Investing in the Future: The Healthy Climate Bill and the Coal Transition Plan

February 4, 2016

2167696800_4dedae718d_oWhen I was a kid, teachers always gave us the same piece of environmental advice: reduce, reuse, recycle. The emphasis was always on what we could do as individuals. We could pick up litter. We could recycle cans and bottles. We could donate our old clothes. If everyone did these small things, they would add up and make a difference in the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle, and everything would be okay.

It took me until college to question this. In fact, it was in one of my very first college classes—intro to environmental studies—that my professor brought it up. I can still remember what he said: our lifestyle decisions as consumers are important, but they also distract from larger issues. What we need is not just for individuals to change, but for the entire infrastructure of our society to change. We need movements, protests, political change. And I remember him saying something about how there was “no free lunch”, how even just sitting in that lecture hall we were taking part in the dirty energy economy, what with the lights and the heating system, and if we went to the library, or the city hall, or anywhere in town, really, we would come upon the same problem, because it wasn’t just us—it was the way things were set up.

I always thought that part was particularly unfair. coalThis isn’t our mess. None of us in that lecture, none of us who went on to graduate in 2015, are responsible for the way things have been set up. We’re the inheritors of greed and chaos. I mean, look at what they’ve left us: heartbreaking mass extinctions, an ocean full of plastic garbage, an economy dependent on polluting fossil fuels that threaten the existence of all life.

But I also saw this beautiful possibility—this vision of change, of the sustainable society we could create. This isn’t our mess, but we can be the ones to fix it.

I’m not the only one with such a vision, of course. The quest for positive change is one of the main tenets of the Sierra Club. They’ve long been champions of clean energy, environmental justice, and conservation. In a way, they’re the embodiment of that big change, that infrastructural shift that my professor was talking about. I’m honored to be interning with them, especially at this moment of climactic urgency. With the hottest year on record behind us, and all this evidence of widespread droughts, reduced snow-packs, and crazy weather events—well, climate change is progressing right before our eyes. We have a small window here in which we can prohibit catastrophic warming.

Now is the time to make those big changes, and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is taking action. During the 2016 legislative session, the Sierra Club is promoting two bills that work together to revitalize Oregon’s energy system.

windmillsThe Healthy Climate Bill, Senate Bill 1574, proposes a “cap and invest” system. This means that polluting industries would actually pay the true price for the environmental havoc they impose upon us, and for their disastrous contributions to climate change. The money would then be invested in the clean energy sector. We’d have reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a proliferation of local, well-paying clean energy jobs. Not only that, but investments would be targeted towards those who, today, are most threatened by environmental injustices—low-income and rural communities, as well as communities of color.

The other bill—the Oregon Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan (House Bill 4036—also seeks to reduce emissions, but does so in partnership with PGE and Pacific Power, Oregon’s two largest utilities. Under this bill’s provisions, Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard would double to 50% by 2040. Though Oregon’s last coal-fired power plant will close in 2020, PGE and Pacific Power still source much of their electricity from coal-fired plants in other states, such as Montana. This plan would make them completely coal free by 2035 and enable them to transition to renewable energy projects, like community solar programs that prioritize low-income communities. New infrastructure would be created to encourage green transportation, such as charging stations for electric cars, thereby lessening our dependence on gas and oil. I mean, imagine that: driving an electric car powered by 100% solar or wind power. Or going into almost any building in the state and knowing it’s powered mostly by clean energy.

These two bills complement each solar farm. 1st pictures. September 2012 30192Dother in that they have varying timelines and methods to achieve a shared vision. This is way more than reduce-reuse-recycle. This is the big stuff; the big changes that need to happen if we want a better future. These bills make clean energy more affordable than dirty energy. They lift disadvantaged communities into positions of climate leadership. They create new jobs for local community members. And, of course, they reduce carbon emissions. Oregon could serve as a model of justice and sustainability. We could provide the rest of the country—and even the world—with the glimpse of a promising future. These bills work because they address our issues at the source. They not only fix old problems but they lead us on to better things, to a cleaner, healthier, healed future, in which the next generation can look back, smile, and say, look at what they’ve left us.

Take action today by contacting your legislators in support of these bills!

 

 

 

 


Stand up for Oregon. No Pipelines. No LNG. Call-in Days of Action! Wednesday August 12th and August 26th (All Day)

August 7, 2015

People from all over the state are standing up to two proposed fracked gas export terminal and pipeline proposals in Oregon and we need you to join us!No LNG Logo

Last week, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a draft environmental review for the Oregon LNG terminal and pipeline near Astoria Oregon. The Environmental Impact Statement for Oregon LNG didn’t address the impacts to public health and safety, endangered salmon, or the economy. With FERC also planning to issue their Final Impact Statement for Jordan Cove here in Southern Oregon on September 30th, we need our state officials to stand up for Oregon NOW!

Salem LNG Rally-May 26 2015

On Wednesday, August 12th or August 26th please join us for statewide call-in days to flood the offices of  Gov. Brown and our U.S. Senators Merkley and Wyden asking them to stand up for Oregon! Please take 10 minutes on August 12th or August 26th to call and ask Gov. Brown officials to deny key state permits for these projects and prepare to defend Oregon’s interests in court if FERC approves these projects! We also are looking to our federal senators to stand up for Oregon’s right to deny LNG terminals.

Find all the details, phone numbers and talking points for the call-in by clicking here: Call in Day Instructions and Talking Points. It also important that we keep track of how many calls we are making and the impact they have. After you make your calls please take a moment to fill out the tracking form HERE to record the results of your call.

