Last week marked the beginning of Oregon’s state legislative session. From now on, we’ll be in Salem almost every day until July, lobbying legislators to stand up for Oregon’s environment. Thankfully, after the swearing in ceremony, there are both fresh and familiar faces ready to fight alongside us. Will you write your legislator and ask them to support our 2019 environmental priorities?
A lot is at stake this year, from revolutionary climate legislation to reducing the use of of bee-killing pesticides. In partnership with all the environmental groups that make up the Oregon Conservation Network (OCN), we’ve chosen to prioritize five bills during the 2019 legislative session. Here’s a first look at each of them:
Safer Oil Trains
The 2016 explosion in Mosier made the dangers of oil trains astoundingly clear. Every day, more and more oil trains make their way along the Columbia River and to the coast for exportation overseas. More oil trains means a higher risk of a spill or explosion, and, when that oil reaches its destination, it contributes heavily to climate change. Yet, Oregon still has the weakest oil-by-rail laws of the entire west coast. This bill would help railside communities by regulating and improving emergency response to future oil train spills/explosions. And, it would hold oil transporters accountable for making their trains as safe as possible.
Soil and Water Protection Act
Neonicotinoids are a particularly potent family of pesticides whose use is detrimental to bees and other pollinators. In 2018, the European Union banned neonicotinoids in order to prevent bee populations from collapsing. Here in Oregon, we hope to limit and regulate their use. If this bill passes, it will take neonicotinoids off regular market shelves and require industrial buyers to pay a fee, get a license, and take a class on safe pesticide usage before buying. The bill would also include a ban on another pesticide, Chlorpyrifos, which is extremely dangerous to the farmworkers who are exposed to it. Chlorpyrifos has already been banned in Hawaii, and we hope to follow their lead.
Ditching Dirty Diesel
All businesses must meet state safety regulations for diesel cars and trucks made after 2007, but what about older vehicles? There are still plenty of outdated diesel engines on the road, polluting our air and water with toxins that would not be permitted under today’s standards. If passed, the diesel legislation would also help businesses transition their fleets to cleaner fuel sources, and it would allow for the creation of stricter idling laws to reduce pollution even further.
Clean Energy Jobs
The Clean Energy Jobs bill would fine big corporations for emitting high amounts of carbon pollution, and then invest that money into Oregon’s renewable energy economy. The amount that corporations could emit each year would become gradually smaller, reducing carbon pollution over both the short and long term. If passed, the Clean Energy Jobs bill would help us create the strong foundations we need to transition to a solar, wind, and water powered society. Affordable housing near public transit, improved energy efficiency in homes and businesses, community gardens, green job opportunities, and accessible clean energy are all just some of the ways the money could be invested throughout Oregon.
Funding our state’s conservation, climate, and clean energy agencies is always one of our top priorities, but this year it’s especially important. Under Trump’s leadership, even the most fundamental environmental and human health protections will likely not be funded. It’s up to Oregon’s state government to get things done. Our focuses include: ensuring that our Department of Forestry can handle a potentially grave wildfire season; securing a sustainable water future for Oregon by recovering imperiled salmon and ensuring the health of Oregon’s rivers; and reducing the Department of Environmental Quality’s backlog of air and water quality permit applications.
Will you write your legislators and let them know that you care about environmental and climate action? This year, we have the potential to regulate oil-by-rail, ban harmful pesticides, get diesel engines off the road, and create thousands of good-paying jobs in renewable energy. If we make our voices heard, we can get all of these bills passed. Here’s to making 2019 the best year yet!