The 2022 Short Legislative Session ended this week with many of the climate and social justice bills we endorsed winning massive victories for Oregonians! Even though some bills didn’t pass into law, they made huge strides setting the stage for progress in next year’s session. We wanted to share an update with you on the legislative session and provide next steps for taking action. Thank you for being in this work with us!

Fuel Storage Seismic Vulnerability (SB 1567) – PASSED!

The Critical Energy Infrastructure (CEI) Hub on the Willamette River is an industrial site home to 630 storage tanks holding gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and oil. 90% of all of Oregon’s liquid fuels are stored on a former wetland. If there is a major earthquake, 200 million gallons of these polluting fuels would spill into the river, causing over $2 billion in damages to the local communities and ecosystems.

Now that SB 1567 has passed, storage tanks owners in the area must assess how vulnerable the tanks would be to a major earthquake and what can be done to reduce the risks, then report that assessment to the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality. The bill will also require the Dept. of Energy to create a security earthquake preparation plan that protects communities and aligns with Oregon’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases 90% by 2050.

→ Next step: To get involved in our work holding these companies accountable and protecting the river, join the Fossil Fuel Resistance team! We’re having an in-person team tour of the CEI Hub at our April 5th meeting. To get involved, reach out to dineen@350pdx.org and melanie.plaut@gmail.com.

Farmworker Overtime (HB 4002) – PASSED!

For over 80 years, farmworkers have been excluded from receiving overtime pay and other benefits and workplace protections. In 2020, while working through wildfires and ice storms, Oregon farmworkers made less than $20,000 a year, on average. With the passage of this bill, Oregon will now join Washington and California in providing equal overtime protections to agricultural workers. Farmworkers ensure our families are healthy and well-fed in every corner of the state. Their hard work supports our entire economy. They deserve to be paid for every hour of their essential, difficult, and often dangerous work. You can read the full press release on this victory here. Thank you to PCUN for leading this legislation and making this historic win possible!

Emergency Heat Relief for Oregonians (SB 1536)        
      PASSED!

Passed with bipartisan support, this legislation is a crucial step towards ensuring that impacted communities have access to emergency cooling this summer and beyond. Oregon will now invest millions of dollars to provide air conditioning, air filters, and cooling centers for low-income Oregonians and renters. As the climate crisis fuels more extreme weather, it is essential that Oregonians are protected from the deadly impacts of heat waves and storms. This victory shows that climate resilience and adaptation is a bipartisan issue, and it’s a great first step in addressing climate adaptation and resilience across the state. Here is the press release on this victory to learn more!

Private Forest Accord – PASSED!

Oregon’s laws for private forest logging have finally caught up with our state’s changing conditions and values. Oregonians have fought for years for better forest management, knowing healthy forests are critical for the health of our communities and ecosystems in a changing climate. “We didn’t get everything we wanted at the negotiating table,” says Wild Salmon Center Oregon Policy Director Bob Van Dyk, “but this agreement is without a doubt an enormous and positive step for Oregon conservation.” Read the full update from Wild Salmon Center.

Treasury Transparency (HB 4115-3) – Passed the House, not the Senate.

The Divest Oregon coalition mobilized hundreds of Oregonians – including PERS members represented by AFT-Oregon and AAUP-Oregon – to submit testimony, meet with their legislators, and send countless texts, calls, and emails to make our voices heard in demanding transparency from our State Treasury. Through this process, it became abundantly clear that Oregonians across the state want to know where the Treasury is investing our money. Divest Oregon held over 60 meetings with legislators about the bill, and we received an outpouring of legislative support for Treasury transparency. 23 legislators co-sponsored the bill, including chief co-sponsors Reps. Holvey and Pham and Senators Golden and Lawrence Spence. With strong legislative support, the Treasury Transparency bill passed the Oregon State House, but the Senate adjourned early before considering the bill.

Our fight is far from over. We will keep fighting to shine a light on the Oregon Treasury’s investments, and until the Treasury divests from fossil fuels and invests in our future. Divest Oregon continues to pursue the goals of the bill through other avenues. The Divest Oregon coalition is now 87 organizations strong, and still growing. Learn more in our upcoming report “Climate Chaos Funded by the Oregon State Treasury.” Join us at divestoregon.org.

Natural and Working Lands (SB 1534) – didn’t pass the Senate Ways & Means Committee

Despite statewide support from farmers, ranchers, conservation districts, climate advocates and the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC), an important climate bill failed to advance to a floor vote in the Senate. SB 1534 would have provided a framework and resources for the recommendations of the OGWC’s “Natural and Working Lands Proposal.”

SB 1534 would have enabled Oregon’s natural and working lands to be voluntarily managed as a resilient and robust carbon sink. The bill would have supported the health of our economy and communities, enhancing social equity and quality of life. Despite strong cross-sector support, large business associations like the Farm Bureau and Oregon Forest Industries Council were concerned this bill might set the stage for more robust future climate action. Unfortunately, senate leadership seemed to concur and failed to advance the bill.

While we are grateful that other important climate resiliency bills did pass, it is important to also enact policy to slow down the rate of the climate crisis. Let’s make forest-climate action a top priority for the next session!

HB 4008  Passed, despite strong opposition from racial justice groups

Last week, the Oregon legislature passed HB 4008a bill we fought against that will roll back restrictions on police use of chemical weaponsThe bill now makes it easier for police to use tear gas and munitions with impunity. As we saw during the 2020 George Floyd Uprising and in the years since, the police were already using tear gas, rubber bullets, and other munitions on members of the public. The police looked at people calling for justice, people mourning, people fed up with being harassed and killed by police in the streets, and decided to unleash deadly weapons that would further traumatize them — would even cause lasting harm to their health. And our political leaders let it happen.

Our legislators need to listen to Black and Indigenous People, People of Color, and allies calling for justice. They need to acknowledge that the history of police is bound up with white supremacy, and that BIPOC communities have always been targets of police violence. They need to clean up tear gas contamination, such as at the Cottonwood K-8 School in South Portland, where students have been breathing in the gas itself and being exposed to the weapon’s traces on their playground. They need to end police brutality. Instead, our legislators passed HB 4008.

What’s deeply worrying is that they heard little to no public feedback before passing the bill. Oregonians rallied last week, submitting written comments and lining up to deliver spoken testimony. But the public hearing was postponed, then canceled. Our written testimony was mysteriously absent from the public record. We are appalled that the bill could have passed without our lawmakers hearing from the public.

Still, we will not be intimidated by our legislator’s actions or by HB 4008. We must continue the fight for racial justice and the end to police brutality. You can learn more by following organizations like ACLU OR and Don’t Shoot PDX who have been working to hold the city accountable for harming and endangering protestors. 

Thank you for taking action with us this legislative session. The work continues!
Yours in the fight,

350PDX team