Spotlight #19: July 23, 2021 By Lorrie Kaplan, Chair, Ashland Climate Action Project

CLIMATE CHANGE FEELS PRETTY REAL IN SOUTHERN OREGON LATELY. Most of us just experienced the hottest temperatures of our lifetimes. Our gardens are scorched. TID is done for 2021. Our to-go bags are packed and ready. 

The scientific consensus is that we need to act with urgency. And yet, clearly, we’re not all on the same page. Facing climate change is no longer primarily a scientific or technological challenge. In fact, the science is clear and we already have most of the technologies needed to reduce our emissions. Where we fall down is where, when, and how we talk about what we need to do.  We need pointers! 

And so it was inspiring to hear climate research scientist Dr. Jennifer Marlon from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication speaking at the June monthly meeting of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now. Marlon and her colleagues use surveys, experiments, and modeling to understand public perceptions of and responses to climate change and extreme weather events. Her recent projects include the Yale Climate Opinion Maps –these are amazing! Here’s a link to her presentation (https://bit.ly/SOCANClimateCommunications).  

For those trying to push for climate solutions, research coming out of Yale and other climate research centers is illuminating. 

First, they’ve boiled climate change facts down to a few simple concepts that have achieved a 97% consensus in the scientific community.  These are: climate change is real. It’s caused by burning fossil fuels. The effects are mostly bad. And it’s going to get worse if we don’t do more about it quickly. 

Thankfully, there’s also strong consensus that there is reason for hope.  

“We have so many technologies in our toolkit,” according to Marlon. “We need to innovate in terms of policy and cultural and social change. But we have lots of evidence from history that those things can change quite quickly–more quickly than it feels. We don’t actually need everyone to agree in order to enact policy or make important behavior changes.” Yale and George Mason University have closely studied the climate change opinions of Americans’ of all political persuasions for more than a decade. These studies suggest that only 8% of Americans are climate deniers while 72% of Americans believe it’s real.  In Jackson County, Marlon reports, about 10% of residents are dismissive while 50% are alarmed or concerned, 

After that, popular opinion starts to slide. Ninety-seven percent of scientists may agree that climate change is largely human-caused –”about as strong as the consensus among medical professionals that smoking causes lung cancer” — but only 58% of Americans believe it.  Perplexing…but still a majority! 

People slammed by droughts, scorching temperatures, and wildfires aren’t necessarily more likely to believe that climate change is a problem that will actually affect them personally. “It depends on what’s in our heads as well as what’s happening outside around us,” says Marlon. Most Americans see climate change as a problem that may affect future generations–but not here in the U.S.

The scientific consensus is that the problem is much closer to home. 

What to do? First, start talking about it. “People don’t talk about it because we don’t want to promote conflict. We might feel like we don’t know the science and the facts, and that stimulates what we call a spiral of silence. But that reinforces this idea that we don’t care, because we talk about what we care about.”

Focus on talking with–and listening to–people with whom you have a trusting relationship.  The most effective conversations can be with the vast majority of people who care, but aren’t activated yet. “Just because people are alarmed, doesn’t mean that they know what to do or are talking about the problem and its solutions,” 

Marlon urges us to “help people connect the dots between weather events and climate change and its root causes. Droughts and wildfires and heat waves can be lessened.  We are already working to lessen them as we switch over to electric vehicles and install solar panels and insulate our attics and eat less meat.”

Taking action is even more important. “When you yourself take action on climate change, whether that’s through reducing waste or by supporting companies that have sustainable behavior, or writing an op-ed in your local paper, people see that, and it can really promote change.”

“So yes, it’s about talk, but it’s also about action and being a role model for others so they can see what the right action looks like.”

Lorrie Kaplan is chair of the Ashland Climate Action Project of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now. She can be reached at ACAPSpotlight@socan.eco

 

Learn to Talk About Climate Change

YaleClimateConnections.org has tons of resources, including multi-year national, state, and county opinion data.

TED talk by evangelical climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe — “The most important thing you can do to fight climate change is to talk about it.” 

