2023 Legislative Wrap Up

In 2023, OEC has ambitious goals to deliver sensible, workable, solutions to Oregon’s most pressing environmental challenges. As we have for the past 55 years, our team is excited to join with our partners, broaden coalitions, and reach across ideological divides so that we can deliver benefits for everyone who lives in Oregon.

Our work this year focuses on expanding Oregon’s clean energy economy, creating more resilient and healthy communities, improving water security, reducing the prevalence of toxics in our homes and landscapes, and ensuring that the state budget is aligned with its adopted environmental and community goals.

OEC’s key priorities for the 2023 legislative session:

Resilient Communities

Kellog Middle School is now a net-zero emissions building. Photo by Jason Quigley.

Clean, Efficient, Healthy, and Affordable Homes & Buildings

Buildings are the second largest source of climate pollution in Oregon, and our first line of defense against climate harms. We need to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels in buildings, both new and existing, to meet urgent climate targets. We must also ensure that buildings are resilient to climate impacts and that they are affordable and healthy for all Oregonians.

2023 Policy Priorities

  • Healthy Heating & Cooling for All (SB 868): Aligns energy efficiency programs with state climate goals, accelerates statewide heat pump deployment, and ramps up energy efficiency efforts like weatherizing and retrofitting existing homes. 
  • Build Smart from the Start (SB 869): Improves building codes for new construction, codifying an update to Oregon’s base building code so that all new buildings are constructed to be more energy efficient and resilient from the start.
  • Building Performance Standard (SB 870): Improves the energy efficiency of large, energy-intensive commercial buildings across the state through the adoption of a Building Performance Standard and incentives. 
  • Smart State Buildings (SB 871): Reduces barriers for state-owned buildings to be made healthier and more energy efficient. 
  • ODOE “One Stop Shop” (HB 3166): Supports ODOE in establishing and administering two energy efficiency programs to help efficiently and equitably administer $114 million in expected federal funding to Oregonians.
  •  Community Resilience Hubs (HB 2990): Funds community resilience hubs and networks across the state to provide access to resources for vulnerable populations during disasters.MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: All bills passed out of policy committee, and have been referred to Joint Ways and Means.

Protections for Workers Against Climate Impacts

Outdoor and other frontline workers in Oregon often experience the worst of climate impacts, such as extreme heat and wildfire smoke. These extreme conditions can have serious health impacts or even be deadly.

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Right to Refuse Dangerous Work (SB 907): Strengthens a worker’s right to refuse hazardous work, such as if it is dangerously hot outside to work safely, amongst other conditions.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out committee unanimously, and with bipartisan support off the Senate floor, awaiting a hearing in House Business and Labor.

There are thousands of known toxics in products marketed to kids.

Expanding the Toxic Free Kids Act

Seven years ago, Oregon set a national standard in reducing toxics in products sold to kids with the original Toxics Free Kids Act. However, thousands more chemicals, some known to be harmful and others untested, have been introduced into the marketplace. Because of their smaller bodies and developing brains and lungs, children are more vulnerable to toxics and can have serious health impacts from these chemicals.

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Toxic Free Kids modernization (HB 3043): Updates and strengthens the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2015 to keep pace with scientific developments to better protect kids who are most vulnerable to toxics.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed the House 42-14 with bipartisan support. Assigned to the Senate Energy and Environment Committee and will have a hearing soon.

Safe Cosmetics & Personal Care Products:

Thousands of harmful toxics have been found in personal care products such as sunscreen, deodorant, hair products, skin creams, and cosmetics. Many of these products disproportionately impact women of color due to the kinds of chemicals in products marketed towards them, such as mercury in skin lighteners. These chemicals can cause serious health impacts such as breast cancer and fertility issues. Federal gridlock has prevented common sense national standards from being adopted, leaving states to protect people.

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Toxic Free Cosmetics (SB 546): Removes harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde from cosmetic products.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of its committee unanimously and has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

Reducing Health Impacts from Plastic Foodware & Electronics

More and more single-use plastic is being used, and these products contain harmful chemicals, like PFAS, and fossil fuels that can leach into food, water, and air.

2023 Policy Priorities:

  • Plastics Reduction and Polystyrene Ban (SB 543): Reduces plastic pollution by banning single-use plastic, PFAS, and Styrofoam food containers that have negative impacts on human health and our waterways.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed the full Senate 20-9 and has been referred to the House Climate, Energy and Environment Committee.
  • Right to Repair (SB 542): Reduces electronic waste and helps local economies by requiring tech companies to make parts that allow small businesses to repair electronics (ie. smartphones).
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of its committee and is awaiting the floor vote in the Senate.

Make Schools Healthier

Oregon school districts and regulatory agencies currently lack the funding, coordination, and resources needed to implement safer pesticide use practices. As a result, unintentional yet illegal pesticide uses are occurring at Oregon schools. SB 426 will create a path towards modernized record keeping and safer choices for pest control under the Healthy and Safe Schools Act.

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Toxic Free Schools (SB 426): Ends a 14-year unfunded mandate by providing resources and technological assistance to school districts to reduce harmful pesticide use. Provides funding that assists schools in finding alternatives to pesticides on school grounds.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out its policy committee and was referred to Ways and Means.

A Clean Economy & Healthy Landscapes

Windmills over green terrain

Oregon can help bring forth a fossil-free future with the production and procurement of clean, renewable technologies.

