Photo of house roof truss
Recapping Oregon's 2022 Legislative Session

While Oregon’s constitution only allows the short legislative session to last 35 days, this year legislators needed just 32 days to wrap the state’s business. It was a fast and furious pace, with the Climate Solutions team and our allies trying to ensure Oregon does not lose a year on desperately-needed climate progress. This session, the legislature provided historic levels of investments in clean energy solutions and electric vehicles, as well as significant progress for environmental and social justice in our state. As you will read below, the table is now set for 2023 to be a banner year for state legislative progress.

The Climate Resilience Budget

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Along with establishing the REBuilding Task Force, Oregon legislators have successfully added an ambitious set of budget items and program funding that will address climate action and bolster community resilience throughout the state. This $100M Climate Resilience Budget invests in solar energy + storage and zero-emission vehicle rebate programs, charging stations for electric trucks and buses, home retrofits for low income Oregonians, emergency heat relief programs for vulnerable communities (including electric heat pumps), and additional drought relief and recovery funds. 

We applaud this package of robust investments as we scale up needed clean energy solutions and increase community resilience across the state. As the toll of climate impacts continues to rise, the investment in climate solutions must also increase to meet the moment with speed, scale and equity.

Reach code bill → REbuilding task force

At the beginning of this legislative session, one of our top priorities was Senate Bill 1518, commonly referred to as the “Reach code bill.” A major item of unfinished climate business from Oregon’s 2021 Legislative Session, this bill would have allowed local governments the ability to individually opt in to requiring stronger energy efficiency standards for buildings constructed within their jurisdictions. 

If you caught our mid-session update, we described how the Oregon Legislature chose to replace our “Reach code” policy proposal by establishing a new “Resilient, Efficient Buildings (REBuilding) Task Force,” charged with developing a comprehensive decarbonization policy for new and existing buildings that the Legislature will consider in 2023. 

While we remain disappointed that Oregon’s local governments won’t have the opportunity to select stronger energy efficiency standards for their communities, we are pleased that the bill to establish this REBuilding Task Force was passed by the legislature. We are committed to participating fully in this task force—alongside many of our community partners and other stakeholders—to ensure that Oregon reduces as much climate pollution as possible from the buildings sector while creating family-wage jobs and  delivering tangible benefits in collaboration with and for Oregon’s frontline communities. 

Supporting Oregon’s workers, frontline communities, and vulnerable populations

We are gratified that a number of other bills containing climate and community resilience benefits also received legislators’ stamp of approval during this session. An emergency heat relief bill (SB 1536) that will provide low-cost air conditioners and electric heat pumps to vulnerable, low-income Oregonians while also removing barriers to renters installing cooling systems in their homes successfully passed through the Legislature, thanks largely to a major public campaign led by Verde, the Coalition of Communities of Color, Rogue Climate, and the Community Alliance of Tenants. 

Agricultural employers will now be required to pay their workers overtime wages for any hours of labor worked in excess of state labor standards while family farms will receive financial support during this transition (HB 4002). Gratitude to PCUN for leading this multiyear effort for farmworker justice! State law pertaining to labor standards for renewable energy projects were updated and clarified in the wake of the 100% Clean Energy for All bill that was passed last year. The state’s Environmental Justice Task Force was promoted to a full Council with corresponding funding and this body will create a statewide mapping of environmental burdens and benefits (HB 4077); kudos to Unite Oregon and the Oregon Just Transition Alliance for leading this effort. A bill that will strengthen broadband internet infrastructure in underserved areas received the nod (HB 4092), and the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by the Oregon Health Equity Task Force that declares racism as a statewide public health crisis (HB 4052). 

Unfortunately, during such a short legislative session, many important priorities were left on the cutting room floor. A bill that would require the annual public disclosure of state funds invested in the fossil fuel sector did not pass (HB 4115). A resolution that would declare wildfires and other extreme climate events a danger to workers and afford them additional protections died in committee (HCR 203), as did proposals to establish a hard timeline for phasing out statewide petroleum diesel sales (HB 4141) and to increase carbon sequestration on natural and working lands (SB 1534). 

So what’s next?

As Oregon’s second-largest and fastest-growing source of climate pollution, reducing fossil fuel use in Oregon’s homes, businesses, and other structures remains a top priority. In addition to participating in the REBuilding Task Force, we continue to work with local governments and other partners to support the adoption of zero-pollution clean energy sources and electrification to meet our communities’ needs. We are also participating in important PUC processes that grapple with the Future of Gas in our state.

On the transportation front, we are actively supporting the implementation of the recently-enacted Clean Truck and Low NOx Rules aimed at electrifying and reducing climate and air pollution from semi trucks, delivery trucks, buses, and other diesel vehicles. We’re also advocating for additional policies that will encourage the continued adoption of zero-emission vehicles, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and address escalating issues such as congestion and infrastructure degradation in the transportation space. 

As we approach the one-year anniversary of enacting 100% Clean Energy for All, we are working closely with ratepayer and community advocates, utilities, and other key stakeholders to implement this critical climate win equitably and sustainably. 

We will need your support and participation to sustain all these wins and continue to make forward progress in the face of the escalating climate crisis. Stay tuned for more ways to get involved!

Author Bio

Meredith Connolly

Oregon Director, Climate Solutions

Meredith brings over a decade of climate policy experience to her work accelerating Oregon’s transition to a clean energy economy. She advocates for innovative and equitable policy solutions to reduce pollution and create clean energy jobs across the state. Currently, Meredith leads a team diligently working to electrify everything from cars, trucks, and buses to homes and buildings, and power it all with 100% clean electricity.

Prior to joining Climate Solutions, Meredith was a Climate and Energy Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. At NRDC, she advanced renewable energy policies in the U.S. and internationally. She also implemented programs to protect public health and improve climate resilience to heat waves and air pollution in India’s growing cities. Before NRDC, Meredith practiced law in the private sector.

Meredith is a member of the Oregon and California State Bar Associations. She holds a JD from Boston College Law School and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and French from Santa Clara University. In her free time, Meredith enjoys exploring her incredible home state of Oregon with her family and rooting too loudly for the Portland Thorns and Timbers.