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.


Getting ready for the 2017 session of the Oregon Legislature

January 25, 2017

state capitolIn some ways, it feels like we just recessed from the 2016 legislative session, in which we had several real victories, like passing the historic Clean Electricity Coal Transition bill. But we’re already headed back to Salem next week for the 2017 session, which is going to be a tough one on many fronts (see this Oregonian article for some perspective). Nevertheless, we are hopeful for some good outcomes and here are a few of the issues we’ll be 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 will be to pass a “Clean Energy Jobs bill.” Legislators have put a lot of solutions forward so far, but for us to back a specific bill, it needs to meet our principles of an enforceable limit on emissions, a price on pollution, and equitable reinvestment in our communities. We’re working with legislators now to come up with the best solution for Oregon to create Clean Energy Jobs and hold polluters accountable. It is long past time to act on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon; stay tuned for more details on this legislation and how you can help pass it.

Another climate bill we’ll be 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.

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 will 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. It’s not entirely clear just yet what form that legislation will take in the 2017 session. A Trust Lands Transfer bill similar to what we worked on in the 2015 session could be a part of that solution. But it’s clear we will need to think even bigger than that if we want to truly solve the Elliott problem.

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Other proactive legislation we will be working on is a package of bills to address the critical issue of oil trains in our state; we need to both improve safety and cleanup standards for the trains that are coming through Oregon, and make it more difficult to site oil trains terminals here. We will also be working on a bill to limit the impacts of suction dredge mining on our state’s waters. There will also be a very large discussion in the 2017 session about finding a transportation package for the state, which has the potential to suck all the air out of the proverbial room, but which we’ll track and engage on as appropriate. Finally, we will play a supportive role on efforts to create more stringent standards for diesel emissions in Oregon.

Of course, we will be playing defense and fighting off bad bills at every turn as well. There will be the inevitable attempts to roll back public lands protections or hand some lands over to counties or private entities. There will be terrible wildlife bills to contend with, and indeed there are already bills out there again to lift the ban on hunting cougars with dogs. And the gigantic budget hole the state is facing will complicate everything in ways we can’t even imagine.

In short, the 2017 session will be fraught with both hazards and opportunities, and we hope to make the best of the latter while avoiding the former to the extent we can. As always, our success will depend largely on you, so stay tuned to find out how you can plug in to make a difference for Oregon.


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


New Report Highlights 10 Wildlife Conservation Priorities for the Trump Administration

December 21, 2016

Among list of imperiled species are Wild Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon, threatened by four lower Snake River dams, climate change

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The report, “removing the Walls to Recovery: Top 10 Species Priorities for a New Administration <http://removingthewallstorecovery.org/> ,” highlights some of the most significant threats to vanishing wildlife such as wild salmon, jaguars and elephants, and identifies important actions the next administration could take to stop their decline and begin to rebuild these populations.

The report includes the imperiled wild Snake River spring/summer Chinook, threatened by four aging and outdated dams on the lower Snake River.

“We nominated Snake River chinook for this report because with climate change, these four money-losing dams become deadlier each summer, when reservoir water temperatures become lethally hot, causing fish kills” said Save Our Wild Salmon Inland Northwest Director Sam Mace.  “But if we free the Snake River of these dams, wild salmon will once again access thousands of miles of pristine, high-elevation habitat that can provide an ark for salmon in a warming world.”

Snake River Chinook salmon, are among the longest and highest-migrating salmon on the planet – often swimming 1,000 miles upstream and climbing more than 6,000 feet in elevation to reach their spawning grounds. More than 130 other species depend upon salmon, including orcas, bears and eagles.

“Since Northwest rivers began to flow, a population of orcas known as the Southern Residents have relied on Columbia basin salmon to sustain them.  Spring chinook that spawn in the Snake River basin are especially critical for survival of this unique and now endangered orca community.  Unfortunately, the lower Snake River dams have decimated this critical food source.  The impact these dams have on this precious, but dwindling, population of orcas, must be addressed.” said Howard Garrett, Board President of Orca Network.

Some of the species in the report, such as the Joshua tree and Elkhorn coral are foundational species, which play a critical role as building blocks for their ecosystems, but are threatened by global climate change.

Other critically important species in the report are keystone species, such as Hawaii’s yellow-faced bee, the jaguar, and the Snake River salmon. All keystone species have a disproportionately large impact on other species and ecosystems, relative to their abundance. For instance, Hawaii’s yellow-faced bee is a pollinator impacted by habitat loss.

