2022 Short Legislative Session

The 2022 Oregon Legislative Session kicks off on February 1st and runs for only 35 days. The “short session”, which occurs in even number years, often focuses on budgets, unfinished business, and a limited set of new policy ideas. Because of the shortened timeframe, the number of bills that can be introduced is always limited in short session. This year, however, is going to be unique. With lots of new faces in the legislature, changes in party leadership, a big budget surplus, and a governors race ramping up, the 2022 short session is going to be very dynamic.  Learn more about our priorities for this session, and see our more detailed session overview below.

OEC’s 2022 Legislative Priorities:

This year, OEC’s legislative priorities fall into four categories to advance our core program areas. Click on the title of each program area to learn more.

It will be a challenge to advance all of this work in a short session, but there are a few key priorities that we believe have a good shot of getting over the finish line. Additionally, the short session is an important opportunity to educate legislators on more comprehensive proposals that we’ll be working towards in the 2023 long session.


Session Overview: 

The 2022 legislative session is going to be shaped by some seismic shifts in the state’s political context. First, the state has an unprecedented budget surplus due to a combination of money coming from the federal government and larger than expected tax revenues. Additionally, because Governor Brown will be term-limited, the legislative session will be taking place in the midst of the most wide-open race for governor. This has already shaken up the legislature (more on that below) as many sitting legislators have resigned to run. These include: House Speaker Tina Kotek, Betsy Johnson (a long time senator and co-chair of the ways and means committee) and former Republican House Minority Leader Representative Christine Drazen.  

Filling vacancies for the Speaker and Ways and Means co-chair will have cascading effects on other committees as legislators reshuffle their assignments. Finally, in the wake of redistricting there will be a number of new faces of recently appointed legislators; and the last appearance of some long-time leaders, including Governor Kate Brown who is term-limited, Oregon’s longest serving Senate President, Peter Courtney, who is retiring, and Oregon’s longest serving House Speaker Tina Kotek who is running for Governor. 

All of this adds up to more change than we’ve seen in the state legislature in at least a decade. But this also represents a huge opportunity to forge new relationships, fill influential committee seats, and build capacity for environmental advocacy for years to come. 

While the legislature made meaningful progress to reduce emissions from the electricity sector in 2021, we know that our state will need to go bigger and bolder every year to make up for the decades of delayed action and increased reliance on fossil fuels. The 2021 legislature also punted on a number of toxics and environmental health bills, like modernizing the Toxic Free Kids Act, reducing single-use plastics, and hazardous waste stewardship. Leveraging natural systems for drought resiliency was also left on the cutting room floor during the recent special session. What we need most urgently from the legislature now is to pass policies that ensure that all Oregonians are protected, able to reap the cost-saving and health benefits of clean energy solutions, and prioritizes benefits and protections for those communities disproportionately impacted by climate impacts and historic racial, economic, and environmental injustice.


FOSSIL-FREE + HEALTHY BUILDINGS

Tolu Olubode | Unsplash

THE PROBLEM

Buildings are the second biggest–and growing–source of climate pollution in Oregon, responsible for 34 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the state. This is due to the fossil fuels used for both electricity and from the “natural” gas and oil used to heat homes and commercial buildings. Fossil “natural” gas is primarily made of methane, an explosive, toxic super pollutant that is on the rise in Oregon. Fossil gas is not only harmful to our climate but is toxic to our homes and communities. At the same time, we know that our buildings don’t protect people equally. Urban heat islands and inadequate building stock create dangerous and even lethal conditions for vulnerable residents. Many of these same people face a higher energy burden or spend a greater portion of their income on energy.

THE SOLUTION: 

Thankfully, healthier, affordable, more energy efficient alternatives exist to transition away from fossil gas use in homes and buildings, and protect low-income and environmental justice communities from climate-fueled extreme heat and wildfire smoke. By increasing energy efficiency and replacing gas appliances with cleaner, healthier, affordable zero-emission electric alternatives, we can save Oregon families money on utility bills, improve public health, and protect our climate from harmful, super-polluting methane

2022 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

  • Reach Code (SB 1518):
    • Creates the opportunity for cities, towns, or counties to move faster in reducing climate pollution from buildings, by adopting a uniform higher energy efficiency standard for new construction or major modifications of buildings in their jurisdiction.
  • Emergency Heat Relief for Communities (LC 144):
    • Protects communities from extreme heat events by distributing energy efficient air conditioners and electric heat pumps, prioritizing low-income and environmental justice communities; reduces energy burden by directing the state and utilities to establish rate relief specific for weather-related bill spikes.
  • Emergency Heat Relief for Renters:
    • Protects renters from extreme heat events by removing barriers to installing air conditioners, providing funding for electric heat pump installation by landlords (prioritizing housing that is affordable), and establishing community cooling centers.

CLEAN & EQUITABLE TRANSPORTATION: 

Slava Keyzman | Unsplash

THE PROBLEM:

Transportation is the single largest source of climate pollution in Oregon. State funding and policy decisions have created a transportation system that is inequitable, dangerous, and creates harmful air and climate pollution. As Oregon’s transportation departments face looming shortfalls and the state seeks out new funding mechanisms, transportation revenue can and should align with the state’s climate and equity goals in both the way it is collected and the way it is spent. 