Clean Energy Technology Leadership

Right now, Oregon has the opportunity to be a leader in producing and procuring clean energy technologies that the entire world is seeking in the transition to a clean energy economy, like solar panels and heat pumps. Promoting these opportunities will help create good union jobs, jumpstart new local businesses, address domestic supply chain challenges, and ensure affordable access to clean energy technologies. 

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Clean Technology Leadership (HB 3579): Maximizes Oregon’s competitiveness in attracting, expanding, and sustaining clean energy technology industries and manufacturers in Oregon.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of committee, referred to Joint Ways & Means.

Climate-smart Land & Water Management

Healthy forests, waters, and agricultural lands are vital to Oregon’s economy, culture, and way of life. They are also an essential part of the climate solution, but there is much more we could be doing. The science is clear: in order to avoid climate catastrophe, we must transform the way we use and manage our land, and need more programs and investments to get the work done. 

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Natural Climate Solutions (SB 530): Supports statewide forestland owners, farmers, and ranchers to implement climate-smart land management practices, improving the resilience of Oregon communities and natural resource economies.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of its committee, referred to the Joint Ways & Means.

Advance Oregon’s Climate Goals

Climate-fueled extreme heat, drought, and wildfires have devastated the lives and livelihoods of Oregonians, destroying entire communities, threatening our local economies, and worsening public health outcomes across the state. We must take action to ensure emission reductions happen at the pace and scale necessary.

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Oregon Climate Modernization (SB 522): Updates Oregon’s long-outdated greenhouse gas reduction goals and supports staffing and expanded representation on the Oregon Global Warming Commission.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of committee, referred to Joint Ways & Means.

Electric buses charging up to be used for public transportation.

Clean & Equitable Transportation

Transportation is the single largest source of climate pollution in Oregon, while also being a major source of air pollution. Oregon’s current system does not equitably serve all peoples’ needs and is dangerous. State funding and policy decisions have not remedied these problems and major changes in how we collect revenue and direct where it is spent are needed.

2023 Policy Priorities:

  • E-Bike Rebate (HB 2571)​: Creates a new e-bike incentive fund. E-bikes expand transportation choices, provide health benefits and cut pollution.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of committee and referred to the Joint Ways & Means.
  • Electric Vehicle Rebate Program (HB2613): Oregon’s EV rebate has run out of funds. This bill adds needed resources to reopen the fund in 2024 to meet the demand for clean vehicles, including the Charge Ahead rebate for low- and moderate-income households.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of its policy committee, referred to Joint Ways and Means.
  • Medium and Heavy Duty Electric Vehicle Rebate Program (HB2714): Establishes a rebate program for to receive federal funding for zero-emission Medium and Heavy Duty vehicles.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of committee and referred to the Joint Ways & Means.
  • Clean and Healthy Routes to Schools (HB3014): Having a reliable way to get to school is critical for students’ success. This bill directs the State Board of Education to adopt rules that would allow school districts to get reimbursement of expenses for alternative transportation costs such as a bike bus leader and crossing guards.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed out of the House Education Committee and referred to the Joint Ways & Means.

Water Security

Children’s bodies are more vulnerable to toxics in drinking water.

Safe Well Water For All

Oregon has many known areas of groundwater contamination leaving thousands of homeowners and renters in Oregon who get their water from wells at risk of drinking contaminated water. Though Oregon had a program in place to ensure well water is tested and disclosed upon the buying or selling of a property, currently the program is unfunded and therefore does not ensure the safety of well water. 

2023 Policy Priority:

  • Well Water Testing (HB 3207): This bill improves reporting requirements for domestic well testing. This will protect the health of thousands of families.
    • MID-SESSION UPDATE AS OF 5/1/23: Passed its committee and is headed to Joint Ways and Means.

Values-Driven Public Investments

Funding from the IRA will help Oregon advance the use of clean technologies.

Maximizing Federal Funding Opportunities

  • Recent federal investments provide an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate the transition to an equitable and clean energy economy. However, the extent to which Oregonians see the benefits of these transformative investments will depend in part on whether the state has strong programs and policies in place to implement them. 
    • Immediate legislative action is needed to ensure that Oregon is best-positioned to maximize the benefits of federal legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes billions of dollars in funding for building efficiency and electrification, transportation electrification and public transit, clean water, climate-smart land management, and workforce training programs. The legislature must adequately resource state energy and environmental agencies and adopt new, complementary incentive programs to ensure Oregon is prepared to administer and harness these investments.

Climate-smart and Responsible Investments in Transportation Infrastructure

  • The Oregon legislature will be deciding on major transportation investments that could lock in traffic patterns and inequitable revenue streams for generations to come. Historically, these decisions have not been made with strong enough climate or equity commitments.
    • OEC will track and engage in advocacy on legislation allocating money to specific projects (such as the I-5 Bridge), as well as legislation that would establish guide rails around spending, such as requiring that money be spent on maintenance before building new roadway.

Labor and Climate Standards for State Investment

  • Worker building a house outside

    A just-transition includes safety and health protections for workers advancing a clean energy economy.

    Current public investments and infrastructure projects have the potential to make or break our climate future and to lift up or undermine a strong Oregon workforce. Particularly with unprecedented federal funding opportunities coming to Oregon, it is critical that state investments and budget decisions consider climate impacts and apply strong labor requirements.

    • OEC will advocate for legislation to identify and establish a set of labor and environmental standards that will be applied to large state investments and infrastructure projects. These standards will ensure transparency and uniformity around state funding decisions.