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Zenith Tar Sands Testimony & Demands to City Council

This testimony was delivered by Jessica on July 15 2019 to a packed public hearing about the Zenith tar sands terminal in NW Portland. It was co-written by Jessica, Dineen and other 350PDX staff and volunteers.

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My name is Jessica Beckett and I’m the Executive Director at 350PDX. Thank you for this opportunity to share our deep concerns about Zenith Energy’s operations in our city. 

Right now, our City is complicit in the expansion, storage, transportation, and burning of the most destructive form of energy on Earth. We appreciate the City’s recently-proposed plans to address the problem of tar sands and toxic crude oil, but we must be moving more boldly and quickly if we are ever to reach 100% renewable energy – and to redress the harms done to frontline communities who must every day breathe and live in this injustice. 

350PDX urges you to do the following:

  • Deny any upcoming permits, including the recent application for a new pipe on Front Avenue. Treat all such permits with a deserved skepticism. Insist on public hearings like this before permitting decisions are made. 
  • Work with the DEQ to ensure Zenith’s plans receive detailed agency and public review, including environmental, public health, and climate assessments of Zenith’s operations. 
  • Implement the fossil fuel zoning code amendments that made history when passed unanimously in 2016, and hold companies like Zenith accountable for attempting to circumvent them.
  • And until all of this is complete, we urge the City to place an immediate stop work order on Zenith’s operations. 

The Northwest Industrial District is where Portland’s just transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy can become reality. This industrial zone can become a model for community-driven renewable energy projects — like those made possible by the Portland Clean Energy Fund! — which can power our city on affordable clean energy and provide jobs to thousands of Portlanders. We have a vision for our community. We ask you, our elected leaders, to join us in this vision by following our demands and putting an end to Zenith.

We have ten short years to save this planet. The time for incrementalism is over. We need action that we’ve never seen before. Mayor Wheeler, Commissioners, what will our legacy be? 

Thank you.

The Green New Deal: creating the care infrastructure for a just transition

Opinion blog post from Rachel Slocum, co-facilitator of our Green New Deal Team

Life after a Green New Deal would be a world of free healthcare and childcare, cheap and beautiful public housing, first-class public transport infrastructure, well-funded arts programs and ample leisure time.” Clare Hymer, Novara Media

The Green New Deal: creating the care infrastructure for a just transition

What do Medicare for All, universal child care, child care subsidies for low income households (HB 2348) and paid family and medical leave (HB 2005-3) have to do with climate policy? They represent parts of the ‘care infrastructure’ we need to allow people to live with dignity now, survive climate change tomorrow, and fully decarbonize our society over the next ten years.

As the Pacific NW climate movement takes aim at fossil fuel projects, many advocate a just transition for workers who would no longer build LNG plants and pipelines, but instead would install solar panels or build high speed rail lines. But being able to build green infrastructure requires a scaffold of care: someone to take care of the kids while you’re at work, the time off you need to help your father, health care you can afford.

That scaffold is largely missing in the US. Among OECD countries, the US is second to last, just ahead of Turkey, in public spending specifically aimed to benefit families and children. Consequently, in the US, the net child care costs of a couple earning minimum wage amount to 65% of household income. For a lone parent, it’s much worse.  

In the home, US women do the majority of care giving and housekeeping tasks. With paid labor, household labor, and emotional labor, women do a triple shift. Across society, the absence of a care infrastructure weighs disproportionately on women, indigenous, Black, and people of color.  Indeed, the failure to dedicate spending toward family benefits in this country sends younger, lower income households with children toward poverty.

Read more

Perspective on HB2020: “We Support HB2020 the Clean Energy Jobs Bill”

This blog post was written by 350PDX volunteers on the State Legislation team. Given the broad range of convictions, analyses, and strategies within our community, 350PDX is neutral on HB2020 as an organization, but we encourage our volunteers and supporters to continue to engage in the crucial work of crafting just, ambitious, precedent-setting climate legislation for Oregon.

You can find a companion blog post discussing critiques of HB2020 here.

350PDX State Legislative team and other climate justice groups in Oregon are working together to achieve passage of a strong Clean Energy Jobs bill (HB 2020) that will accomplish these four key objectives:

  1. Legislate a declining cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and drive down emissions to at least 80% of 1990 levels over the next 30 years.
  2. Make polluters pay for emissions of GHG in our shared atmosphere.
  3. Invest in a just transition to a clean energy future by allocating funds to low income and communities impacted by climate change.
  4. Provide strong, transparent and accessible oversight with representation that ensures geographic and demographic diversity.

