund this project. Seeds for the Sol is providing creative funding sources for the remaining funds. Abundant Solar is installing the systems below the profit threshold.

The kick-off ceremony on September 20, 2016 included the contribution of the funding by the MPG to Benton Habitat for Humanity, a signing of the commitment by the four member organizations,  plus speeches by the four organizations, including Oregon Chapter Executive Director Erica Stock and the Director of the Oregon Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to providing solar energy to low-income housing families, the MPG has also received very positive publicity and recognition.

In very quick fashion, all necessary funds and donations were raised and as a result of the publicity. Another donor has also stepped forward to fund the 3rd Habitat Home solar installation. The MPG is now seeking additional community benefactors.

The first project will be the installation of solar systems on three Benton Habitat for Humanity homes in Corvallis in the first half of November 2016.

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This collaboration is the first collaboration of its kind locally among environmental, social services, financial and business organizations. Karen Rockwell, the executive director of Benton Habitat said of the venture that, “I couldn’t be more excited about the Sierra Club’s decision to select Benton Habitat for Humanity to partner with on this project. Providing these funds allows us to provide Habitat homeowners with increased affordability and environmental sustainability. Not only will the cost of power to the families be substantially reduced, the project also goes hand-in-hand with our community’s sustainability goals!”

The MPG has met the first two parts of our SIP mission – inclusion and collaboration. In an effort to meet the third mission point – to model – the MPG encourages other Sierra Club groups to consider similar Environmental/Social/Financial/Business collaborations. Interested groups can contact MPG ExCom Chair Robert White at lwii47@gmail.com for further information.


New Faces!

September 28, 2016
We are thrilled to announce two new recent hires within the Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club!


magdaMagda Mendez-Martinez  joins us as our new Outreach and Development Coordinator.  In her new role, Magda will be to coordinating and assisting with with chapter fundraising campaigns, membership and volunteer engagement, strategic communications and marketing efforts, as well as capacity building projects to help increase the effectiveness of the Oregon Chapter.
Originally hailing from Mexico City and having lived in Melbourne, Australia for 3 years studying environmental policy and communications, Magda brings cultural competency and a global prospective to Sierra Club. She is fully fluent in English and Spanish, and her experience includes managing an innovation workshop to enhance sustainable practices in Melbourne. She is passionate about climate change and has also previously worked in marketing and communications within the public and private sector performing strategic planning, community and stakeholders engagement, database management and public relations tactics. She most recently interned at Oregon Environmental Council, Living Cully “Verde”, and The United Nations Environmental Programme in New York supporting environmental policy analysis, research, and translation.
Magda can be reached at magda.mendez@sierraclub.org

alexMany  already know Alex Harris, our new Biomass Organizer. Alex joined the Sierra Club in 2015 to help fight against the wave of fossil fuel infrastructure projects proposed in the Northwest. Since joining the Club he has organized against oil, coal, and methanol proposals in Washington State and helped mobilize resistance to the largest free trade agreement in history: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In his new role, Alex will be working as part of our team to ensure that dirty sources of energy do not replace retired fossil fuel infrastructure, such as coal plants. Specifically, Alex is working to close a loophole currently proposed in Congress that classifies all biomass as carbon neutral, which could have dangerous implications for climate change, forest management, and public health.
Please feel free to get in touch with Alex if you would like to learn more about biomass or if you’d like to get more involved on biomass issues. Alex can be reached at alex.harris@sierraclub.org
We couldn’t be more excited for Magda and Alex to join our team! Please feel free to reach out and welcome them to the Sierra Club.