At 9am on April 29th, the top decision makers of Portland General Electric showed up at the World Trade Center for their Annual Shareholders Meeting to discuss, the opportunity to lock Portland into generating our power with fracked gas for 30 years. Imagine the shareholders’ surprise when they arrived and, instead of casually filing into the building, walked straight into a flash mob. As part of the Rally for Renewables, Portlanders bearing wind turbines and carrying sunflower umbrellas burst into a choreographed number: “Why, PGE?”, to the tune of Village People’s classic “YMCA”,” singing and dancing like their lives depended on it. Probably because our future does depend on this.
Over 50 Portlanders rallied to voice the obvious answer to a simple question: would we rather power our city with clean energy or dirty and climate-disrupting fossil fuels? Of Course Not! PGE could be helping our city meet its climate commitments, but with the proposed Carty Fracked Gas power plants they could instead lock us into 30 years of toxic pollution. Now more than ever we need to hasten the transition to a renewable energy and conservation based grid.
PGE is being forced to shut down their coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Oregon: the last operating coal plant in the state. PGE is now proposing to build two huge new fracked gas-fired plants, dubbed ‘Carty 2’ and ‘Carty 3’, that would result in a generating capacity of 1310 MW of fossil-fueled power. The proposal does include solar… a measly 50 MW, or roughly 3.8%.
The thing is, PGE’s own analysis found that their wind and solar plant option would have the same economic outcomes as the gas plants! Of course, we know that wind and solar have far more economic potential than any fossil fuel.
Before the musical routine, the crowd was addressed by Katie Behrendt with Portland Rising Tide.“Building brand new fossil fuel infrastructure is absolutely foolish. It’s very likely that emission reduction mandates and the increasing costs of extraction will render the Carty plants uneconomical, turning them into stranded assets. This is something shareholders should be concerned about.”
As well as Damon Motz-Storey of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility closed the rally saying “Keeping fossil fuels such as methane gas in the ground is the only responsible choice for the health of Oregonians and all people on this planet. Portland General Electric must use clean, renewable energy sources that do not emit volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gasses which contribute to the global climate crisis.”
We have made commitments to goals as a community. Climate polluting infrastructure is not compatible with Portland’s Climate Action Plan. Soon, Portland City Council will hear testimony and vote on a binding resolution to meet 100% of community-wide energy needs through renewable energy by 2050 and 100% of electricity needs by 2035 – we want to strengthen this resolution by demanding this happen by 2030. The resolution also includes commitments to “community-based renewable energy infrastructure” and states: “a renewable energy transition is an opportunity to redress historical iniquities in our community and must be just.”
PGE’s proposal is entirely contrary to the way we have decided to address climate and energy issues as a city. It also conflicts with our vision for the future, to our very identity. Portland does not support developing dirty natural gas infrastructure, nor the environmental degradation, climate disruption, public health risks or violence that accompany it. In Portland we know that new fossil-fuel infrastructure is the exact opposite of what we need in order to meet our goals. The people said no to new fossil fuel infrastructure within city limits, and now we’re saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure built to power the Portland Metro Area. The people of Portland showed up this morning to deliver a crystal clear message to PGE’s top decision makers: fracked gas plants are not an option; we want wind and solar.
Written by: Connor DeVane