Building Momentum for Safer Communities and a Healthier Climate


As I began writing this article in September in Shady Cove, I smelled smoke. The Chetco Bar fire was burning in the Illinois River Valley, Chetco River corridor, and Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The Milli fire was burning in and near the Three Sisters Wilderness. At home, the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia Gorge was growing. Friends recently evacuated from the west side of the Gorge were returning home, while those to the east prepared to leave.

At the same time, communities in Texas and Florida were suffering from hurricanes and flooding. Over a thousand people had died in floods in south Asia. Today, Puerto Rico reels from the impacts of Hurricane Maria. Extreme weather and massive storms fueled by warming oceans are clear signs that global climate chaos is upon us. Have we hit our tipping point?

It can be difficult to maintain hope in these dark times. But a recent victory – the denial of a key permit for the largest coal export facility in the nation – renewed my hope. The Millennium Bulk Terminals project, which from the mines to the power plants would have pumped 55 million tons of greenhouse gas pollutants into our atmosphere each year, will not be built! Washington State found that this project would bring terrible and unavoidable impacts that could not be mitigated, including an increase in cancer rates.

Powerful coalitions of organizations, individuals, and frontline communities join with Tribes stretching from the mines to the ports to protect our health, our environment, and tribal treaty rights. Our team of health professionals contributes mightily to regional efforts to keep coal and other fossil fuels in the ground, protect those most vulnerable, and push for a rapid transition to a healthy energy economy.

In the spirit of hope, I want to share with you some of the many accomplishments of Oregon PSR’s Healthy Climate Action Team and our community partners over the past year:

Power Past Coal in the Pacific NW

  • Co-directed coalition efforts to prevent the construction of the largest coal export facility in the country in Longview, WA, securing the denial of a key permit from the WA Dept. of Ecology
  • Supported the Health Impact Assessment Steering Committee
  • Worked to prevent coal exports from British Columbia
  • Strengthened relationships with tribal nations and frontline communities
  • Helped deliver over 250,000 comments opposing coal and oil export proposals to Washington Governor Inslee

Stand Up to Oil in the Pacific NW

  • Provided the voice of medicine in technical comments, hearings, rallies, and in the media to stop Tesoro-Savage in Vancouver, WA, which would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the nation
  • Opposed Union Pacific’s efforts to increase the number and speed of oil and coal trains moving through Mosier, OR, site of the 2016 derailment and fiery explosion 

Fossil Fuels in Portland

  • Pushed Portland City Council to set a national precedent in adopting zoning code changes that ban the construction of new major fossil fuel terminals and the expansion of existing ones
  • Defended Portland zoning ordinances from a legal challenge by the Western States Petroleum Association

100% Renewable by 2050 in Portland and Multnomah County

  • Passed sister resolutions, focused on a just transition away from the use of fossil fuels, nuclear power, incineration of medical and municipal waste, and the burning of biomass, on the very day that Trump abandoned the Paris Climate Accord

Methanol Export

  • Provided testimony in multiple forums opposing a proposal for the world’s largest fracked gas methanol refinery and export facility in Kalama, WA

Covanta waste-to-energy in Brooks, OR

  • Led successful efforts to secure the denial of the proposed incineration of 200,000 tons of Metro Portland waste annually, protecting communities from toxic air emissions and climate pollution

PGE Carty in Boardman, OR

  • Halted PGE’s plans to build new fracked gas power plants in Oregon, which would have added more than 2 million tons of carbon pollution annually

Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector Pipeline in SW Oregon

  • Joined efforts to prevent a Canadian company from seizing property to build a 235-mile pipeline and a massive liquefied natural gas export facility

Renew Oregon

  • Supported the Clean Energy Jobs campaign by providing health professional testimony, rally speakers, and media support for efforts to cap greenhouse gas pollution and invest in a just transition to clean energy

Huge thanks to each of our volunteers and funders that make our work possible! Oregon PSR provides a home for you to express your concerns, exercise your skills, and engage deeply in efforts to protect Pacific Northwest communities and our climate. Contact me for more information or to get more involved.

Article written by Regna Merritt, Oregon PSR Healthy Climate Program Director, Power Past Coal Co-Director.

Photo of August 29th, 2017 protest of Vancouver oil-by-rail facility.