We are thrilled to announce two new faces!

May 17, 2017

Ethan Taswell joins us as our Storyteller Intern for the summer of 2017.  In his new role, Ethan will embark on a multimedia storytelling project to increase awareness of our Organization’s work, with a focus on the volunteer, community-based advocates who make it possible.  In addition to telling the story of the Oregon Chapter and the environmental issues it works to solve, Ethan will travel the state meeting the Chapter’s volunteers, writing and photographing their stories in order to engage more grassroots advocates, donors and supporters to rally around the Chapter’s efforts to stand up for Oregon’s natural resources, wildlife, and wild places.

unnamed-2Ethan is a rising junior at Brown University where he is studying Environmental Science with a specific track in Conservation Science and Policy.  He is currently working on an initiative in Rhode Island to reduce peak electricity demand and has previously worked as an assistant to a professional photography firm and later as a communications intern for the Nature Conservancy Maryland/DC Field Office.  So far, his studies have centered around ecology and environmental law.

Originally from Maryland, Ethan developed his love and appreciation for the outdoors by exploring the Potomac River via trail and canoe. In his free time, Ethan likes to hike, climb, play board games, read a good book, and fine-tune his key lime pie recipe.  He is thrilled to explore Oregon for the first time this summer!

Preferred Gender Pronouns: He/Him/His

Languages Spoken: English

contact: ethan_taswell@brown.edu

Olivia (Libby) Bakonyi joins us as an intern from Melbourne University. She is currently in the last phase of her Masters of Environment degree which she began in March 2015. She has studied a range of subjects regarding food policy, food security, local food production methods, climate change, sustainable behavior change, sustainable development, renewable energy alternatives, environmental policy, and forest ecosystems.

She hopes to implement the skills and knowledge gained from her Masters degree into her internship placement with The Sierra Club. Libby is very excited to be part of the team and observe and learn how environmental organisations operate. She has previously completed an internship in Melbourne with The Wildernimage1ess Society, assisting with research on The Great Australian Bight campaign.

Libby and her 4 siblings lived in Italy, Holland, Norway, Scotland, and Houston before settling in Sydney, Australia in 2001. She has spent 5 years studying in Melbourne, where she enjoyed exploring its unique lifestyle and culture. She loves to walk, run, swim in the ocean, and explore all kinds of nature. She also loves to sew, take photographs, and go to music festivals. This will be Libby‘s first visit to Oregon so she is very excited to get out and explore its natural beauty and lifestyle in her free time.

Preferred Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Languages: English

Contact: libbybakonyi4@gmail.com


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/.


City of Portland Will Divest all Corporate Securities & Consider a Public Bank

April 13, 2017

By Ted Gleichman

In a local political shocker, the Portland City Council, deeply divided, has voted to divest all corporate securities from its investment portfolio.  A majority also said they will consider creating a public bank.  This surprise turn to a decade of arguments over corporate behavior and city investments came at the end of a four-hour public hearing April 5.Raging Grannies singing testimony to Portland City Council

 Raging Grannies sing their testimony to Portland City Council. Credit: Ted Gleichman

The city commissioners had wrestled for years with ruling on which companies should or should not be able to use cash owned by the people of Portland.  In the end, they voted 3-2, over strong opposition from new mayor Ted Wheeler, to eliminate all corporate securities from the city’s portfolio, which approaches some $2 billion.  Currently, $539 million of that is invested in corporate bonds and commercial paper.   These funds will be moved into non-corporate investments (generally, government bonds) as each specific corporate security reaches its maturity date or can be redeemed early for greater profit.

Long term, the most important piece of the dramatic meeting may turn out be an informal commitment by a majority of the commissioners to consider creating a city-owned bank, as the vehicle to manage the city’s portfolio.  If that happens, the City of Portland would join the State of North Dakota as owners of the only public banks in the U.S.

The April 5 decision came through the approval of the city’s 2017 investment policy, a document required annually under Oregon law.  In past years, up to 35% of city funds could be invested in top-quality corporate securities, with current specific exclusions on a “Do-Not-Buy List” as a result of earlier battles: Walmart, and the Carbon Underground 200 list of the largest publicly-owned fossil fuels companies globally, 100 coal and 100 oil and gas, all ranked by the size of their proven reserves – a “keep it in the ground” tool.

