REBuilding Task Force Delivers Recommendations

The buildings we use for homes, workplaces, and gathering spaces play a special role in the future of our changing climate. They can provide a safe place to escape extreme heat, storms, or wildfires caused by climate change. But when those same buildings rely on fracked methane (“natural”) gas, the air insides in unsafe to breathe and methane is one of the worst climate pollutants.

A special state task force came together to tackle this issue and recently recommended some practical, common-sense policies that can make Oregon’s buildings safer, lower energy bills, and reduce pollution. Now we need to act on their recommendations.

Oregon set to improve health and energy affordability with safer homes and buildings
Legislative task force sends recommendations to lawmakers for 2023 policies

SALEM, Ore. — As Oregonians face increasing harm from extreme heat, drought, and wildfire fueled by climate change, attention turns to how our homes and buildings can better protect us while reducing climate pollution that makes global warming worse.

The bipartisan statewide Resilient, Efficient Buildings (REBuilding) Task Force wrapped up its work yesterday, providing policy recommendations for the 2023 legislature that convenes next month. 

“As a task force, our mission was to deliver big ideas on reducing climate pollution from homes and buildings in Oregon, while also helping improve public health, affordability, and resilience against climate harms like extreme heat and wildfire smoke. We’ve done that and now it’s the legislature’s job to pass policy next session to make it a reality,” said Meredith Connolly, the Oregon Director of Climate Solutions and a task force member. “Oregon’s buildings are the second largest source of climate pollution, but we have the technologies and solutions available to change this. The wealth of research is clear. We must do two big things: significantly increase our energy efficiency and transition off burning fossil fuels like ‘natural’ gas and oil in our homes and buildings and replace them with clean energy.” 

The task force was directed by Senate Bill 1518 earlier this year to find the best policy ideas to help Oregon’s homes, workplaces and public buildings lower pollution in line with Oregon’s climate targets while also making them safer from the impacts of climate change along with other beneficial outcomes. 

“No matter who we are or where we live or work, our homes and buildings should be safe for our families, communities and planet. The affordable housing my team builds goes beyond current requirements while remaining affordable. We achieve this by carefully planning with our residents, their health, and overall quality of life in mind,” said Ernesto Fonseca, CEO of Hacienda CDC and a task force member. “Our recommendations to the legislature are achievable. We know how to make buildings safer, healthier, and more affordable. The legislature’s job will be to turn these recommendations into policies that help everyone build more affordably while also improving resilience and lowering energy costs equitably.”

The REBuilding Task Force held 17 public meetings over nine months and was made up of over two dozen members from across Oregon with different expertise: lawmakers, a health expert, contractors, architects, local governments, community organizations, labor unions, climate experts, consumer watchdogs, and representatives from the electric utilities and the gas industry.

The task force recommended a number of proposals for legislators to turn into laws in the coming year ranging in scope from new construction to existing buildings, all shapes, sizes and functions. Full details can be found in their final report.

Summary of policy directions:

  • promote, incentivize, and/or subsidize energy efficiency and heating/cooling efficiency increases;
  • promote, incentivize, and/or subsidize heat pumps;
  • decarbonize institutional/public buildings;
  • promote, incentivize, and/or subsidize air purification systems;
  • assess and disclose material-related emissions;
  • modify Energy Trust of Oregon’s mission;
  • building performance standards;
  • align energy efficiency programs with state’s climate goals; and
  • enact energy-efficient building codes. 

“By bringing together experts from industry and community, the Task Force was able to come out with strong, innovative policy recommendations,” said Bob Jenks, Executive Director of Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board and task force member. “The timing could not be better with millions of dollars coming soon from the Inflation Reduction Act. These dollars will encourage more clean energy and help families cover the cost of home energy upgrades, like switching to heat pumps. Between these policy recommendations and upcoming federal funding, Oregon is well set up for increasing energy efficiency in buildings and reducing household energy bills.”

“It’s a crucial time to make buildings better for Oregonians. These carefully considered recommendations will help Oregon catch up to our neighboring states to ensure people living here enjoy the benefits of healthier, more efficient and affordable homes and buildings,” said David Heslam, Executive Director of Earth Advantage and a Task Force member. “The task force recommends policies that will deliver results for Oregonians, making our homes and buildings less dependent on fossil fuels and better prepared for the climate harms coming our way.”

“Our recommendations to the legislature are responsive to a range of needs to improve homes, offices, and industrial buildings for Oregonians. We see how these needs can best be approached with an overarching strategy in place. It’s a lot like designing a good building,” said Chris Forney, who represented the American Institute of Architects – Oregon Chapter on the task force. “We had a lot of healthy debate, informed by some robust modeling to see the relative environmental, economic, and social outcomes. We considered affordability to occupants and owners. I was impressed by how much expertise was represented by this group to help interpret that data and turn it into recommendations.”


Closing statements begin at 31:07 on the recording

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