Our Bridge to a Healthy and Just Clean Energy Future

Oregon PSR has been hard at work on passing what CNN commentator Van Jones has called “the most important ballot measure in the country”: The Portland Clean Energy Initiative (Measure 26-201). With the November 6th Election Day 2018 fast approaching, we ask our members in Portland to vote YES, volunteer, and donate to help us win a landslide victory for this important measure. If passed, it will be the first environmental policy initiative created and led by organizations representing low-income people and communities of color in Oregon’s history.

In June of 2017, Oregon PSR helped to pass two of the strongest, most equitable 100% clean, renewable energy commitments in the nation. As the Trump Administration works to roll back environmental protections and degrade civil liberties, we need community solutions to reach our 100% clean energy goals, reduce our city’s carbon footprint, and increase access to climate resiliency for low-income Portlanders and people of color.

That’s what the Portland Clean Energy Initiative will do, generating $30 million per year in revenue for clean energy job training and home improvements via a 1% surcharge on Portland revenue of billion-dollar retailers. A nine person committee with diverse membership and modeled after the successful Portland Children’s Levy will oversee grant applications and submit recommendations to Portland City Council for which projects should receive funding.

The measure is led by Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Coalition of Communities of Color, NAACP Portland Branch, Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and Verde. Oregon PSR joined these groups on a steering committee with other key environmental groups 350 PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club. The campaign has been endorsed by over 200 individuals and organizations including Senator Jeff Merkley, Business for a Better Portland, City Club of Portland, Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board, and the Oregon Food Bank.

Half of the energy efficiency and renewable energy projects will be allocated to low-income residents and people of color. Oregon PSR member Patricia Kullberg, MD, MPH wrote an in-depth report detailing the reasons why it is so important to prioritize low-income people and people of color for clean energy. She writes:

“Strategies that mitigate climate change impact and increase climate change resiliency have immediate and positive effects on the physical and mental health of those communities. Improving the social and economic conditions in neighborhoods likewise improves their climate change resiliency, while increasing their capacity to become active players in their own destiny.”

All readers can help pass this important and historic measure — which may become a model for local climate action in municipalities worldwide — by voting YES on Measure 26-201, volunteering to get out the vote, and donating to support Oregon PSR’s advocacy.

As Dr. Kullberg concludes: “Turning underserved communities into healthy communities does not happen in the absence of economic justice. Averting climate disaster, economic justice, and healthy communities are all inextricably linked... The Portland Clean Energy Initiative is a strategy to give communities the tools and resources and vision to create their own clean energy future and build a healthier city for all of us.”

Article written by Damon Motz-Storey, Oregon PSR Clean Energy Organizer.

Photo courtesy of Madison Rowley.