The film MerchantsOfDoubt.org shows how fossil fuel companies used the tobacco industry’s playbook to sow confusion about the impact of fossil fuels on the climate. 

The website SkepticalScience.com categorizes the types of arguments used by climate skeptics.  Also comes as an app for your phone.

The game CrankyUncle.com builds resilience against misinformation.

Further news coverage – KDRV Channel 12, of the protest demonstration in Ashland against banks funding fossil fuel extraction and pipelines.

Tyler Ridgle reporting –

 

We know that wine varietals each have their own terroir requirements and climate optima, but the fire are likely to threaten the qualoty of the wine even before the climate threatens the grapes.

Scorched, Parched and Now Uninsurable: Climate Change Hits Wine Country

Christopher Flavelle, Yahoo News, July 18, 2021

ST. HELENA, Calif. — Last September, a wildfire tore through one of Dario Sattui’s Napa Valley wineries, destroying millions of dollars in property and equipment, along with 9,000 cases of wine.

November brought a second disaster: Sattui realized the precious crop of cabernet grapes that survived the fire had been ruined by the smoke. There would be no 2020 vintage.

A freakishly dry winter led to a third calamity: By spring, the reservoir at another of Sattui’s vineyards was all but empty, meaning little water to irrigate the new crop

More

 

Kevin MacNamara, KTVL July 16, 2021

Environmental activists rallied in Ashland on Friday, going from bank to bank to protest Wall Street’s involvement in the Enbridge Pipeline, which is set to transport 760,000 barrels of oil a day partially through tribal lands in Minnesota.

“The larger issue, of course, is global warming. And the people in this valley have had a good dose of it this summer. If you’re in any doubt that we’re in trouble, the 115-degree weather this summer should’ve ended all your uncertainty,” said rally organizer Herbert Rothschild.

More including video link

NOTE: Some 20 area residents joined the protest urging Oregonians to divest from the major banks that fund our collective suicide by providing financing for fossil fuel extraction.  If you have an account or credit card with any of the following banks, please consider divesting (closing the account) – for your kids, our kids, and life on the planet as we know it: Citi ($5.15b), Wells Fargo ($3.86b), Bank of America ($3.16b), J.P. Morgan/Chase ($1.8b), Truist ($400m) , Numbers in parentheses represent the amount of you money that is supporting Enbridge Line 3.  For more information on banking, visit: SOCAN’s ‘What’s in Your Wallet page.

During the last days of June 2021, Pacific northwest areas of the U.S. and Canada experienced temperatures never previously observed, with records broken in many places by several degrees Celsius.

World Weather Attribution,  July 7 2021.

Multiple cities in the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the western provinces of Canada recorded temperatures far above 40ºC (104 ºF), including setting a new all-time Canadian temperature record of 49.6ºC in the village of Lytton. Shortly after setting the record, Lytton was largely destroyed in a wildfire [1,2]. The exceptionally high temperatures led to spikes in sudden deaths, and sharp increases in hospital visits for heat-related illnesses and emergency calls [3,4,5]. Heatwaves are one of the deadliest natural hazards and this heatwave affected a population unaccustomed and unprepared for such extreme temperatures, for instance with most homes lacking air-conditioning [6]. Currently available mortality estimates of at least several hundred additional deaths are almost certainly an underestimate. The full extent of the impact of this exceptional heat on population health will not be known for several months.

Scientists from the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland collaborated to assess to what extent human-induced climate change made this heatwave hotter and more likely.

More

Spotlight #18: July 2021

By Lorrie Kaplan, Chair, SOCAN-Ashland Climate Action Project

Part 2 of a series.  Click here to read Part 1

OREGON HAS A NEW CLIMATE HERO, AND SHE LIVES RIGHT HERE IN ASHLAND.

As Chair of the House Committee on Energy and the Environment, District 5 Representative Pam Marsh was well-positioned this year to help ensure passage of legislation ranging from fire recovery and economic stimulus to “distinctly Oregonian” climate solutions. 