Please spread the word!

______________________________________________________________________________ Support Hike the Pipe! (August 22- September 27)

This summer, a group of Oregonians will hike through 232 miles of beautiful and scenic southwestern Oregon to protest the Jordan Cove pipeline and export terminal. Hike the Pipe is a community action that will draw attention to the communities and ecosystems threatened by the Pacific Connector Pipeline. We need community support to make this project happen! Please learn more about Hike the Pipe by watching the video below and donate to the project today!


Applaud the Clean Power Plan: Release

August 3, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 3, 2015
Contact:  Andy Maggi (503) 238-0442 x301

Oregon Sierra Club Statement on Release of the Clean Power Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The EPA and the Obama Administration released the final version of the landmark Clean Power Plan. The plan will give States the opportunity to craft their own plan to reduce carbon emissions based on their existing energy portfolio.

As the U.S. moves towards cleaner energy with the Clean Power Plan, Oregon can continue to lead on clean energy and climate change by pursuing  Coal to Clean legislation and supporting a ban on coal exports.

In response, Sierra Club Oregon Chapter Executive Director Andy Maggi released the following statement:

“The Clean Power Plan is the most significant single action any President has ever taken to tackle the most serious threat to the health of our families: the climate crisis.

“Today marks the end of an era for dirty power plants that have spewed dangerous pollution into our air without limits for too long.  It signifies a new era of growth for affordable and safe clean energy sources that don’t fuel climate disruption and sicken our communities.  Today is a victory for every American who wants clean air to breathe, and for the millions of activists and concerned citizens who organized to make sure this day would finally come.

“As we celebrate this national milestone, here in Oregon we see more opportunities for our state to regain its position as a nationwide climate leader. State lawmakers  recently adjourned after failing to pass key Coal to Clean legislation, which would have reduced our reliance on dirty, out-of-state coal plants, as well as other environmental bills. Combined with  tightening bans on coal exports coming through Oregon and state carbon pricing, this legislation would have been a step forward for Oregon  towards cleaner energy and a more sustainable future. We hope the Clean Power Plan will give our leaders the confidence to continue reducing our use of coal and develop the renewable energy that Oregonians want.”


The Adverse Effects of Climate Change in Oregon

September 23, 2013

Climate change is gradually unveiling itself throughout the Pacific Northwest in a variety of ways, including alterations in precipitation and temperature that will ultimately affect numerous industries in the state of Oregon. More specifically, agriculture, skiing, forestry, and salmon will all be impacted by Oregon’s changing climate. Salmon are often identified as an iconic species for the Pacific Northwest, as well as a keystone species in many ecosystems, thus their endangerment as a result of warming temperatures is an extremely significant issue. Warmer temperatures in Oregon will result in more rain precipitation and less snowfall, which will cause overall smaller annual snow-packs and consequently altered stream-flow times. An increase in precipitation could potentially cause frequent floods, therefore increasing mortality rates among salmon eggs due to gravel aggravation. The salmon life cycle may also be affected as a result of snow-pack melting earlier in the spring, hence disrupting the normal migration patterns for sea-bound fish.  Additionally, warmer river temperatures bring an influx of problems for developing salmon, such as providing ideal habitat for other fish species that pose as competitors or predators of salmon, thus lowering their survival rates. Warm water temperatures may also provide insufficient nutrients and resources for developing salmon.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Evidently, salmon will be negatively affected by climate change in countless ways, thus the management and restoration of salmon habitat has the utmost importance when dealing with global warming in the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are also crucial to the livelihoods of many Native American tribes of the Northwest, which is another incentive to protect and restore their delicate habitats. The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition is a large group of organizations devoted to the protection and restoration of native salmon species in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Visit their page to learn more about their efforts in the Northwest!

While salmon will undoubtedly be adversely impacted by warming temperatures, there are other consequences of climate change in Oregon that also hold significance, such as agriculture. More frequent droughts could reduce water supply needed for sufficient irrigation, growing seasons could be altered, and an invasion of pests may arrive due to warmer temperatures. All of these concerns may jeopardize the stability of Oregon’s agriculture industry. Health distresses may also become significant if Oregon begins to see increased smog as a result of higher temperatures. Pollen seasons could be longer as well, posing additional threats to people with allergies or asthma. Economically, many industries in Oregon will most likely be affected because of a disruption in BPA hydroelectric power, due to a lower water supply in the summer months. Moreover, the skiing industry could disappear altogether if winter snow-pack is dramatically reduced. Frequent droughts in the summertime will bring recurrent and heightened wildfires, so the timber industry could likewise be adversely affected. Clearly, Oregon is already seeing the effects of a changing climate, but many unforeseen consequences are possible in the near future, which is why Oregonians need to use mitigation and management to alleviate these impending costs.  To learn more about climate change in Oregon, visit this OEC page for details regarding climate impacts, protection, solutions, and more!

The list of ways in which Oregon is affected by global warming is innumerable as well as unpredictable. Unfortunately, climate change is already underway, so many of these consequences are most likely irreversible. However, putting a stop to CO2 emissions could possibly help slow down the warming of our planet, thus discontinuing dirty oil and coal drilling could help to alleviate our problems. This is why climate change in Oregon can directly be related to oil exploration in the Arctic, because increased drilling would only increase our reliance on nonrenewable energy sources, hence furthering emissions and enhancing global warming. The Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club is working diligently to fight against Arctic oil development in the Chill the Drills campaign to help alleviate climate impacts not only in the Arctic, but in Oregon as well.