Oregon's 2020 Legislative Session - Oregon PSR's Take


Due to a series of Republican walkouts over climate legislation, Oregon’s short five-week legislative session stagnated for its final two weeks, leaving a huge list of beneficial bills to languish. We condemn the walkout of legislators on our democratic process, which is harming thousands of Oregonians statewide. Here are the bills that Oregon PSR worked on this session, none of which passed both chambers in Salem:

  • House Bill 4067 - Energy Equity at the Public Utility Commission: This bill would have allowed the Oregon Public Utility Commission to differentiate energy rates by income level, and would have increased resources for frontline communities to participate in stakeholder utility regulation processes. The bill passed by a wide, bipartisan margin in the House and was referred to the Senate for a floor vote on the same day that Senate Republicans left Salem. Read our testimony supporting HB 4067.

  • House Bill 4109 - Aerial Chlorpyrifos Spraying Ban: This bill, requested by our partners at Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), would have prohibited aerial pesticide spraying of products containing chlorpyrifos, a known neurotoxin. After passing the House, this bill ended up in the stack of Senate bills that never received a vote. Read our testimony supporting HB 4109.

  • Wildfire Mitigation Bills (multiple bill numbers): Oregon PSR worked with a group of forestry conservation and environmental groups to advocate for improvements to a slate of wildfire bills to prevent funding from being used for backcountry tree thinning, which is both ineffective at reducing wildfire intensity and reduces Oregon’s best carbon-sequestering trees. We will continue to advocate for wildfire mitigation policies in the future that prioritize community resilience to fires and other practices that keep forests standing and protect human health and safety from fires. Read more about our wildfire legislation advocacy, and read more about this issue in a recent article in The Oregonian.

  • House Bill 4049 - The Covanta Marion 'Garbage Fire' Bill: HB 4049 would have given eligibility for renewable energy credits to the Covanta Marion waste incinerator in Marion County, which would divert financial incentives that were intended to support new renewable energy sources. Since Covanta Marion is over 30 years old and is the 19th single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, it is wholly inappropriate to allow Covanta to profit off of renewable energy credits. Oregon PSR and our partners defeated a similar bill, SB 451, in 2019, and we are ready to defeat this bill concept again in the future if it comes up. House Democrats expressed deep opposition to the bill in the House Energy & Environment Committee and our staff were featured frequently in media coverage related to this bill. Read our testimony opposing HB 4049. You can also read testimony from Oregon PSR’s Dr. Patricia Kullberg and Dr. Theodora Tsongas, and from Multnomah County. News outlets covering the bill included OPB’s Think Out Loud, the Salem Statesman Journal, and Salem Reporter.

  • House Bill 4105 - Oil Train Safety & Fossil Fuel Ban on State Lands: This bill would have brought Oregon’s oil train safety regulations up to Washington State’s 2019 standards, and would block new major fossil fuel infrastructure projects from being permitted on state-owned lands. Though it would not have retroactively applied to the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline, communities statewide applauded lawmakers for introducing this concept. We look forward to working with legislators to pass a bill like this in a future session. Watch the public hearing on HB 4105, which included testimony from Oregon PSR staff and southern Oregon landowners on the Jordan Cove LNG project’s pipeline route.

What happens now? Governor Kate Brown has taken executive action to address state greenhouse gas emissions and House Speaker Tina Kotek is calling for a special session in the near future. It is unclear whether Republicans will attend that session or whether ballot measures to increase penalties for absent legislators will qualify for the November 2020 election. Oregon PSR remains committed to advocating for strong climate action and environmental health measures and defending against false solutions and moving backwards on clean energy goals.

Finally, please remember that, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have cancelled our planned training for health professionals on climate justice in Vancouver, WA until further notice. Even though the training is cancelled, you can still help by contacting elected representatives in Vancouver to encourage them to support a climate action plan.