In our July 2 Spotlight, we detailed the 100% Clean Energy Bill–a major climate victory by all accounts.  The bill makes Oregon the eighth state in the nation to commit to 100% clean or renewable electricity, joining California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, and Washington.

100% Clean Energy is epic. But Rep. Marsh is just as excited about five other 2021 legislative victories aimed at reducing Oregon’s climate and environmental impacts–while also addressing energy affordability for low-income residents. These are all important “win-win” opportunities!

First, there’s the bipartisan approach to energy affordability (HB2475) which got the green light in March. It encourages utilities to provide rate discounts, weatherization, and other programs for low-income and other underserved customers. The bill also provides funds to help people burdened by energy costs to participate in regulatory processes.

Then, in early May, an electric vehicle bill crossed the finish line. HB2290 “allows utilities to develop EV infrastructure and expands the subsidies available to low-income folks to buy EVs,” Marsh explains.  

Another early-May victory was the reauthorization of the public purpose charge (HB3141). “It’s not sexy, but it was definitely an energy priority,” she notes.

 Customers of investor-owned utilities like Pacific Power and Portland General Electric have paid a public purpose surcharge since 1999. The funds are used by the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon, to provide energy efficiency incentives and other energy conservation programs and investments. 

The bill renews the surcharge until 2036, reducing it from 3% to 1.5%, since energy efficiency programs are also provided directly by the utilities and included in base rates.  

“The continuation of Energy Trust is huge,” says Marsh. “Energy efficiency is our cheapest way out of this mess, and they are positioned to do innovative work.” 

She cites Energy Trust’s manufactured home replacement program as a great example.  “It makes more sense to help people buy new ones than to continually upgrade these older homes that are leaking energy.” Energy Trust provides money to upgrade to a newer home. 

The program has special relevance here in Southern Oregon, where many residents lost their manufactured homes to the Almeda fire. “If they live in the Pacific Power territory, they should be eligible for these incentives,” says Marsh.  

Last but not least, Marsh helped to carry two more climate  solutions to victory on the final day of the 2021 session.

The Healthy Homes Bill (HB2842) establishes a Healthy Homes Program at the Oregon Health Authority to address housing issues that lead to poor health outcomes for low-income residents. Funding could be used to address lead or radon issues, improve indoor air quality, fix leaky roofs or poor sewer systems, or for energy efficiency upgrades, according to Marsh. Accommodations for seniors and disabled residents are also included. 

Marsh cites Habitat for Humanity as a prime candidate to apply for the program, as well as coordinated care organizations and other organizations serving seniors and disabled individuals. 

The city of Ashland could also seek state funding for air purifiers for low-income households, as it has secured in the past. “We clearly need to do more of that work,” Marsh asserts. 

“Look at this 110 degree weather,” she adds. “Having a house where you can be cool and breathe is essential.”

Last but not least:  modernized recycling! SB582 sets a common baseline for recycling services statewide while also borrowing pages from the playbook of Oregon’s groundbreaking 1971 “bottle bill.” Under that program–the first bottle bill in the U.S.–producers figured out how to run the recycling system, and then run it. 

“We’ll involve producers of items that normally go to the landfill to help us figure out how to recycle them,” Marsh explains. “If you involve the producer and figure out what happens to the packaging, there is a very strong incentive for sleeker and less invasive packaging, and we can reduce the amount of wasteful packaging coming into our homes.”

Marsh notes that reducing packaging is also a climate and energy issue. “A lot of fossil fuels are going into the production of a lot of that packaging.”

When it comes to finding climate solutions, Rep. Marsh feels a sense of urgency.  “If we fail, then we’ll just be here year after year after, paying for separate disasters.” 

Lorrie Kaplan is chair of the Ashland Climate Action Project of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now. She can be reached at ACAPSpotlight@socan.eco

Devastating climate effects from unliveable heat to more widespread disease are accelerating and will become obvious within 30 years, draft UN report says.

