Portland, OR Is First City To Oppose New Fossil Fuel Projects

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Above photo: Protesters in Portland before a hearing on oil trains. By Rick Rappaport.

Portland, OR – On November 12, the Portland city council passed a resolution against the construction of any new infrastructure that would allow fossil fuels to be stored or transported through the city or its waterways. The week prior to that, the city council voted to oppose rail projects that would carry crude oil.

According to Natasha Geiling of ThinkProgress:

“Together, the resolutions constitute what environmentalists are calling the strongest city-supported opposition to fossil fuels in the country….

While Portland cannot, due to interstate commerce laws, unilaterally ban fossil fuels from being shipped via rail, road, or water, it can enact local laws that limit the transportation and storage of fossil fuels within the city itself, especially if those laws are based in environmental or safety concerns. That’s largely the goal of this resolution — to codify into law things like zoning restrictions or restrictions on materials that would make shipping and transporting fossil fuels through Portland either prohibitively expensive, or too time consuming, for fossil fuel companies.”

What’s next? Daphne Wysham of the Center for a Sustainable Economy in Portland reports:

“We in Portland will be spending the remaining 14 months while our mayor is in office making this resolution binding law– a process we hope will show other cities how to do the same.

On Dec. 11-12, 2015, the mayors of all of the major west coast cities are coming to Portland, OR, to discuss (among other things) climate action by these cities. We are calling on all of these mayors of the major west coast cities who will be coming to Portland (San Diego, LA, San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Eugene, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver, B.C. and Honolulu), along with the mayors of smaller cities, and leaders of the Native American and First Nations tribes to oppose all new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Here are actions that you can take to support this effort and hopefully be inspired to do the same in your city or town:

1) Review the statement below or here: http://www.nonewffi.org/sign/ and sign on, as an individual or organization.

2) Share the statement far and wide, especially with friends and allies in west coast cities.

3) Make a donation to the Center for Sustainable Economy. Click here to donate.

West Coast Cities People’s Declaration: No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure, Just Transition Now

December 2015

We the undersigned organizations and their members in the states on the West Coast of the United States and the province of British Columbia in Canada call on leaders of the First Nations peoples of Canada and Native Americans of the U.S., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Barack Obama of the United States, the premier of British Columbia, governors of U.S. states, city mayors, and other elected officials, and regulatory agencies to stand up for climate solutions by putting an end to the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure in our cities, our coastal ports, and communities and beginning the just transition to the new clean economy now.

The scientific community, President Obama and other political and religious leaders have told us very clearly that we have arrived at a critical moment in human history when we either act now or we doom present and future generations to an escalating planetary crisis of catastrophic climate change. They tell us we must leave 80 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and leave all unproven reserves untouched.[1] Despite the growing scientific alarm, too many of our elected officials are continuing with business as usual, condoning the expansion of this deadly fossil fuel industry and exacerbating a crisis that the Pentagon has called a “threat multiplier” that could exacerbate terrorism.[2]

Our communities are assaulted every day with ever-increasing volumes of explosive oil and gas cargo close to our homes, our schools and our places of worship; with coal dust clouding our air as mile-long trains cut through our towns; with unaccountable corporations pushing oil and gas pipelines across our land; and with toxic emissions increasing rates of asthma among our children and threatening our elderly when this fossil fuel is burned.

The fossil fuel export terminals and pipelines often traverse geologically active areas and earthquake subduction zones, exposing nearby communities to the risk of calamitous explosions and toxic spills should a major quake take place. At the point of extraction, and at every step of the way to our port cities, too often Native American and First Nations treaty rights are being violated in order to facilitate the extraction, transport, storage and export of this dangerous cargo. Too often, it is the poorest that bear the brunt of this pollution.

Our water is threatened by regular spills of oil and tar sands, and by toxic mercury emitted when these fossil fuels are burned. Our fish are dying in rivers overheated by rising temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels. And our forests, once a place of refuge for wildlife in the heat, are increasingly going up in flames or succumbing to pests due to increasing temperatures. The oceans are becoming too acidic to support critical links in the food chain.

This destruction is as unnecessary as it is unconscionable. Solutions are available now. There are no insurmountable economic or technological obstacles to a clean energy transition. Our cities are demonstrating the promise of this transition every day, building healthier communities, better buildings, and more efficient and affordable transportation systems while lowering emissions. We are taking our money and power back and investing them in our communities. We can do this. But there’s a reason that we are not doing it fast enough now, a reason that we continue to make the problem worse even as we prove the promise of solutions: the entrenched power of the fossil fuel industry, and their unconscionable campaign of deception that protects that power.

We now know that the fossil fuel industry has been covering up the devastating truth about climate change for almost four decades. Recent reports[3] reveal that Exxon knew as early as the 1970s that climate change would threaten all of us, yet chose to confuse and mislead the public, putting its profits ahead of the planet. The delays caused by these actions by the fossil fuel industry leave us with no time to lose. We must act immediately and decisively. Implementing solutions will take time, but we must stop investing in the problem right away.

New fossil fuel infrastructure locks us into a deadly climate future, making the problem not just worse but insoluble. The transition from present emission levels to safe levels will take decades, but it begins with a simple and firm commitment today: we must stop making it worse with large new capital investments that increase emissions. We don’t have time or money to waste going backwards.[4]

In order to begin to act on climate change, we support and align your jurisdiction’s policy to these two vital commitments:

1) We must stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure in order to leave at least 80% of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground;

2) We must invest in a “just transition”[5] to a clean economy – a transition that delivers shared prosperity, good, family-supporting jobs, and support for people and communities who bear the brunt of climate impacts and economic dislocation.

It is imperative that the West Coast of the United States does our share to meet these two commitments.