Oregon capitol

EDMUND GARMAN

What Oregon's leaders got done (and didn't) for the climate

Oregon’s 2019 legislative session will likely go down in history for what did not happen for the climate - and rightly so. It’s been a week since the session ended without giving the Clean Energy Jobs bill (HB 2020) the final vote on the Senate Floor that it deserved. 

We have always known that the path to victory is long; in Oregon, it just got a little longer. Climate Solutions and our coalition partners are grateful for your support to bring Clean Energy Jobs so close to the finish line. We’re not giving up the fight; we will continue pushing for bold climate action in Oregon. And we need your help to make more climate action possible. Will you consider making a donation today?

While Clean Energy Jobs was the single biggest path this year for Oregon to reduce emissions, and therefore our top priority in 2019 legislative session, lawmakers did pass a number of other  important climate-related measures

Here’s a brief summary of where key climate-related bills landed, followed by our more detailed bill-by-bill analysis:

Climate-related bills the Oregon Legislature passed this year:

  • Fracking ban: No new fracking for oil or gas in Oregon for the next 5 years (HB 2623) 
  • Offshore oil drilling ban: Offshore drilling permanently banned off the Oregon coast (SB 256)
  • Electric vehicle transition: Official goals established for increasing zero-emission vehicles on Oregon’s roads, and spurring electric school buses and state EV fleets (SB 1044)
  • Rooftop solar: the Solar Rebates for All program created to reduce the cost of solar and battery storage for homes and businesses, particularly residential low-income projects (HB 2618)
  • Protection against federal rollbacks: Oregon Environmental Protection Act ensures our clean air and clean water laws cannot be weakened by federal rollbacks (HB 2250)
  • Oil train regulation: Safety protections and improved oversight created for trains carrying oil-by-rail (HB 2209)
  • Renewable gas: Natural gas utilities can provide renewable gas generated from sources like wastewater and dairies to our homes and businesses, reducing emissions (SB 98)
  • Reducing dirty diesel: Diesel emission standards strengthened for medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the Portland metro region (HB 2007)
  • Greener zoning: “Middle housing” such as duplexes and four-plexes cannot be banned in major Oregon cities, making it more affordable to be closer to transit and amenities (HB 2001)
  • Driver’s licenses for all: the Equal Access to Roads Act expands eligibility for a standard driver's license to all Oregon residents, regardless of citizenship status (HB 2015)

Climate bills the Oregon Legislature did not pass this year:

  • Cap and invest: The Clean Energy Jobs bill, would create a comprehensive program to cap climate pollution economy-wide and invest in clean energy solutions around Oregon (HB 2020). A cap and invest bill has never made it as far through the legislature, but that’s not good enough. The day after session, Governor Kate Brown announced her continued dedication to Clean Energy Jobs, and that she will use all the tools at her disposal (including executive orders if necessary) to make it law. With the Legislature’s failure to pass Clean Energy Jobs this year, we are losing valuable time to address the climate crisis. We know the climate math; any further delay will require us to pass bigger and bolder policies to close the gap between our current trajectory and a healthy, livable future. 
  • Equity in utility planning: Would add equity as a consideration to inform Public Utility Commission actions and create a new PUC office to advocate for low income and environmental justice communities (HB 2242)
  • Home weatherization incentives: Would incentivize efficiency upgrades to low and moderate income homes (HB 3094)
  • Oregon Climate Authority: Would create a new state agency to focus exclusively on addressing climate change and the transition to clean energy (SB 928)
  • Electric vehicle charging: Would require new multi-family housing to support EV charging and make EV charging stations at government buildings more accessible (HB 3141)

That’s the summary. Now, here’s a more detailed analysis of what happened with key climate bills we were tracking this year.

Clean Energy Jobs: Capping pollution and investing in solutions

House Bill 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, would have created a comprehensive program to cap climate pollution economy-wide and invest in clean energy solutions.  After more than 10 years developing this climate program, Oregon was poised to pass HB 2020 and take a leading role in addressing the climate crisis.

Result: The 2019 Clean Energy Jobs bill – House Bill 2020 – was introduced in early February, with many of the critical components for a strong climate program including an economy-wide cap and strong emissions reductions targets.  After a series of public hearings across the state, the Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction introduced a series of amendments to strengthen the bill. The bill that ultimately passed the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources, and the full Ways and Means committee, and the House Floor:

  • Put a firm and declining limit on climate pollution in Oregon; 
  • Held all large polluters accountable, without exemptions or free passes; and
  • Invested in job-creating clean energy projects in communities across the state, including at least half of investments to benefit communities most impacted by the climate crisis. 

It was scheduled for a Senate floor vote, but due to the Senate Republicans walking out and denying quorum, it did not ultimately get a final vote. The day after session though, Governor Kate Brown announced her continued dedication to Clean Energy Jobs, and that she will use all the tools at her disposal (including executive orders if necessary) to make it law.  So the fight will continue.

Expand renewable energy

Rooftop solar: House Bill 2618 creates a grant program to reduce the cost of solar for homes and businesses. It will help reinvigorate Oregon’s solar industry, while reducing carbon emissions, expanding clean energy jobs, and saving consumers money on electricity bills. Residential customers can receive rebates of up to $7,500 per system, based on household income, the cost of the system, and if the system installed includes energy storage.  Approximately $1.5 million will be made available for rebates under the program for 2019-2021 (the Legislature was considering providing $30 million for the program).