Fracking Rig-BLM-wind_river-small format

Fracking on public land in Wyoming.
Credit: Pinedale BLM Field Office, Wikimedia  Commons public domain

In 2013, as divestment battles from many perspectives heated up, the city council created the Temporary Socially Responsible Investing Committee (SRI) to advise them.  In 2014, they recreated it without the “Temporary” label.  The new SRI committee, in a remarkable document, recommended in September 2016 that as many as ten companies should be kept on or added to the Do-Not-Buy List.  The proposed additions were Wells Fargo, Caterpillar, Nestle, Amazon, and five other global banks.  After a difficult hearing in December, the then-council imposed a four-month moratorium on any new purchases and directed City Treasurer Jennifer Cooperman to come up with a new policy for 2017, taking everything into account.

The treasurer’s proposed policy essentially ignored the SRI recommendations, and about 150 activists showed up on April 5; 40 testified.  No one supported the treasurer’s recommendations; the corporations singled out most often in the testimony as “the worst of the worst” were Caterpillar and Wells Fargo.  Oregon Sierra Club added its voice to the process; Beyond Gas & Oil Team chair Gregory Monahan and I called for a commitment to SRI and transparency, based on the critical importance of environmental justice in Sierra Club.

Then Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the longest-serving member of the city council, startled the room by proposing an amendment prohibiting any new corporate investments.  Commissioner Saltzman said he was deeply frustrated about the amount of time these debates took away from other work every year, and wanted them over.

Treasurer Cooperman said that decision would cost the city from $3-$5 million a year in lost profits.  That was a key factor in opposition to the amendment by Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz.  The mayor also made a strong statement opposing divestment on principle, with a lot of detail about his six years as state treasurer.  Nonetheless, the Saltzman amendment passed with support from Commissioners Nick Fish and the newly-elected Chloe Eudaly.  The council then unanimously approved the revised policy, putting the city in compliance with the state requirement.

Most of the activists in the room were shocked; none of the leaders of the environmental and faith organizations present had predicted this.  One local divestment leader told me that she didn’t see it as a win, “because now we can’t call out the worst corporations by name.”  Others (including me) felt that a general policy against corporate investing sends a strong positive message on our city’s priorities.

Mayor Wheeler and Commissioners Fish and Eudaly all responded positively to testimony advocating for a public bank, and it’s clear that idea is going get more attention.  Commissioner Eudaly said she and her staff are preparing a report evaluating the options.

The new divestment policy is not a fire sale; corporate securities will leave the portfolio when the treasurer deems the time is right, not overnight.  On the current schedule, the final piece of Portland’s corporate portfolio is a $10 million Wells Fargo security that will pay the city 2.15% profit when it comes due in December 2019.

Dakota_Access_Pipe_Line,_Central_Iowa

Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa. Credit: Carl Wycoff, Creative Commons 2.0

Currently, Wells Fargo – a key financier of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines – is Portland’s top corporate issuer, with almost $78 million in holdings.

Ted Gleichman serves as policy advisor with the Chapter’s Beyond Gas & Oil Team


Working to Make Oregon’s Clean Energy Power Grid a Reality

April 12, 2017

Portland General Electric wants to build new fracked gas power plwind-and-solar_largeants which will lock us into decades of climate wrecking fossil fuel pollution.

PGE’s own analysis shows that our future energy needs can be reliably and affordably met with clean renewable energy which will create hundreds of new green energy jobs for our region.

There are 2 ways you can help us to create a landslide of comments to the Oregon Public Utility Commission

Download a comment card toolkit and gather comment cards from your neighbors and friends.

and

Send an email to your circle of contacts inviting them to use the Sierra Club’s website to submit an email comment.

 

Save the Date:

We just got news that the Oregon Public Utility Commission is going to hold a public hearing on PGE’s energy plan on the evening of Monday May 15th at the Portland Building.  The time is TBD, but very likely in the evening.  

They are holding this hearing specifically so that they can hear the public’s testimony. 

Please save the date and keep an eye out for details & ways that you can help make this a success!  

Keep the Frack Out: Clean Energy for Oregon! 

Thanks for all you do.

Contact Gregory Monahan at gregory.monahan@oregon.sierraclub.org if you need any help or have any questions


Update on the Campaign to Block the Proposed Kalama Methanol Refinery

April 12, 2017

Kalama_kids.jpgIf built, this project would increase fracked gas use by 30% in WA State, entail building new gas pipelines emit over a million tons of new climate pollution per year, drain five million gallons of water per day from the Columbia and Kalama River aquifers, store 72 million gallons of flammable, toxic methanol on soil with moderate to high risk of liquefying in an earthquake.

Want to find out more and get involved? Come to this informational forum!

Event Name: Explained: Climate Impacts From the Worlds’ Largest Methanol Refinery

Event Description: A presentation by Sightline Institute’s Tarika Powell on climate, fracking, and the world’s largest natural gas-to-methanol refinery proposed in the nearby town of Kalama, Washington. Click here for event agenda. More details about the event are available here.

