By Ted Gleichman, policy advisor, Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team
Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) has proposed zoning amendments for review by the Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) that are substantially less destructive than the agency’s original plan. But “less bad” does not equal “good.”
BPS was charged with implementing parts of the ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure for export and storage that the City Council approved unanimously last November. Their original draft zoning amendments were filled with loopholes, and basically gave the industry an open door to unlimited expansion.
BPS was flooded with more than 700 comments to the draft plan, the vast majority calling for a true ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.
To their credit, agency staff reworked their zoning ordinance proposals with very thorough and diligent staff work. BPS has now proposed to narrow the opportunities for industry expansion in four important ways:
- The new zoning would define “Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminal” as a tank with more than five million gallons of capacity – a tad smaller than the current 300+ tanks in Portland, but still huge.
- New Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would be banned, but new tanks under five million gallons could still be built so long as they do not include the infrastructure necessary to transload the fuels for export.
- Existing Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would be defined as “non-conforming uses” – a zoning designation that means ‘they are already here but we don’t want to let them in again.’
- Changes and expansions to the non-conforming current Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would require approval by a hearings officer after a public hearing. Any approvals could be challenged in court under land use law (which does not include, for example, increased climate destruction). Almost all of these tanks are in the earthquake liquefaction zones, on dredged soils along the Willamette River north of downtown Portland – a truly insane place to build or expand anything, but especially not dangerous flammable explosive fossil fuel infrastructure.
The basic problem now is that important parts of these proposals do not yet reflect the clear understanding in the City Council’s binding policy in Resolution No. 37168 to move beyond fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
The new formal proposal will be reviewed by the Planning & Sustainability Commission on Tuesday, September 13, in an open public hearing at 1900 SW 4th Ave., scheduled to run from 12:30-4:30 pm. You do not need to be a Portland resident to participate in this critically-important hearing!
The PSC will then decide in early October, after an open meeting without additional testimony, whether to forward any zoning amendments to the City Council for review, possible amendment, and approval. If they do, the Council itself will hold public hearings and vote in late November or early December.
For more information, or to join in as part of the Oregon Sierra Club team in the September 13 PSC hearing, please contact Ted Gleichman, email@example.com, 503-781-2498. And please stay tuned!
On Saturday, August 20, over a thousand Oregonians came together in downtown Portland to “Rock Against the TPP” with musicians, comedians, and activists from around the country. The concert tour’s stop in Portland not only had outstanding music and spectacular speeches, but also featured a photo petition with huge props (TPP Death Star), a beer garden, trade-themed carnival games, and more!
Earlier in the afternoon, dozens of climate activists attended an educational workshop on how the TPP’s policy failures would exacerbate climate change and degrade the planet. Expert panelists drilled into the shortcomings of the environmental chapter and also discussed how the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process could hinder local climate action in the Northwest. The workshop was followed by a lively march with chants and creative street theater, eventually arriving to the concert venue just before the show began.
The next day, Portland’s Rock Against the TPP festivities ended with a TPP 101 teach in, which gave the 100-or-so attendees a solid foundation to better understand this complicated issue. In all, 58 labor, environmental, and human rights organizations throughout the state played a role in this weekend of action. With the strong leadership of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, the Sierra Club, and many others the trade justice movement continues to grow in Oregon!
To continue to build the pressure, Sierra Club members have created a TPP working group open to anyone interested in stopping this trade deal! Our first monthly meeting is Thursday, September 8, at the Sierra Club office (1821 SE Ankeny, Portland). Come learn how you can plug into this important campaign to stop the largest free trade deal in history!
By Ted Gleichman, policy advisor, Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team
Last November, the Portland City Council voted unanimously for a binding policy resolution to stop any fossil fuel exports through Portland and to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure for exports or storage. This unprecedented measure put Portland on a state-of-the-art path for regional, national, and global leadership in fighting the climate crisis. Oregon Sierra Club was one of many leading groups* that worked hard for this. Together, we flooded the Council hearings with more than 500 people, helping to motivate our City Council for this bold action.
With leadership from Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the other Councilmembers – Commissioners Nick Fish, Dan Saltzman, and Steve Novick – joined in to make it unanimous. Next time you see any of them, be sure to thank them! This fall, they will need to take this on again.
