The 3 major victories Oregon won on the environment this week
Sep. 29th - It has been a big week for environmental news in the Northwest. We saw three major victories for shifting our region towards a clean energy economy. These all came from completely different sides of the equation but make no mistake they are all tied to loosening oil and coal’s grip on our future.
Portland and Multnomah County divest from fossil fuels
Last week, after extensive public testimony and urging by local activists, the Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Commission voted unanimously to put the world’s top 200 oil, coal and gas companies on a “Do Not Buy List.” The most populous city and county in Oregon join the rapidly growing worldwide divestment movement that has, in just a few short years pushed over $2 trillion worth of investments away from fossil fuels.
From Portland Tribune article:
The coordinated actions put both local governments on record in support of the international fossil fuel divestment movement.
“The era of fossil fuels is ending, and we are backing up those words with actions,” said County Chair Deborah Kafoury, speaking in solidarity with the City Council as it took up its motion.
Mayor Charlie Hales, noting that Pope Francis had earlier in the day called for “responsible capitalism,” said climate scientists argue that close to 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must go untapped if the world is to avoid severe climate disruption.
That’s a “radical notion,” Hales said, but “it’s a radical truth that we have to learn to deal with.”
Both city and county actions target companies on the Fossil Free Index’s Carbon Underground 200, a list of the world’s coal, oil and gas companies holding the largest reserves.
Of course not all were elated by the news. The Oregonian Editorial Board scoffed at the notion of divestment because it a “largely symbolic gesture”. The editorial board state’s largest paper is no stranger to badmouthing environmental concerns but the imagery of this victory is undeniable. If pollution and climate destruction are wrong then it’s wrong to profit from the companies leaving us with that future.
Case to repeal clean fuels dismissed
A case brought by 3 oil and trucking companies to repeal clean fuels was thrown out last week. The lawsuit suggested that it unfairly discriminated against out of state fuels but US District Court Judge Ann Aiken made it clear this was not the case.
The fact that the program may benefit Oregon-based alternative fuel producers “is insufficient to evince a discriminatory purpose,” she added.
On the Clean Air Act preemption, Aiken ruled that the plaintiffs had misinterpreted the federal statute, adding that “air pollution prevention is within the states’ traditional authority,” barring explicit federal legislation barring it.
It’s been a long fought battle in Oregon to get cleaner fuels and there remains a tough road ahead. The same coalition of oil companies and trucking groups are plotting the best strategies for 3 different initiatives to repeal clean fuels on the 2016 ballot. Regardless of the pending fights to be had, this is an other impressive local victory we should all feel good about.
Shell ends Arctic drilling “indefinitely”
The news that got the most widespread media attention this week was of course Shell’s failed campaign in the Arctic.
In a surprise announcement, the company said it would end exploration off Alaska "for the foreseeable future". Shell said it did not find sufficient amounts of oil and gas in the Burger J well to warrant further exploration. The company has spent about $7bn (£4.5bn) on Arctic offshore development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
Shell has effectively given up on drilling in one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. Yielding no results from this well was a huge blow to the company’s prospects of tapping one of the last remaining unexplored potential oil regions. But protests in Portland and Seattle, that made worldwide headlines, absolutely added to the financial and public relations costs of their campaign. While activists couldn’t stop Shell from reaching the Arctic, their efforts were no trivial gestures. Both Seattle and Portland’s actions against Shell focused the world’s attention on the issue and drastically hurt Shell’s corporation reputation.
Without continued efforts from those that care about our planet, all of these could be rolled back. But every so often it’s nice to be able to sit back and remember that we are winning the fight for a fossil free future.
Well-done NW. Have a beer, we’re proud of ya’ll.
Nick Abraham - Editor Oil Check Northwest
[email protected] @oilchecknw