HB2020 was developed by some of the most progressive legislators in Oregon, guided by lessons learned from cap and invest programs elsewhere.  The process included a wide array of environmental and social justice groups, members of impacted communities, economists and scientists, public officials, and the general public.  

The proposed HB2020, as sent to the Ways and Means committee will:

  • Raise about $550 million in the initial years, with the majority of the funds to be invested with impacted communities for projects to reduce GHG emissions and support adaptation to climate change;
  • Require all offsets be real, permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, enforceable, in addition to reductions required by law, and at least half of the programs must be in Oregon;
  • Limit use of offsets to 8% of emissions for any entity and ensure that offsets cannot be used by a covered entity in any Oregon community that does not meet established air quality standards;
  • Decrease the number of free allowances by using the ‘best available technology’ standard; and
  • Cover all of road transportation, electric and gas utilities, and industrial sectors. It also mandates study of non-covered sectors including landfills and fuel for airplane, marine and rail locomotives.

Big emitting industries criticize the bill as too much regulation despite economic projections of increased growth resulting from the shift to cleaner energy. Some social justice groups criticize it based on experiences elsewhere where weak caps, low allowance prices and loose offset programs delivered less than hoped for results. Total emissions decreased with these early programs but left some communities with the same or slightly more local emissions. The State Legislation team has watched this bill develop and studied the issues in depth. We see how this bill is different from the earlier versions with a strong declining cap, limited issue of allowances, and controls on pricing and hoarding allowances. Many environmental justice groups around the state participated in work groups and provided advice to the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction.

In addition to the energy efficiency and bill rebate programs through the utilities, the bill provides specific allocation of the Climate Investment Fund to impacted communities (40%), Tribes (10%) and natural and working lands (20%).  Administration, rule making, and monitoring includes several citizen advisory groups and the Environmental Justice Task Force.

The many benefits that will be achieved with passage of HB2020 far exceed any potential harm. HB2020 will be a key addition to Oregon’s climate legislation, and a national model in progressive cap and invest legislation. It is not a complete solution; there is no single solution for a problem as complex as climate disruption. There will be more work to do.

We will push for the cap decline to ZERO by 2050, as well as a faster decline in free allowances. We must continue to work for additional legislation to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure in Oregon; to change the State Constitution to divert more transportation funds to public and electric transportation; and to develop statewide legislation to significantly increase carbon stored by forests and agricultural lands.

Passing a strong HB 2020 is a good next step in the plan to reduce GHG emissions to net zero. This bill gives us a framework to improve as public will and momentum grows. Community oversight is built into the program, and will be essential. We will need to protect the declining cap on climate pollution when this law is challenged through the referendum process and assaulted by fossil fuel companies who want to see us fail. We have spent many years getting to this point; now more than ever we need to rally together and act with ongoing commitment and resolve.

The latest IPCC report gives only 10 years to get climate pollution under control, and we cannot afford to wait several more years for “better” legislation.

350PDX State Legislation Team / Capping Carbon Campaign

Perspective on HB2020: “We Oppose Harmful and Ineffective Offsets and Allowances Trading”

This blog post was co-produced by Khanh Pham with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Adam Brunelle, a 350PDX Board Member. Given the broad range of convictions, analyses, and strategies within our community, 350PDX is neutral on HB2020 as an organization, but we encourage our volunteers and supporters to continue to engage in the crucial work of crafting just, ambitious, precedent-setting climate legislation for Oregon.

You can find a companion blog post in support of HB2020 here.

To our friends and allies in 350PDX,

We are deeply grateful to you for hearing us. When the 350PDX board chose to remain neutral on House Bill 2020, we felt that someone in the climate movement was finally acknowledging that important disagreements exist, and that frontline communities around the country and world believe we can and must do better.

Let us remember what we all agree upon. We share the urgency of the moment with all of you. Every one of us is terrified about the signs of climate breakdown. The warnings get worse, the impacts have been here for decades and now are undeniable, and there’s no national leadership on climate. But we must not let our sense of urgency turn to desperation to accept anything- especially not ineffective, false solutions. The economists behind carbon trading make bold claims that are not supported by the evidence or the experience of our communities.