THE SOLUTION:

Prioritize electric, safe, affordable, and accessible transportation options, reduce driving single-occupancy vehicles, and electrify all of the remaining driving in order to reduce harmful externalities such as tailpipe emissions and traffic violence. Align transportation revenue and spending with the state’s goals around climate and equity to expand transportation access and choices and to build an equitable transportation system. Accelerate transportation electrification by supporting incentives for all types of vehicles/e-mobility/transit and robust public charging infrastructure to reduce climate emissions and improve public health

2022 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

Advocacy in the transportation space this session is focused on legislator education and laying the groundwork for legislative action in the 2023 long session.


JOBS, JUSTICE, & HEALTH FOR COMMUNITIES: 

Tim Mossholder | Unsplash

THE PROBLEM:

This past summer, climate-fueled heat, and wildfire smoke increased the risk of death and injury for farmworkers, construction workers, and countless other workers across Oregon. Frontline workers tend to be from low-income and/or immigrant communities. They are usually the most vulnerable in their workplace for injuries, death, and retaliation and already suffer more health issues like asthma. We also know that data is a key tool to assessing the scope of environmental burdens and benefits on Oregon’s most impacted and vulnerable communities. Yet, as of now, Oregon does not have a centralized tool to help agencies analyze environmental justice data and information.

THE SOLUTION

While Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) is working to finalize new rules that will protect workers from some climate impacts, additional legislative action is necessary to ensure that no Oregon worker be forced to choose between their health and their paycheck. We must provide immediate benefits and protections for our workers and other frontline communities facing the brunt of climate impacts in Oregon. Likewise, we need a tool that will help environmental justice action for communities across Oregon

2022 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

  • Worker protections from climate hazards (LC 8): 
    • Defines and declares climate hazards, and sets forth specific climate-induced circumstances in which work should stop, such as in level 3 wildfire evacuation zones. It declares that workers in Oregon are suffering physically, mentally, and economically due to climate hazards and lays the groundwork for future action to protect worker pay in these conditions if they can’t work.
  • Environmental justice for all (HB 4007)
    • As part of the Governor’s Environmental Equity Council’s work, this would provide funding for the state to develop an environmental justice mapping tool to provide data that will help state agencies develop policies and programs that alleviate burdens and yield environmental benefits for vulnerable and highly impacted communities. 
  • Racism is a public health crisis:
    • This resolution declares racism as a public health crisis in Oregon and expands the collection of race, ethnicity, language, and disability (REAL-D) data for all of Oregon’s agencies. This data will then be used to address health inequities within our healthcare system.
  • Bottle Bill (SB 1520):
    • Updates the Bottle Bill to include some additional beverages, such as wine in cans, gives the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission limited rulemaking authority, and requires the state beverage distributor cooperative to report on efforts to expand access to a collection system for frequent users of the system and who rely on the system as a source of income.

RESILIENT LANDS, WATERS, & RURAL ECONOMIES

Jonathan Kemper | Unsplash

THE PROBLEM:

Oregon’s water supply is regulated by multiple state agencies that often acting without coordination, which threatens the water supply that is essential for human health and the economies of our agricultural communities. At the same time, we are failing to invest in solutions necessary help our lands and waters become more resilient in the face of ever-worsening climate impacts. 

THE SOLUTION:

Healthy forests, waters, and agricultural lands are vital to Oregon’s economy, culture, and way of life. It is essential that Oregon’s water management agencies are coordinated and acting in an integrated manner toward common goals. The science is clear: in order to avoid climate catastrophe, we must radically transform the way we use our land. At the same time, we must support drought and ecosystem resilience and advance carbon sequestration on working lands. 

2022 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

  • Natural + Working Lands + Waters (SB 1534):
    • Establishes state policy to increase carbon sequestration in natural and working lands and waters, and directs relevant state agencies to develop metrics and monitor progress toward achieving sequestration goals.
  • Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program:
    • Supports funding for Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program ($5m). Funding will provide matching funds for agricultural easements and technical support for conservation focused agricultural practices on working lands. 
  • Drought relief and adaptation: 
    • Allocates $25 million for the protection of aquatic ecosystems and the communities that depend on them, and for investment in increased resiliency.
  • High-efficiency sprinklers (HB 4057):
    • Mandates high-efficiency sprinklers for landscape irrigation systems, which will save water and save energy for farmers and livestock.
  • Defense
    • Ensure natural infrastructure projects are eligible for drought resilience funding.
    • Ensure that drought resilience funding, policy, and regulations address water quality as well as water quantity.
    • Ensure that regional water planning efforts do not interfere with, limit, or diminish state responsibility for protecting public interest in water management.

Public Policy Change
OREGON ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL ADVANCES AND SUPPORTS LEGISLATION THAT MEETS THESE STANDARDS:
  • Lasting solutions that get at the source of Oregon’s environmental problems
  • Creative solutions that are based on sound scientific evidence, economic analysis and life cycle thinking
  • Equitable solutions that respect the needs of Oregon’s diverse communities
  • Solutions that support a highly functioning economy
  • We provide leadership and opportunity for all Oregonians to create and implement a vision for a healthy environment