Like many of you, I am still reeling from the end of the 2019 legislative session when eleven senators walked out (for a second time) on the democratic process. We were hours away from passing the Clean Energy Jobs bill—a remarkable piece of legislation that would:
- put a declining cap on major sources of climate pollution
start charging for the true cost of climate pollution, and
- invest critical resources into projects that create good-paying jobs and help communities—including rural areas–throughout Oregon get access to cleaner energy, become more efficient, clean up transportation, and become more resilient to climate impacts.
The bill was supported by an impressive coalition, lead by Oregon Environmental Council, Renew Oregon, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Sustainable Northwest, Climate Solutions, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, and Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Grassroots groups from southern and central Oregon played key roles. Labor unions, health professions, over 200 farms, hundreds of statewide faith leaders, large and small forestland owners, land conservation groups, and over 800 businesses endorsed the bill. Over the course of the 2019 session 3000 people showed up for citizen lobby days, legislator visits, rallies on the capitol steps, and to attend hearings. 15,000 Oregonians signed a petition delivered to Governor Brown, urging action.
But perhaps some of the brightest shining stars were the youth voices. In 2016, some made their debut. This year they’ve grown both taller and expanded their ranks. They rallied on Earth Day with Governor Brown. They testified at hearings, delivered petitions (gathering 1000 signatures in a few weeks).
The bill passed the House 36-24—an historic vote. It was scheduled for a vote in the Senate. (In Oregon, bills generally aren’t scheduled for floor votes without having the necessary support.) In the end, it took extraordinary and radical measures to prevent a vote in the Senate—measures that upended the democratic will of the majority of Oregon voters. Oregon’s dysfunction—and the corporate interests that funded it–garnered national attention, including from the New Yorker, Washington Post, and even Rolling Stones.
When adults inexplicably failed youth at the end of session, they lead protests on the capitol steps and held sit-ins at legislative offices demanding accountability and commitment to progress. OEC was right there with them.
Governor Kate Brown reconfirmed her support for Clean Energy Jobs in a press conference held a day after session ended. She stated she prefers a legislative path forward but committed to using “every tool in the tool box” to meaningfully address climate disruption. OEC will be there urging her forward.
Recently, new scientific reports have been reported on, showing Oregon’s Douglas Firs and other iconic tree species are dying due to years of drought. Without action to address climate change, the cumulative impact on trees alone could be half a billion in economic losses by mid-century. OEC will keep telling these stories.
Climate disruption isn’t slowing. Each year of delay requires that we make even bigger reductions in future years. We need climate action in 2019 and we won’t let up our call for the solutions our youth leaders and communities deserve.