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.

2457514213_a8e4935293_b

⇒ 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.


Third Thursday Potluck & Presentation: Environmental Impacts of Trade Promotion Authority and the TPP

March 16, 2015

Third Thursday Potluck & Presentation

Join us for a potluck and presentation on the environmental impacts of Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, and the TransPacific Partnership.

 WHEN: March 19th at 6:00pm

 WHERE: Oregon Chapter Sierra Club office (1821 SE Ankeny St. Portland OR)

 WHY: Meet, eat, and learn how Congress, the United State Trade Representative, and the President fall short on their promises and ideals for how to protect our environment here and abroad.

 Included in the presentation will be:

  • A brief history of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), how it works and why it was created,
  • What TPA could mean for the TPP,
  • How TPP may impact Oregon jobs, environmental protections abroad, and timber and agriculture exports here in Oregon
  • Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) – what it is and how it’s used
  • What’s Congress doing?? Update on Sen. Wyden-Sen. Hatch negotiations and where our Representatives stand.

Please bring a dish or drink to share, come with questions and let’s keep the pressure on Congress to draft responsible trade legislation!

Please RSVP here on Meetup or here on Facebook.

Call or email me with any questions – hope to see you Thursday!

Morgan Gratz-Weiser

morgan.gratzweiser@sierraclub.org 

707-672-2618

 


March 5, 2015

Hello,

I’m Andy Maggi, the new Chapter Director of your Sierra Club here in Oregon. Its an honor to have this opportunity to introduce myself. A little over a month ago I was honored to be chosen for this position. You, like me, know just how important the Sierra Club is when it comes to protecting public health, our wild places, fighting polluters, and leading the fight to curb climate change. You know the history and record of victories that make the Sierra Club a leader in the national environmental movement. That’s a legacy hard to pass up being a part of, and one that I take seriously. You can visit our website to see my full biography, but I come to the Club with a deep commitment to the issues and values you’ve already been working to forward. I’ve worked years fighting for and electing candidates who share those priorities and want to see real progress when it comes to protecting public health, the environment, and curbing green house gas emissions.

There isn’t enough room here to tell you all of my ideas and hopes for my time as Oregon Chapter Director, but to put it as simply as I can – I believe we will do great things together.

With supporters like you, committed volunteers, and a legacy of environmental protection, we can accomplish a lot right here in Oregon. Whether we meet on the trail at one of the Chapter’s outings, at a table talking to the public about our priorities, on the phone getting new volunteers engaged with our work, or at a training I look forward to working with you. I’m excited about the opportunities we have at the Chapter and excited to meet you soon.

In the meantime, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out.

Signature_AndyMaggi


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!


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!


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