It’s Almost Spring! Legislative Update from OEC

The 2015 legislative session is off to a great start! Below is a special update on how OEC’s legislative agenda is progressing. 

Speaking of the Capitol, we hope you’ll join us and more than 40 other environmental organizations for Oregon League of Conservation Voter’s lobby day. It’s happening on March 24. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

CLIMATE PROTECTION

Clean Fuels Program—SB 324 Victory! After the bill passed both chambers, Governor Brown signed SB 324 into law on March 12, lifting the sunset on Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program! This is a great early victory for the environmental and business communities. Over the next ten years, transportation fuel providers must reduce the carbon pollution of their fuels by at least 10%. The full lifetime carbon emissions are taken into account for each fuel, which pushes the market toward the lowest-carbon fuels, like electricity and advanced biofuels made from waste. The oil industry did its best to squash the Clean Fuels Program, but did not prevail. This is a huge win for our state and our climate.

OEC is also working to ensure that this session’s transportation legislation provides adequate resources for both road repair and transportation options. We are especially focused on funding for transit operations, including support for elderly and disabled transit and a new initiative to increase youth access to public transportation.

Youth Transit Initiative—HB 2979  The House Committee on Transportation & Economic Development held a hearing on youth transit on March 11, hearing perspectives from youth, social justice, health, environmental interests and more. From an environmental perspective, if fewer parents need to drive their kids to and from school, it will reduce idling around schools (which contributes to poor air quality) and will reduce carbon pollution. In addition, when kids are exposed to public transit early in life, they are more likely to become life-long riders. We’re pleased to say that the Chair is pulling together a work group to see how this important issue can be addressed.

TOXIC-FREE ENVIRONMENTS

Toxic Free Kids Act—SB 478  We expect SB 478 to move out of its first committee to the Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Human Services on March 18. This important bill requires the disclosure and phase out of certain toxic chemicals in children’s products—chemicals that are linked to chronic disease later in life. We will need your help keeping this bill on the top of the agenda in the busy Ways & Means committee –  of Oregon being able to adopt our own safety protections. Be sure you are signed up to receive our Action Alerts!

CLEAN WATER

Safe Drinking Water Act—HB 3076  Oregon has a dirty secret—polluted drinking water. Nitrate and bacterial pollution in Oregon’s groundwater is primarily caused by failed septic tanks and agricultural runoff. There is little legal accountability for the testing of wells in Oregon, yet drinking contaminated groundwater causes chronic and acute health problems.

Our bill would require annual testing of wells on rental properties, expand DEQ’s capacity to address water quality hotspots, and provide funding to help low-income Oregonians purchase filtration systems for contaminated wells.

This bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Energy & Environment. A hearing date has not been set yet.

Fertilizer Savings Act—HB 2718  This bill, which aims to save farmers money while reducing pollution from agricultural runoff, has been assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources. It will restart a grant program to reduce fertilizer runoff and ensure robust funding to address this key issue. A hearing date has not been set yet, but we have support from some key Oregon farmers.

CLEAN AIR

Clean Up Dirty Air—HB 3310, SB 823 & SB 824  Did you know Oregon has the sixth highest health risk from diesel pollution in the nation? California has adopted strong regulations to reduce diesel pollution from a variety of sources. But guess who is inheriting the diesel engines that don’t meet their new standards? Oregon. Diesel pollution is toxic stuff—a cocktail of more than 40 very hazardous pollutants. In addition, diesel emits what’s known as black carbon, a potent greenhouse gas pollutant that contributes to climate change.

Three bills address diesel pollution this session. HB 3310 seeks adoption of California’s diesel standards. SB 823 would improve the state’s anti-idling law. SB 824 would require registration of non-road diesel engines; require that one percent of certain public contracts be spent to clean up construction equipment; authorize the Environmental Quality Commission to adopt broader diesel emission standards; and allow local governments to adopt stronger anti-idling provisions than those set by the state. These bills have been assigned to committee, and we expect a hearing as soon as early April.

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