Build Back Better
Oregon Environmental Council advances effective public policies that safeguard our future. Since our founding in 1968, our staff and volunteers have worked every legislative session in Salem to protect the Oregon we love. We provide leadership and opportunity for all Oregonians to create and implement a vision for a healthy environment through lasting public policies. Together, we have a history of results.
In 2021, OEC charged ahead with policy priorities to support Oregon’s economy and a more resilient and just environment. Building on 2020’s big climate victory – the Oregon Climate Action Plan (Executive Order 20-04) – our legislative agenda prioritized children’s health and toxics reduction, clean energy, healthy buildings, transportation electrification, and our state’s water resources.
Our team testified on over 58 bills and budgets. Here’s an overview of what happened during the 2021 Oregon Legislative Session:
This session we focused on cleaning up the electricity sector, improving energy efficiency standards for buildings and home weatherization, and increasing public access to utility rate-setting processes. We worked in broad coalitions on all of these bills, and collaborated with electric utilities, environmental justice organizations, labor groups, renewable energy developers, ratepayer advocates, and many others.
- 100% Clean Electricity (HB 2021) – PASSED
- Transitions Oregon’s electricity to be generated only by clean, renewable sources, getting us to 80% by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% clean electricity by 2040– the most ambitious transition in the nation, along with New York. Invests in local renewable energy development, enhancing community resilience.
- Energy Affordability (HB 2475) – PASSED
- Requires Public Utility Commission to set different rates for lower-income energy users, and allows for greater public engagement in PUC proceedings by low-income and environmental justice advocates.
- Healthy Homes (HB 2842) – PASSED
- Establishes Healthy Homes program to grant funds for home weatherization and building retrofits for low-income households.
- Increase Energy Efficiency in Appliance Standards (HB 2062) – PASSED
- Establishes new energy efficiency standards for appliances and certain water fixtures, and paves the way for future updates. It will save consumers at least $100M/year on energy bills and cut upwards of 130,000 metric tons of climate pollution annually by 2035.
- Continued Funding for Energy Efficiency (HB 3141 ) – PASSED
- Extends public purpose charge to continue funding energy efficiency projects across the state.
- Reach Code – Energy Efficient Building Codes (HB 2398) – DID NOT PASS
- Would allow local jurisdictions to adopt state Reach Code to require new buildings be constructed at 10% greater energy efficiency.
- Customer Choice in Heating (HB 3106) – DID NOT PASS
- Would allow households and businesses to access energy efficiency rebates to apply regardless of original fuel type. For example, a house could switch from old heating oil to a new electric heat pump and receive a rebate for it.
Oregon’s transportation policy shapes many other outcomes such as climate pollution, the economy, and public safety. OEC worked in collaboration with partners from many different sectors on a suite of bills, including:
- EV State Fleet Vehicles (HB 2027) – PASSED
- Increases the number of zero emission vehicles in the state fleet.
- Electric Vehicle Rebate Expansion (HB 2165) – PASSED
- Expands investment in EV charging stations, extends the current EV rebate and doubles the Charge Ahead low-income rebate.
- Building New Parking to Be “EV Ready” (HB 2180) – PASSED
- Requires new parking construction to be wired for 20% EV charging capacity.
- EV Charging in State Parks (HB 2290) – PASSED
- Parks and Recreation Department are now allowed and funded to start installing EV chargers at parks and recreation areas.
- Safe Routes for All (SB 395) – DID NOT PASS
- Increases funding for bike and pedestrian routes and roadway safety improvements.
Managing Oregon’s water resources is an increasingly critical challenge. OEC’s work on water covers the full range of water management issues from drinking water quality and safety, big picture management by the state agencies, ensuring affordable access to the tap, and efficient irrigation of agricultural lands. We’re proud to have supported:
- Better Regional Water Management (HB 2018) – PASSED
- Directs the Oregon Water Resources Department to develop groundwater budgets, measure groundwater use and recharge, identify and gather necessary data, and engage communities in planning for Oregon’s water future.
- Improved labeling of non-flushable products (HB 2344) – PASSED
- Improved package labeling for non-flushable disposable wipes will reduce damage to sewer and septic systems. (Reminder, don’t flush wipes!)