The jaguar of the southwest United States is a keystone predator. It is particularly threatened by habitat fragmentation caused, in part, due to impenetrable immigration barriers along the U.S. – Mexican border. The report urges Mr. Trump to abandon plans to further fortify the southern border, and to make existing barriers more wildlife-friendly.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list the greater sage grouse—an umbrella species—as endangered in 2014, citing an unprecedented region-wide habitat conservation effort, tied to state and federal conservation plans. However, several appropriations riders offered in Congress in 2016 would block implementation of these conservation plans, as well as any future Endangered Species Act protections for the imperiled bird. Meanwhile, grouse numbers have declined by 90 percent from historic levels. Protecting umbrella species like sage grouse conserves habitats on which many other species rely.

“Our native fish, plants and wildlife are critically valuable and part of the legacy we leave for future generations of Americans,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “We hope the next administration takes seriously its responsibility to protect endangered species and habitat. The fate of species is in their hands. Their actions could dictate whether species such as the vaquita, the red wolf, and others, become extinct in the wild.”

The remaining species featured in the Endangered Species Coalition’s report include the African elephant, Bald cypress tree, the wolf, and thevaquita – a small endangered Mexican porpoise.

Endangered Species Coalition member groups nominated wildlife species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations, and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with links to photos and additional species information can be viewed and downloaded <http://removingthewallstorecovery.org/> from the website, http://removingthewallstorecovery.org<http://removingthewallstorecovery.org> .

The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports<http://www.endangered.org/campaigns/annual-top-ten-report> are also available on the Coalition’s website.

This report is a re-post from Sam Mace, Inland NW Director, Save Our Wild Salmon sam@wildsalmon.org


PGE Tests Biomass at Boardman Coal Plant – New Report Highlights Climate and Forest Consequences for Country’s Largest Biomass Proposal

December 20, 2016

On December 7th, 2016, we released a report analyzing a proposal from Portland General Electric (PGE) to convert the state’s last coal plant in Boardman, Oregon into one of the world’s largest biomass facilities. The report finds that the proposal may pose major implications for air quality, forest health, and carbon reduction goals. The Boardman Power Plant in northern Oregon is slated to retire in 2020. However, this month, staff are testing the plant’s capacity to run on woody material and energy crops. If the test succeeds, the Boardman plant could be converted to run on 100 percent forest biomass for 5 months of the year.

The new report demonstrates the likely implications if the conversion is made. Key findings include:

 An average biomass power facility emits 40-60% more carbon than coal plants do per megawatt hour of energy generated.

 Over 3.8 million tons of trees and woody material would be needed to operate the plant for 5 months a year. Despite claims by biomass advocates, waste feedstock levels are negligible when compared to the facility’s needs. Therefore, whole trees from public lands would constitute the majority of the feedstock needed.

 Over 800 trucks a day would be required to supply the Boardman facility during peak operation.

 PGE is growing a highly invasive species of giant cane as a feedstock. Arundo Donax causes major damage to ecosystems and watersheds and is opposed as a viable energy solution by dozens of environmental grboardman_coaloups.

“The retirement of the Boardman facility creates an opportunity to replace coal with clean energy like wind and solar, which would be in keeping with the landmark coal transition legislation passed in Oregon earlier this year,” said Rhett Lawrence, legislative director for the Oregon Sierra Club. “There is simply no need to turn our forests into fuel because cleaner energy alternatives are already at hand.”

 

Even though the carbon consequences of biomass are well established, Congress is currently considering legislation that would designate biomass energy as “carbon-neutral.” Just as oil, coal, and gas must be kept in the ground, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, so too must trees be kept in the forest.


FERC Rejects Jordan Cove LNG & Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline – Developer Turns to Trump

December 19, 2016

img_5557A leader from the Yurok Klamath First Nation speaks to a NO LNG Coalition rally at the Oregon State Capitol, November 14, 2016

Article and Photos By Ted Gleichman

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has conclusively rejected the only remaining US West Coast plan to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Canada and the Rockies to Asia. On December 9, 2016, FERC commissioners announced that they had again voted unanimously, 3-0, to refuse federal approval for the $7.6 billion Jordan Cove Energy Project export terminal and the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (PCGP).