A leaked draft report from the United Nations has painted a distressing picture of how climate change will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in the coming decades, even if humans can tame planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

In what is by far considered the most comprehensive catalogue ever assembled of how climate change is upending the world, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) drafted a 4,000-page document that was seen by AFP news agency on Wednesday.

More

Kate Yoder, Grist, July 2nd 2021

All the billions ExxonMobil spent on PR went up in flames this week after a sting operation by Greenpeace recorded one of the oil giant’s lobbyists talking about what goes on behind the scenes — sabotaging climate legislation, secretly manufacturing cancer-causing chemicals, and using trade groups as “whipping boys” to evade public scrutiny.

“It’s pretty damning stuff,” said Geoffrey Supran, a Harvard researcher who investigates fossil fuel propaganda.

More

July 2, 2021
By Lorrie Kaplan, Chair, SOCAN-Ashland Climate Action Project

PAM MARSH ADMITS SHE IS “KIND OF EXHAUSTED” after achieving a slew of climate action victories to close the 2021 state legislative session last weekend.

Marsh, who represents Ashland and neighboring communities in the Oregon House of Representatives, was tapped to chair the House Energy and Environment Committee for this session. The appointment elevated her to an ideal position to champion her longtime climate action priorities in a way that calls “distinctly Oregonian.”

“As I got in and looked around, it was clear that there were five key priorities that we needed to come out with,” Rep. Marsh explains. “And we were able to deliver on all of them.”

On the top of the pile of climate wins is the 100% clean energy bill. HB2021 requires the state’s two largest investor-owned utilities (Pacific Power and Portland General Electric) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of 2010-2012 levels, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040.

This is huge because Marsh estimates that The Big Two account for 75-80% of the emissions spewed by electricity generation in Oregon. “Getting to 100% by 2040 will be a very significant contribution towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon,” she predicts.

The win is especially sweet after the dramatic failure of sweeping climate legislation two years ago. The so-called “cap and invest” bill was headed for passage until Republican legislators staged a walkout, bringing the 2019 legislative session to an abrupt and rancorous ending.

“Cap and invest was much more ambitious,” Marsh explains. “It would have addressed all fossil fuels in Oregon, directly affecting many of our businesses and industries. And of course we heard about that.”

HB2021 is more narrow, focusing only on fossil fuels used for power generation. The Big Two will be required to provide clean power plans to the Public Utility Commission laying out how they’ll hit the new emission targets. “It’s pretty straightforward,” says Marsh. “They’ll have to produce plans to get us to affordable, good-for-communities kind of power. It’s technology-neutral. It’s not picking winners or losers. It just sets targets to reduce emissions.”

Local participation and flexibility are also prioritized under the legislation. The Big Two are now required to set up community advisory panels and encouraged to partner with communities to set up custom programs. “It’s important that ratepayers have a voice in the transition to clean energy,” she asserts.

“Some communities want to work on their climate goals more quickly than others,” Marsh explains. “Others want to support localized power, energy resilience, or other objectives.” The bill also includes $50 million in community investment grants to help local governments, utilities, and tribes develop renewable projects. Ashland and neighboring communities are eligible to apply for these funds.

In this way, Marsh sees the bill as creating pathways for local, renewable economic development and energy resiliency without mandating specific approaches. “We need to understand how to make these local projects viable,” she explains. “We can’t just expect them to be there without knowing the burden we’re putting on ratepayers.”

Rep. Marsh also touts the bill’s labor standards, including wage and benefit standards, apprenticeships, and labor agreements for renewable projects. “What we want in the renewable world is really good jobs.”

She sees southern, eastern, and coastal Oregon as prime regions for renewable development. “There’s tremendous potential to create projects here with very good jobs. There’s a lot to gain.”

At the same time, “there’s the overriding climate issue, and how we change in a way that is very Oregonian,” Marsh explains. “We know more disasters are around the corner. We’re trying to mitigate the climate changes that are driving conditions on the ground.”