The Council resolution directed city agencies to develop ordinance and regulatory changes to implement this unprecedented plan. First up to bat is the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), and they are on the verge of fouling out. Fortunately, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) serves as the umpire on BPS work, with a public hearing set for Tuesday, September 13: save the date (time and place TBD). We fans are going to pack the stands to root for the home team: Planet Earth!
OK, I’ve beaten that seasonal metaphor into infield dust. But make no mistake: this is no game. The current BPS zoning ordinance plan completely guts the clear intent of the pioneering Council resolution by giving the fossil fuels industry all-but-unlimited opportunity for growth.
When I testified to the Council last November, this was my key point: “There is no fossil fuels solution to the fossil fuels crisis.” The audacious Portland resolution is a great reflection of that shared understanding, and we can’t let the City abandon it.
Two leading organizers, Mia Reback of 350PDX and attorney Nicholas Caleb, presented summaries of the BPS problem to the City Council on July 13, and Oregon Sierra Club joined in with an Open Letter to the Council.
Please take a few minutes to read our two-page Open Letter. To support the Council resolution, we start with big picture, Keep It in the Ground, and move through the next three steps: Do No More Harm, Reduce the Need, and Make the Just Transition.
For more information, please see the formal comments we submitted to BPS on July 27. Great comments also went in from our regular allies 350PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), and Columbia Riverkeeper, among others.
We are in this for the long haul, and Portland’s leadership is vital to our metropolitan area, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, the United States, and our long-suffering overheated earth.
If you want to help, please send me a note or give me a call; see below. We will update you regularly as this evolves through the rest of this year.
Thanks for all you do!
Ted Gleichman firstname.lastname@example.org 503-781-2498
* Great work for Oregon Sierra Club was done last year by Beyond Gas & Oil Team chair Gregory Monahan (who also testified, along with then Chapter Director Andy Maggi) and long-time ace National Beyond Coal organizer Laura Stevens. Other key organizations included 350PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network (a project of CSE), Raging Grannies, Climate Action Coalition, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, EcoFaith Recovery & Beyond Fossil Fuels, Climate Solutions, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and others. It was a terrific team effort!
Join NAACP Portland Chapter and Oregon Sierra Club, Columbia Network for a special screening of Time To Choose and featuring a special keynote address by social justice activist, leader, and NAACP Portland Chapter President Jo Ann Hardesty. Climate change is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced – and it is also our greatest opportunity. We have the solutions we need, but we are in a race against the clock to implement a just transition in time. Narrated by award-winning actor Oscar Isaac and directed by Academy Award®-Winning documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson, Time To Choose captures the urgency and innovation of this critical moment and leaves audiences understanding not only what is wrong, but what can to be done to fix this global threat
Fish and forests command significant attention in Oregon’s vibrant dialogue. Both resources have a deep history of contributing to our culture, economy, and ecology. This talk is aimed at illuminating how fish – especially salmon and steelhead – and forest interact. How do our coastal forested watersheds impact salmonid health? How, in turn, do fish play a role in forest ecosystems? And, what are the implications of the way we manage these resources?
Towler Hall Room 310, Clatsop Community College, Astoria
The TPP poses many threats to our climate and for that reason the Sierra Club is determined to stop the TPP from coming up for a vote in Congress this fall. There are only a handful of Democrats throughout the entire country that might vote for the TPP during the Lame Duck session and several of them are from Oregon! This means we have a major opportunity (and responsibility) to pressure our Rep’s and stop the TPP from coming to a vote.
Come show your support for trade justice!
The Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers will showcase their latest totem pole carved in solidary with communities throughout the region fighting against fossil fuel export terminals. Earlier this spring, the Lummi Nation succeeded in blocking the construction of the Gateway Pacific coal export terminal proposed at Cherry Point, Washington. The totem pole journey is intended to build relationships and solidarity between tribes and communities pushing back against the recent flood of fossil fuel export proposals throughout the region.
The totem pole visits Longview just one month before the Army Corps of Engineers is slated to release their Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export proposal.
WHO: Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers, Cowlitz County faith leaders & you!
WHAT: A presentation of the totem pole and spiritual blessing of the totem pole and the journey.
WHEN: Friday, August 26th, 2016 10:30-Noon, lunch to follow
WHERE: Longview United Methodist Church, 2851 30th Ave, Longview, WA 98632
Lunch contributions: Dessert – Longview Presbyterian; Salads – St. Stephens Episcopal; Bread and beverages – Longview Methodist.