Jordan Cove and PCGP are owned by Veresen, Inc., a mid-sized Canadian fossil fuel company trying to use LNG export to catapult into the ranks of the energy big-leagues. On December 15, Jordan Cove announced that they expect that Trump appointees to FERC will reverse the decision, so they intend to restructure the project and reapply for federal approval.

Here’s why Veresen thinks that could work:

FERC is chartered for five members serving five-year terms, and they must be divided between the two major parties (or unaffiliated). Two Republican appointees have completed their terms and those seats are vacant. The three remaining commissioners are all Democrats appointed by President Obama. Because of Senate GOP refusals to consider Administration appointees, the White House did not propose anyone to fill the two GOP vacancies. (Obviously, the expectation was that the Hillary Clinton administration would find two moderate Republicans, to be considered by a Senate that seemed likely to be controlled by Democrats.)

The Trump team will nominate for these two vacancies, and select one of those two to become FERC chair. Presumably, that will happen sometime in the first half of 2017. Then, one of the current Democratic commissioners completes her term June 30. When that vacancy is filled by Trump, his people will constitute a majority. By mid-2019, all five members will be Trump appointees.

FERC’s original ruling against this fracked-gas export project came March 11, 2016, in a 4-0 vote – even the last GOP commissioner opposed Jordan Cove and PCGP. The December 9 decision denied Veresen requests to reopen the federal approval process.

This is FERC’s first-ever LNG export rejection. The agency is funded through back-charging its costs as fees to the energy industry, so it is considered a zero-budget entity for the overstressed federal budget process. FERC is notorious for its easy approvals of dirty fossil fuel projects, making this two-part verdict all the more striking.

FERC’s unprecedented double denial needs to be seen through the frame of an 12-year coordinated grassroots campaign. Dozens of organizations, supporting hundreds of outraged landowners along the pipeline route, have brought together thousands of people all over Oregon to fight this LNG terminal and pipeline.

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Looking across the route of the Pacific Connector fracked-gas pipeline, where it would slash through the Pacific Crest Trail in Jackson County, Oregon

The pipeline would run 232 miles across four counties in southwest Oregon, slashing a clearcut the width of an interstate highway across two mountain ranges, five rivers, and 400-plus wetlands and waterways. It would terminate at the Pacific Ocean in Coos Bay, in a fragile estuary inlet. There, the largest dredging project in Oregon coastal history would reconstruct a sand spit for a massive industrial plant – destroying oyster beds and fisheries.

The plan FERC rejected required a massive new 420-megawatt gas-fired power plant, solely dedicated to Jordan Cove, to cool the fracked gas to minus-261 degrees Fahrenheit, liquefying it for tanker shipping across the Pacific. That plant would have been the largest single carbon emitter in Oregon.

But along with announcing that they would reapply to FERC, Veresen pulled their request to Oregon to approve the new power plant. They said that they would build gas turbines within the liquefaction plant to cool the gas. This may be cheaper for them to construct, but may emit even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  We’ll be watching as they put out new detailed plans.

All this is planned for the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zone in North America, the Cascadia subduction zone. The region is overdue for a earthquake that is guaranteed to be the largest in U.S. history. The Cascadia fault lines crack at a minimum of Magnitude 8, and can exceed Magnitude 9. The earthquake zone ruptures on an average of every 250 years; the last time was 317 years ago, in 1700. The tsunami wiped out every Indigenous coastal village from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

Veresen has presented itself to Oregon stakeholders and elected officials as an inevitable success. Financially, though, Jordan Cove and PCGP are arguably the weakest of some three dozen multi-billion dollar North American LNG export facilities, proposed, approved, or already operating.

FERC rejected Veresen’s plans because the company has no guaranteed contracts to sell the fracked gas overseas. Developers must show a so-called “public benefit” for the people of the United States, and FERC defines that to be determined by approval by the market: If a developer can sell a planned fossil fuel product, they’re good to go. FERC had warned the Calgary-based company for years that guaranteed contracts would be critical for permission to move ahead, with specific requests for progress reports – but got back only vague promises that Veresen was unable to fulfill.

That bottom line requirement was compounded by Veresen’s dismal record in negotiating construction easements from hundreds of landowners along the pipeline route. By the March 11 denial, PCGP could show FERC easements from only 10% of ranchers, farmers, and other private-sector landowners.

FERC has the power to authorize eminent domain against landowners. This controversial and destructive tool in fracked-gas pipeline development has led to bitter struggles all over the country. Developers typically have to negotiate about 80 percent consent by affected landowners before FERC is comfortable authorizing eminent domain against hold-out landowners and local communities. Forced deprivation of property rights is no small matter.

