Oregon Legislative Wrap-Up 2017

The 2017 Oregon legislative session finished up this month with a few victories and a lot of disappointment in terms of protecting the health of Oregonians. Oregon PSR weighed in on a number of bills from climate and environmental health protection to stopping nuclear power, curbing gun violence, and ensuring all kids have access to health care. Thanks to so many of you who responded to our numerous requests to call your legislators, attended lobby days, and submitted testimony. Here’s how it all shook out in the end:

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15 Organizations Oppose Metro Sending Waste to Covanta Incinerator

Oregon PSR, NAACP Portland and Neighbors for Clean Air along with twelve other organizations sent a letter today to Metro Council asking them to oppose sending waste to the Covanta incinerator in Brooks, Oregon. 

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JUST SAY NO to Toxic Coal Exports

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The Columbia River site where Millennium Bulk Terminals wishes to build the largest coal export facility in North America.

You may be one of the more than 250,000 voices that have risen up to say NO to what would be the largest coal export facility in the nation. If so, thank you!

We need your help again. Tell the Washington Department of Ecology to deny a key water pollution permit and stop dirty coal dust and toxic pollutants from fouling the Columbia River.

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Citizen Groups Vow to Keep Pushing for Fossil Fuel Policy Protections in Portland

 Fossil Fuel Industry Puts our Communities and Climate at Risk

LUBA’s Decision Upholds Challenge By Oil Industry and Portland Business Alliance

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July 19, 2017 (Salem, OR) – Today, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruled that Portland’s Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments, passed unanimously in December of 2016, is inconsistent with the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Portland’s fossil fuel policy intended to prevent new major fossil fuel infrastructure projects in the City. LUBA dismissed many of the other arguments brought by the oil industry and the Portland Business Alliance against the City’s policy. LUBA’s ruling is likely to be appealed to the State Court of Appeals.

“While this decision is a temporary setback for the the health and safety of the most vulnerable among us - low-income communities, communities of color, children, and the elderly  - we’ll continue work to implement bold actions and protect the climate that sustains us,” said Regna Merritt, Healthy Climate Director at Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“While we are disappointed in the decision, we will work to secure a policy that protects Portland and our climate from reckless fossil fuel projects like coal and oil train terminals,” said Dan Serres, Conservation Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “The people of Portland overwhelmingly supported this policy and strong climate action. We will not be dissuaded by the fossil fuel industry’s attempt to put our communities and climate at risk.”

“The Portland Business Alliance should be ashamed at their attempt to undercut Portland’s role as a leader in moving towards green energy and a safe community,” said Micah Meskel, Conservation Field Coordinator with the Audubon Society of Portland. “Although some of their members claim they to want to see the Paris Climate Accord upheld, the PBA chose to align itself with extreme fossil fuel interests. The people of Portland will continue to push against them to enact strong policy to protect our community.”

“It’s an absurd and incorrect conclusion that Portland is powerless to protect its residents from dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Nicholas Caleb, Staff Attorney at Center for Sustainable Economy. “We will continue to fight to make sure Portland’s residents and environment are protected from the risk of spills, explosions, derailments, and pollution that are inherent in the dirty practices of the fossil fuel industry.”

“The grassroots will continue to fight to protect our communities and our climate. Preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure projects is the only known way to stop catastrophic climate change while protecting the health and safety of our local communities from dirty fossil fuels,” said Mia Reback, organizer with 350PDX. “We are committed to defending this policy and upholding municipalities’ ability to act.”

Resources:
Read the opinion here
Portland Business Alliance members

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Portland Audubon Society, Columbia Riverkeeper, and Center for Sustainable Economy are represented in this case by the Crag Law Center, a nonprofit public interest environmental law center.

Contact Regna Merritt, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, regna@oregonpsr.org

 

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Oregon PSR Wins Major Victory in Oregon Legislature, Saves State’s Nuclear Power Moratorium Until There is a Permanent Solution for Waste

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In May, Oregon PSR caught wind of Senate Bill 990, which had passed in the State Senate, and immediately began working with a coalition of environmental groups and supporters throughout the state to defeat a bill that would have gutted Oregon's voter-passed nuclear power moratorium and allowed the construction of small modular nuclear reactors. Intense lobbying and hundreds of constituent contacts later, we won! SB 990 died in House Committee.

Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts co-authored an opinion piece to The Oregonian in response to the proposed legislation. Please read it to learn more about why we opposed this legislation, and contact us to learn more and to get more involved in preventing future nuclear power development in our region.

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Oregon Legislators Derail Effort to Hide Oil Train Safety Plans

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Oregon lawmakers withdrew a bill on Friday that would allow railroads to keep plans for oil train disasters a secret.

A year after a train derailed, caught fire and spilled oil into the Columbia River in Mosier, lawmakers were poised to approve a measure that would require railroads to draft worst-case scenario plans. But the bill also would prevent public scrutiny by exempting the plans from Oregon public records law and legal subpoenas.

By a 31-26 vote, the House of Representatives agreed to send the bill back to the Legislature's ways and means committee for more work.

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Mosier Project Denied Again to Protect Tribal Rights

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It appears the legal dance over Union Pacific Railroad’s proposed siding project will continue. On Tuesday, the Columbia River Gorge Commission (CRGC) rejected UP’s appeal, thereby denying the railroad’s bid to build an extended railroad siding at Mosier.

In a lengthy hearing at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center that included Friends of the Columbia River Gorge showing a video of the fiery oil train derailment at Mosier on June 3, 2016, multiple attorneys on both sides of the siding issue argued back and forth in what an attorney for Union Pacific referred to as “a merry-go-round.”

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Vancouver Oil Terminal Will Be Hazardous To Our Health (Stan Freidberg, PSR)

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Stan Freidberg is a PSR champion--36 out of his 37 years as a cardiologist at The Vancouver Clinic has been as a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Read his op-ed about the health dangers of the proposed Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in The Columbian.

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Portland & Multnomah County Pass Nation's Most Progressive Commitment to 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

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On Thursday, June 1st, the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commissioners both unanimously voted "yes" to commit Portland and Multnomah County to powering community-wide energy needs with renewable energy by the year 2050. The votes come as a huge local success, tragically coinciding with President Trump's announcement of pulling the United States out of the Paris Accord for action on climate change. Portland and Multnomah County's resolutions make a bold commitment--including implementation of renewable electricity by 2035, electrification of transit busses, and a focus on investing gains along the way into marginalized communities who are most affected by the adverse health effects of climate change but who bear the least responsibility for its causes.

Regna Merritt, Healthy Climate Director for Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, said:

Climate change is already harming our health. It contributes to heat stroke, dangerous extreme weather, the spread of insect-borne and water-borne diseases and sea level rise. Low income and communities of color are most harmed by the changes for which they are least responsible. Elected leaders of Multnomah County and the City of Portland are once again world leaders in facing the greatest public health challenge - and opportunity - of our times.

Pete Danko of the Portland Business Journal covered the votes, which you can read here.

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility would like to thank all of the hardworking community members who helped get these resolutions off the ground. Oregon PSR is particularly thrilled with amendments passed that address the use of biomass (energy from burning forests) and the explicit exclusion of nuclear power and incineration of medical and municipal waste from definitions of renewable energy. 

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Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Senator Ed Markey Reintroduce the SANE Act: Cut Dangerous Nuclear Weapons Spending

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In stark contrast to Trump's disastrous budget proposal which increases spending for militarism and nuclear weapons at the expense of essential social and environmental protections, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey today reintroduced the SANE Act which would slash nuclear weapons spending by $100 billion over the next decade.

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