- Facilitate transfer of water right type of use (HB 3103) – PASSED
- Allows water rights holders to change how they use water, ensuring that water management is flexible and dynamic in the face of changes in water availability and precipitation, municipal and environmental needs, and economic realities.
- Access to Funding for Natural Infrastructure – RULES CHANGE
- We worked with Business Oregon to update their rules to ensure that natural infrastructure projects can qualify for state water infrastructure funding.
Everyone deserves to live, work, worship and play in a healthy and safe environment. Through our lens of reducing harmful toxics in our environment, this session we worked on:
- Modernizing the Toxic Free Kids Act (HB 2495) – DID NOT PASS
- Created stronger protections for kids. It updated the existing Toxic Free Kids Program to improve efficiency and effectiveness, streamline reporting, and ensure new toxic chemicals aren’t being substituted for regulated chemicals.
- Hazardous Waste Stewardship (HB 2955A) – DID NOT PASS
- Establishes a stewardship program for household hazardous waste, including a stewardship fund, and would mandate manufacturers of products containing toxic ingredients to implement a sustainable collection program.
- Lead Paint Remediation (HB 2077) – PASSED
- Requires Oregon Health Authority to contract for lead paint assessments and remediation.
- Safety in Outdoors (SB 289) – PASSED
- Following the leadership of the Governor’s Environmental Equity Committee, which OEC is a part of, this bill ensures everyone has the opportunity to enjoy Oregon’s outdoors safely and without fear of experiencing hate or bias against them.
The 2021 session started with the assumption of budget cuts. However, due to a positive mid-session revenue forecast and an infusion of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Oregon Legislature was able to allocate record investments for state services, programs, and projects. The following is a snapshot of programs that were funded:
Climate action, adaption, and mitigation:
- Public health modernization for climate mitigation.
- This is the first time the Oregon Health Authority’s funding requests considered environmental health investments and made climate resilience a priority in our health system. It focuses on investing in local public health authorities and tribal authorities, building internal capacity to collect comprehensive health data to identify and mitigate the risks to human health, and mitigating disproportionate impacts on communities on the frontlines of climate change.
- Funding for studies to assess Oregon’s current soil health and identify practices for improving soil health, increasing carbon sequestration and decreasing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
- Continued funding for the Oregon Climate Action Plan rule making and implementation work.
Water agencies, projects and investments:
- Significant funding for place-based planning for water resources in strategic basins across Oregon. This funding will help address regional concerns and priorities in all corners of the state, including in the Umatilla, Deschutes, and Willamette basins.
- 48 cities will receive funding for water infrastructure improvements, including creative nature-based solutions such as purchasing forestlands to improve drinking water quality.
- Funding to update the Integrated Water Resources Strategy – OEC will continue advocating for specific inclusion of natural infrastructure, community resiliency, and climate adaptation work.
- Funding for repairing rural water systems, including on-site septic systems and well construction repair and replacement.
- $2 million dollars to re-capitalize the low-income septic loan fund, which provides key funding to retrofit or replace failing septic systems, which is critical for public health, and clean and safe waterways.
- Additional staffing in the water quality permitting division, which will relieve a years-long backlog in permit processing.
Every year there are policy proposals that are at odds with environmental goals, or decrease state agency effectiveness. This year was no exception, and our team spent considerable time negotiating amendments to and fighting back against many anti-environmental proposals. Bills that were effectively defeated included those that would have:
- Increased fossil gas use for vehicles and home construction.
- Duplicated agency processes and undermined agency protections for environmental and public health.
- Allowed certain businesses to circumvent agency water quality permitting processes, which would have ultimately increased agency staff time and costs, disadvantaged other permittees, and created an inequitable system for all permit holders.
- Required municipalities to choose the lowest cost construction materials (e.g., plastic pipe) for water projects, preventing communities from using materials best suited for their goals in the development and maintenance of their water systems.
Team OEC is grateful to have helped pass numerous successful environmental and equity policies, advance record investments in our natural resource agencies, and build so many collaborative relationships with partners in all our program areas. We look forward to continuing our progress in the 2022 legislative session!