The Oregon Sierra Club Eastside Forest Committee has initiated a campaign to provide greater protection for the forested areas east of Waldo Lake, a beautiful region 35 miles southwest of Bend containing abundant old growth and roadless areas. Currently it is unprotected beyond its federal forest status. For more information on what we’re proposing, look at our Keep Waldo Wild web page. This weekend car campout is designed to introduce you Waldo Lake’s environs and treat you to its plentiful attractions. We hope you’ll become as excited about preserving the area east and south of Waldo Lake as we are!
The 2016 Waldo Weekend Campout will be held August 26-28, Friday-Sunday, at the Shadow Bay Campground on the southern end of the lake. Group Site B, Sites 25 thru 43, is reserved for Friday and Saturday nights and will accommodate 60 to 120 people.
Far in the southeastern corner of the state, beyond the dry mountain shadows of the Cascade Range, past high-desert plateaus and cow-spotted ranchland, on the desolate fringe of the great basin, lies the Owyhee. Oregon is known for its forests, but its greatest wilderness is actually a desert. One of the last truly untouched places left in the continental United States, the Owyhee Canyonlands stretch for more than 2 million acres. And yet, the Owyhee is still not a federally protected Wilderness Area.
Deep within the Owyhee, there are no roads. This is one of the last places to encounter openness. Walk for days among the cliffs and the bunchgrass valleys, with both horizons stretched before you. The richness of desert rock shifts to sagebrush steppe and upland plains. In a place so enormous, it’s easy to believe that this is the entire world. Wade through fields of lupine and balsamroot in the evening air, and see, perhaps, a herd of pronghorn antelope shift by, tinted orange in the first few moments of sunset. All is quieted by distance and by wind. The stars filter in, and you see what ancient skies once looked like. The Milky Way, at first a ghost, rises higher. The vibrant end of it is neither matte nor hollow, somehow reminiscent of a reflection on water.
This is how the world once was. Before light pollution. Before cars. Before cell-phones. The Owyhee provides a diversity of wild ecosystems. There are chiseled red cliffs that look like they belong in the southwest. There are blue-green shrublands that serve as home for sage grouse. There are grassy hills, and steep river canyons, and sandy soils where rare wildflowers bloom.
Opportunities for outdoor recreation have made the Owyhee an increasingly popular destination for adventurers. Hiking, camping, backpacking; hunting, fishing, rafting. The Owyhee offers something for everyone, including daredevils like stand-up paddle boarder Paul Clark.
The Owyhee River is just as wild as the rest of the Canyonlands. River-carved canyons form high walls around swift waters—including a class VI rapid in the upper stretches of the river. Until Paul Clark completed his expedition on March 31st, no one had ever ventured down the entire Owyhee on a stand-up paddleboard. Imagine that—balancing on a small, inflatable board, hauling a few extra pounds of gear down one of the wildest rivers in the country. The journey spanned 150 miles and took nine days. Along with his paddling partner Torrey Piatt, Paul braved narrow canyon walls, unpredictable water levels, and rapids with names like ‘Tombstone’, ‘Ledge’, and ‘Shark’s Tooth’. The two emerged from the lower river tired, victorious, and forever changed.
We’re lucky that there are still wild places fit for such adventures. But, although the Owyhee is wild, not all of it is designated Wilderness. The Owyhee is so large that it spreads over into Idaho. Our neighbor has declared their piece of the Owyhee as a Wilderness Area, which means that it will never be mined or developed, and it will forever retain its wild nature. The Oregon side of the Owyhee is currently vulnerable to ATV use, development, or other degrading uses of the land. The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, in partnership with the Wild Owyhee campaign, is working to achieve greater protections for the Oregon expanses of the Owyhee Canyonlands, whether through Wilderness?National Conservation Area or National Monument designation. You can help by signing the petition or volunteering with the Oregon Sierra Club.
The Owyhee is a spectacular, rare place. It’s far from all things we might call civilization. A place of open skies, of desolate cliffs tall enough to catch the sun, of elk herds, and big-horn sheep, and swallows, and eagles, of larkspur, and penstemons, wild rivers, and snow-cold waterfalls. Far off, on the other side of the mountains, beyond the ponderosa pine forests, in the southeastern corner of the state, you expect to find nothing at all, but you find just the opposite—everything.