When: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 7:00-8:30 pm

Where: Central Lutheran Church sanctuary 1820 NE 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97212

On April 29th, we will hold a People’s Climate Boat Parade on the Columbia River, pulling media attention to this project. This will be preceded by a rally and followed by a comprehensive activist training.

One Page Flier for the April 29th Activities

The Cowlitz Canoe Family will be preforming an action at this rally. They invite all canoe families to participate in this event to protest the proposed development of dirty fossil fuel development in Southwest Washington including a proposed project that would build the WORLD’s largest methanol gas refinery in Kalama, WA. they are calling on all indigenous people and allies to act in solidarity with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe in opposing these projects.

Fishing boat parade on the Columbia River. Participate from shore at the Port of Kalama marina or sign up to join with your fishing boat!

Saturday, April 29, 2017  10:30 – 11:30 am

Port of Kalama

Attend workshops about effective involvement in your community’s campaign against the coal, oil, and methanol terminals.

Saturday, April 29, 2017  Lunch: noon – 1 pm;  Workshops: 1 – 4 pm

Kalama Community Center

RSVP:Email Landownersandcitizens@gmail.com and RSVP to attend. Be sure to include the following information:

o Your name and phone number

o If you can bring a fishing boat

o If you plan to attend Part One, Part Two or both

o If you need a ride from Vancouver or Longview

o Tell us if you would like to volunteer before April 29th to help make this event a success!


Update: Six weeks into the 2017 Oregon Legislative session

March 22, 2017

By Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director

As predicted in last month’s legislative preview, it’s been a challenging session in the 2017 Oregon Legislature. After several sessions with some real environmental accomplishments (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.

For the past several sessions, we have been a part of a coalition working to try to put a price on carbon in Oregon. We have gone through various iterations of “cap and trade” and “cap and delegate” bills and have had some good hearings and debates in the legislature. This year the Oregon Chapter’s top legislative priority has been to pass a “Clean Energy Jobs bill.” Right now, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee are jointly looking at what might be the best solution for Oregon to create clean energy jobs and hold polluters accountable. The primary contenders so far are Senate Bill 557 and Senate Bill 748, and the committees are holding weekly workgroup meetings to investigate the policies reflected in those bills. You can help move them forward by contacting your legislator and tell them it’s time to act on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

Another climate policy we’ve been spending some time on is an idea called the “Climate Test.” In essence, it is 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. Such proposed projects would also be subject to an environmental impact statement (EIS) with full lifecycle accounting of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with an economic analysis that will show whether a project is viable in a world where climate goals are met. We have bills in both chambers – House Bill 3343 and Senate Bill 1007 – and we hope to be having a hearing on them in early April.

Our other top priority, along with the Clean Energy Jobs bill, will be to pass legislation that can help to solve the ongoing conundrum with the Elliott State Forest. As many of you know, the Elliott has been the subject of much debate recently, as the State Land Board tries to dispose of it in order to satisfy its obligations to the Common School Fund. Senate Bill 847 – a Trust Lands Transfer bill similar to what we worked on in the 2015 session – could be a part of that solution. That bill had its first hearing on March 20 and we are hopeful that it will move forward.

We are also working on a package of bills to address the critical issue of oil trains in our state. House Bill 2131 will help to improve safety and cleanup standards for the trains that are coming through Oregon. House Bill 3344 will make it more difficult to site oil train terminals here. Both bills had their initial public hearings in mid-March and we are awaiting further action on them soon.

A bill to limit the impacts of suction dredge mining on our state’s waters is making progress in the legislature. Senate Bill 3 is moving through the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee now and we are confident that it will have real benefits to salmon habitat in Oregon.

Another bill of interest is House Bill 2711, which would impose a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas fracking in Oregon. There is currently no fracking happening in Oregon and we’d like to keep it that way, so we’re pushing to move that bill forward in the House Energy and Environment committee.

Finally, on proactive legislation, we are supporting Senate Bill 1008, which will create more stringent standards for diesel emissions in Oregon. The bill had a public hearing in early March and we are monitoring its progress closely. In addition to getting dirty diesel out of our air, it will also pave the way for Oregon to receive $68 million in Volkswagen settlement money to fund clean air work in our state.

One bright note from the session is that we have had to play less defense and fight off fewer bad bills than we often have to do. There have been attempts to roll back public lands protections and to take aim at wolves and cougars. But for the most part, the same dynamic that is keeping some “controversial” bills that we like from getting much traction is also keeping the bad bills at bay!

So, as expected, the 2017 session has had both hazards and opportunities, 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!