HB2020 allows polluters to continue polluting by gaming the system. California’s carbon trading law, already 6 years old, has not done much at all to reduce emissions. 350 shouldn’t support an approach that fails to reach its emissions reduction goals. But beyond carbon reductions, there is also great potential for harm from carbon trading. Richmond, California’s refinery-impacted Black community members have seen emissions in their backyards rise under carbon trading. Refineries are pouring more carbon into the air than they were a decade ago. The health of Black people in Richmond is further decimated as a result. These frontline communities don’t support HB2020’s trading regime.

Replicating California’s harmful failure would be irresponsible. The world is watching Oregon. If we repeat their mistakes we set a bad example for Washington and everywhere else. Our fear, and the fear of international communities watching who signed the letter opposing HB2020, is that legislators replicate a system of offsets, allowances, and trading proven ineffective in California, and then declare victory.

What we learned from the Portland Clean Energy Fund campaign, which we won with nearly 2/3 of voters in favor, is that holding major corporations accountable and funding a transition to clean energy is possible, and voters will support it. The business community cried foul over PCEF for the exact reason it was so popular: it actually holds big businesses accountable.

A working proposal should include a diminishing cap. Polluters should pay for the harm their pollution causes, reduce pollution, and fund direct investments to frontline communities. Carbon regimes relying on trading, offsets, and allowances are unjust, ineffective and harmful. The negative impacts, potential for manipulation, and failure to reduce pollution tell us that carbon trading is the wrong approach to achieve climate justice here or anywhere. We have done our research to offer a list of resources for readers to better understand our position. We invite 350PDX members to engage with these resources so we can work toward a shared understanding of climate justice. Take action to support our position here.

Thank you,

Khanh Pham, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Adam Brunelle, 350PDX Board Member

Tell FERC: Stop Jordan Cove LNG and the Pacific Connector Pipeline

This comment period is now over. Over 42,500 comments were submitted to FERC. Read more about it here. Thank you to all of you who commented, ran or attended comment writing workshops, and got your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else who would listen to engage in this essential process!

Board Statement on HB2020

The Clean Energy Jobs bill, HB2020, has generated much debate and dramatically divergent opinions, both within the Oregon climate community and within 350PDX. Our allies, our staff, and our volunteers are sharply divided: some argue that the bill represents an important and realistic step forward, while others hold that its provisions are both inadequate and unjust.

After weeks of discussion and consultation, 350PDX’s Board of Directors has decided not to take an organizational position on HB2020. This decision represents a consensus of the board, as informed by meetings of the organization’s leadership. We believe that our formal organizational neutrality on this issue is both necessary and accurate, given the broad range of convictions, analyses, and strategies within our community.

Many of our volunteers have poured countless hours over a number of years into making HB2020 a reality. We are grateful for the dedication of our State Legislative Team, and we hope they continue their important work to strengthen the bill. At the same time, we fully acknowledge and deeply appreciate the dissenting views of those within our organization and among our allies that oppose this legislation.

As we build a diverse, grassroots movement, we recognize — and celebrate! — that 350PDX is not a monolith. We are a volunteer-driven organization. Volunteer energy gets the work done and makes us strong. We want to continue to foster that energy and to support this organization as a vehicle for a wide range of ideas and strategies to take on the climate crisis.

We also want to acknowledge that the endorsement process around this bill — or, rather, lack of clear process — has been acutely painful for many of our key volunteers and for our staff. The past several months have been emotionally fraught and for some frankly agonizing. We’re grateful for the honesty, vulnerability, and passion that our community has brought to this question, and we hope that a formal position of neutrality will now allow us to move forward together on the many fronts of our important work.

We intend to continue the dialogue around HB2020 as well, and will be inviting both proponents and opponents of the bill to share their reasoning with our community. We believe that when we embrace our differences with empathy and courage, they can in fact make us stronger.

We are neutral on HB2020 as an organization, but we encourage our volunteers and supporters to continue to engage in the crucial work of crafting just, ambitious, precedent-setting climate legislation for Oregon. In addition to this statement, we will be sending out some guidelines to help our volunteers communicate about our neutral position with allies and legislators.

We are not neutral in our commitment to building a diverse grassroots movement to address the causes of climate disruption through justice-based solutions. That is our mission, and — although we may sometimes disagree on how best to realize it — our community is united behind it.

You can read some of the views of our community on the 350PDX blog, in support here and in opposition here.