Along the PCGP route, landowners and their environmentalist supporters have fought back hard, pledging resistance. According to FERC, the refusal of this enormous majority of landowners along a pipeline route to sign on was unprecedented. In the March 11 and December 9 announcements, FERC detailed deep concern about using unheard-of levels of eminent domain against 90 percent of private landowners for a project that could not demonstrate a “public benefit.”

The most difficult public issue for project opponents has of course been jobs. The developer can claim accurately that billions of dollars of equipment manufacturing and project construction will generate thousands of temporary living-wage jobs. But jobs that ravage communities and public lands and contribute massively to climate change are not “good” jobs. So simultaneously, we consistently advocate for genuine good jobs, sustainable jobs, converting our state to clean energy and rebuilding our infrastructure for earthquake preparedness and other urgent needs.

As Veresen showed with the announcement that they will now rely on Trump, the battle is not over. It will take the company several months to assemble a new application for FERC and other agencies; that will launch a renewed environmental impact statement (EIS) process. Veresen contends that their September 2015 Final EIS from FERC is still valid, but that is public spin. It still exists, for a project that has been denied, like an obsolete law. They can recycle much of it for their new application, but big pieces of it are obsolete – or were environmentally-flawed when written. Oregon continues to process state permit requests, but our coalition is fighting those effectively too.

For now, some 12 years since this Canadian company came to Oregon, Veresen has no clear path to construction: FERC has taken them off the federal map. Even a Trump-controlled FERC has to follow the law – although we can expect them to push against their legal obligations. We will push back at each step in a federal process that would likely take two years to get to another FERC decision. In the meantime, we will triumph over them in local and state decision-making.

In a country filled with critically-important fights to “Keep It In the Ground,” this battle is one of the most consequential. One way or another, grassroots Oregonians are going to continue to defeat dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and build the just transition.

Ted Gleichman is Policy Advisor with the Beyond Gas & Oil Team, Oregon Chapter


Tell State Lawmakers: Cancel the Elliot State Forest Sale

December 6, 2016

By Mike Allen

In one week the State Land Board will vote on whether to sell the oldest state forest in Oregon. The Elliott State Forest near Coos bay is home to several threatened or endangered species including Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, spotted owl, and the vanishing marbeled murrelet. The murrelet nests high in large trees, and its decline is associated with old forest logging.

The State of Oregon has been frittering away the Elliott for years, selling pieces of it off to timber interests who have gone on to cut off public access and log some massive old trees. Just ten years ago it was 10,000 acres larger. Last year the Land Board decided to put the remaining 83,000 acres up for sale. The asking price of $220.8 million drew exactly one bid.

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The Terms of the Elliott Sale Shortchange Oregonian’s Future

Although the deal requires that the purchaser set aside 25% of the land for conservation, it does not specify which part of the land must be set aside. Nearly half of the Elliott is forest nearly 150 years old, with many older trees mixed in. Older trees, which are more economically valuable, could be harvested and younger stands allowed to age.

Only 50% of the land is required to be kept open to the public, and access could involve fees and other restrictions.

The harvest would only be required to produce forty new jobs over the next ten years.

Oregon Could do Better with the Elliott

Meanwhile, if no further harvests were to occur in the Elliott, it would be capable of storing about two thirds of the total carbon output of the state of Oregon, according to a 2010 analysis by ecotrust. This is just one of the many benefits with indirect but real economic impact that isn’t fully appreciated by the state’s analysis.

The Elliott is rugged terrain, with limited access. It has no trails and no official campgrounds. But for the intrepid and adventurous it holds big rewards: massive old growth trees, pristine creeks teaming with fish, deer and elk and the rarest of Western Oregon species. This is our last chance: if the Elliott is sold we will never get it back, and it will never be the same. Call Governor Brown, Secretary Atkins, and Treasurer Wheeler and tell them to save the save the Elliot, a priceless resource for all Oregonians.

Take Action to Save the Elliot State Forest:

Gov. Kate Brown – (503) 378-4582
Ted Wheeler – (503) 378-4329
Jeanne Atkins – (503) 986-1523

The Sierra Club Oregon Chapter will participate in a rally at the Keizer Civic Center at 9 am on December 13th to let lawmakers know how Oregonians feel about losing their wilderness heritage to private interests.  Details HERE!

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