Result: Both chambers passed HB 2618 and it was signed into law.

Renewable gas: Senate Bill 98 will help enable gas utilities to provide renewable gas generated from sources like wastewater and dairies to our homes and businesses, reducing emissions.  Under the bill, large gas utilities could deliver up to 30% renewable gas by 2050.

Result: Both chambers passed SB 98 and it was signed into law.

Protect Oregonians from fossil-fuel hazards

Offshore oil drilling ban: Senate Bill 256 permanently bans offshore drilling off the Oregon coast. Oregon is now protected from this dangerous practice and has reduced where fossil fuel extraction can take place.

Result: Both chambers passed SB 256 and it has been signed into law.

Fracking ban: House Bill 2623 prevents any new fracking for oil or gas in Oregon for the next 5 years.  HB 2623 will add important protections for our environment, people, and climate.

Result: Both chambers passed HB 2623 and it was signed into law. The bill originally sought to ban fracking for 10 years, but it was amended to ban fracking for 5 years.  Passing this bill was a multi-year effort.

Oil train safety: House Bill 2209 provides safety protections and improved oversight of trains carrying oil by rail.

Result: Both chambers passed HB 2209 and the Governor is expected to sign it into law.   Of the multiple bills proposed to improve safety standards for oil spills from trains, House Bill 2209 was the one that moved forward. 

Expand equitable climate action

Equity in utility planning: House Bill 2242 would have added equity as a consideration to inform the Public Utility Commission’s actions and created a new office at the PUC to advocate for low income and environmental justice communities. It would have helped our PUC – which regulates Oregon’s major electric and gas utilities – develop solutions that better address the needs identified by people of color and low income communities.

Result: A policy committee voted to advance HB 2242, but it was not taken up in Ways and Means.

Home weatherization incentives: House Bill 3094 would have created a new incentive for contractors and building owners to make efficiency upgrades to low and moderate income homes. The bill would have supported investments in energy efficiency upgrades like home weatherization to save low income residents’ money and reduce climate emissions from home heating and cooling.  

Result: A policy committee voted to advance HB 3094, but it was not taken up in Ways and Means.

Promote clean transportation

Electric vehicle transition: Recognizing that transportation accounts for nearly 40% of Oregon’s climate pollution, Senate Bill 1044 establishes legislative goals and direction for transitioning to electric vehicles in Oregon. It requires a biennial report on adoption of zero-emission vehicles and progress on the reduction of transportation greenhouse gas emissions. It also allows schools to build charging stations with funds it receives through utilities’ Public Purpose Charge, and creates a more efficient process for utilities to invest in charging stations at public locations.

Result: Both chambers passed SB 1044 and it has been signed into law.

Electric vehicles charging: House Bill 3141 would have required that new multi-family housing support electric vehicle charging and makes it easier for the public to use EV charging stations at government buildings.

Result: A policy committee voted to advance HB 3141, but it was not taken up in Ways and Means.

Dirty diesel:  House Bill 2007 strengthens diesel emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses, and makes Volkswagen Settlement Funds available to replace older diesel engines with cleaner alternatives. The regulations are limited to trucks in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties. The bill will help reduce toxic diesel exhaust, which contributes to climate change and is linked to serious health problems including an increased risk of cancer.

Result:  Both chambers passed HB 2007 and the Governor is expected to sign it into law. The introduced bill originally proposed regulating trucks statewide, but was limited to the Metro region as the bill made its way through the Legislature. The bill also exempted trucks used in agriculture and logging.

Greener zoning:  House Bill 2001 requires cities with a population of 25,000 or more and each county with a metropolitan service district to permit the development of all “middle housing” types (duplexes, four-plexes, etc.) in residential-zoned areas that allow for detached single-family homes. Cities with a population of 10,000-25,000 outside of a metropolitan service district are also required to permit the development of a duplex on each lot in residential-zoned areas. Denser housing will help make it more affordable to be closer to transit and amenities.

Result: Both chambers passed HB 2001 and the Governor is expected to sign it into law.

Driver’s license for all:  House Bill 2015, the Equal Access to Roads Act, expands eligibility for a standard driver's license to all Oregon residents, regardless of citizenship status. Everyone deserves clean air and water, and a chance for a healthy and vibrant life – including Oregon’s immigrant communities, who are on the frontlines of climate change.

Result: Both chambers passed HB 2007 and the Governor is expected to sign it into law.

Elevate climate action in state government

Oregon Climate Authority: Senate Bill 928 laid out the Governor’s bold proposal to create a new state agency that focuses exclusively on addressing climate change and the transition to clean energy.

Result: A policy committee voted to advance SB 928, but Ways and Means did not take it up.

Zach Baker's picture

Oregon Policy Manager

, Climate Solutions

Zach works to advance policies that address climate change and accelerate the transition to clean energy in Oregon. 

Zach brings to his work over a decade of policy and advocacy experience focused on protecting the environment and promoting public health.  His experience spans the local, state, and federal policy levels and he has served in a variety of capacities, including serving as a City Councilor in Corvallis, Oregon.  Immediately prior to joining Climate Solutions, Zach worked with the Center for Climate Change and Health to launch a national initiative to engage health professionals in state climate change policy. 

Zach holds a law degree from the University of Oregon with a focus in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and a BA from Tufts University in political science and community health. 

When he’s not advocating for climate policies, Zach enjoys riding his bike, hiking a trail, and enjoying Oregon’s agricultural bounty.