Meet Jessica, our new Executive Director!

The long wait is finally over … 350PDX is very happy and excited to announce the hiring of Jessica Beckett as our new Executive Director! 

Jessica Beckett is an organizer of people and a champion for justice. Born in Denver and raised on the glorious Hood Canal in Washington, her formative years were immersed deeply in the many wonders of nature. Jessica’s organizing career began in high school, where she fought the administration to retain a curriculum that honestly addressed America’s role in the Vietnam War. At 19, she became a National Delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Congressman Kucinich, igniting her passion to change our political and social systems. Jessica has served on numerous political campaigns and non-profits, culminating in her role as Field Director for the 2018 Portland Clean Energy Initiative. We are excited to see how she will use her energy, skills and knowledge in continuing to fight for the mission of 350PDX.

350PDX will be announcing a date for a meet and greet, where you will be able to  stop by the office and meet her, until then, please check out her bio on our website.  Keep your eyes open for this announcement.

Over the past months board members, volunteers and staff spent many hours reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates to help us find the right person, through that process they recommended Jessica — thank you for your hard work and dedication.

We would also like to thank and acknowledge Katy Kolker and Anais Tuepker who served as Interim Executive Directors over the past 14 months. Their help and dedication to our mission has been invaluable to helping us transition to a stronger and unified organization.

In solidarity,

The staff and board of 350PDX

JEDI Strength at 350PDX

What does it mean for the climate movement to welcome and include everyone? How would we have to act differently, to make this happen? Why is it important for 350PDX, and what does it mean for each of us, personally?

These kinds of necessary questions framed 350PDX’s weekend leadership retreat on the theme of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI for short). JEDI values have always been present in our mission, but we haven’t always prioritized making sure they lived and breathed in all of our organizing, our internal spaces, or our relationships. With the guidance of Marcelo Bonta, who has been an advocate and trainer working on JEDI in the environmental/climate movement for over a decade, we took two days to dig deep into where we are now, and where we’d like to be.

Day 1 brought about 25 of 350PDX’s staff, Board and lead volunteers together to share diverse dimensions of our identities, discuss and define what JEDI would look like at 350PDX, and assess our organizational culture through a JEDI lens. We also discussed difficult terms that we needed to define, like power and privilege, which need to be recognized to be used in meaningful alliance with frontline communities. We talked about white supremacy culture and the way it has shaped the norms of the mainstream environmental and climate movement. We can go about working towards more inclusive norms that create a better environment for everyone. We ended the day with observations and recommendations for the organization as a whole.

These included:

  • Supporting staff with adequate pay and benefits is an equity issue
  • Reducing harm, being more intentionally welcoming, and providing more fun and time for relationship building in our climate organizing spaces
  • Providing safety and support to those who bring up hard issues is an area where we need to improve
  • An important aspect of being more equitable and inclusive is recognizing existing and historic social justice struggles and having them take precedence over the fast-paced demands of our climate activism

The group also posed some important questions:

  • How will we get all of our volunteer teams to gain and incorporate JEDI skills in their work?
  • How do we make 350PDX’s active work on diversity and inclusion more visible, so that people of different races, ages, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds will feel welcomed into our work?

The JEDI Work Group, established in October 2018, has been charged with carrying this work forward into a comprehensive plan. On Day 2, the JEDI workgroup of 10 volunteers and 350PDX staff met to review and discuss these observations and questions. Over the next few months, this group will be refining our definitions of terms and developing a JEDI statement outlining 350PDX’s history, current actions and future goals in this critical area.

In coming months the workgroup will be reaching out across the organization to gather feedback for a vision statement, as well as working with staff to develop or find and promote the trainings our volunteers need to thrive in doing this JEDI work. Eventually we’d like every volunteer team to have a JEDI who takes on making sure this work in incorporated into every team’s actions.Think you might be your team’s JEDI? Let Anissa know you’re interested with an email to anissa@350pdx.org.

Growth and change are rarely easy, and we have work to do that might sometimes be uncomfortable for those of who already feel welcome and at home at 350PDX. Our retreat made clear that we share a commitment to creating that feeling of community and solidarity for all, empowering and nurturing us all to act against climate chaos. As one retreat participant wrote, “We are strongest when everyone is included and working together. The movement needs all of us.”

(Written by Anais Tuepker, Lucy Kennedy-Wong, Anissa Pemberton, 4/5/2019)