The legislature also passed SB762, spearheaded by Senator Jeff Golden, which takes a multifaceted approach to wildfire risk reduction and preparedness. Golden, who represents Ashland and other southern Oregon communities in the state Senate, chairs the Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee.

“I feel like it was a really successful session,” Marsh reflects. “We focused on the crisis issues that are in front of us in Southern Oregon. We see it up close and personal. The climate is changing. We suffered massive losses in 2020. We took that experience into the 2021 session, and we responded.”

In Part 2 we’ll continue our discussion with Rep. Marsh with a drill-down on the other four big climate victories of the 2021 state legislative session.

Lorrie Kaplan is chair of the Ashland Climate Action Project of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now. She can be reached at ACAPSpotlight@socan.eco.

2021 Oregon Legislative Session Ends with Major Advances for Climate and the Environment

An interview with Rep. Pam Marsh, June 27, 2021

By Lorrie Kaplan, Chair, Ashland Climate Action Project of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now.

 

Lorrie: Welcome and congratulations Representative Marsh! As the new Chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee, you were exceptionally well-positioned to lead the charge to achieve a number of climate action victories for Oregon. 

Rep. Marsh: Thank you!  I feel like it was a really successful session in focusing on the crisis issues that are in front of us as a community in Southern Oregon. We see it up close and personal. The climate is changing. We are endangered. We suffered massive losses in 2020. So we took that experience into the 2021 session, and I think we did work that really responds to what we’ve experienced on the ground.

I was appointed to be Chair of the Energy and Environment in December, which was a big surprise.  I didn’t expect that.  I had been on it bits and pieces over the last few years, and I’ve been involved in the climate work.

As I got in and looked around, it was clear to me that there were five key priorities that we needed to come out with, and we were able to deliver on all of them.

Lorrie: For starters, let’s talk about House Bill 2021, the 100% Clean Energy Bill, which passed on June 26. You were a lead sponsor and played an important role in shepherding this bill through the legislature. Tell us about it.

Rep. Marsh: House Bill 2021 puts the state on a course toward 100% renewable electricity by 2040, with intermediary targets along the way. By 2030, we aim to be 80% emissions below where we were in  2010-2012.  By 2035, 90% below and by 2040, 100% below.

The bill primarily affects the two biggest investor-owned utilities, which are Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, which account for 75% of the electricity market.  It does not affect the consumer-owned utilities, the other electric companies around the state, or the municipal utilities like Ashland Electric which are smaller and for the most part get their power from Bonneville and legacy hydroelectric, so they are already 89 or 90% renewable.

Also included are independent power producers. They account for only about 1% of the market, but it was important to include them because they are direct competitors for the big users that get power currently from PGE and Pacific Power.

The bill has a number of components to get us there.

First, it requires the utilities to set out clean power plans, which tell us how they expect to get to those goals. They’re already reporting to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) every two years, but now they’ll have a specific emphasis on clean power and the target dates. They’ll have to produce a plan that makes sense to the PUC and that gets us toward affordable, good-for-communities kind of power. They’ll have a combination of strategies included within those plans.

Our Department of Environmental Quality already monitors emissions from utilities, so we’ve already got that mechanism in place and we didn’t need to put even a single dollar into DEQ for this. The PUC is already working with the utilities to regulate them and can look at them for consistency with the clean power plans and so forth. So it’s pretty straightforward: Set the goals, develop the plans, monitor the plans, and look at what emissions are being produced.

There are a number of other elements in the legislation that really make it distinctly Oregonian in nature.

We know that vulnerable communities need to be brought into the clean energy future. The bill requires the utilities to develop community advisory panels made up of ratepayers, including people of color, rural communities, low-income rate payers, and so forth. A really important part of the planning process is making sure that our ratepayers and our environmental justice communities have a voice in the process of transitioning to a clean energy future.   Rural communities are included in the definition of environmental justice communities.

The bill has also negotiated what I call “green tariff” programs. There are communities around the state that want to work on their climate goals more quickly than others, or that want to support localized power, or have other objectives. The bill allows the utilities to contract with those communities to set up custom programs, and then as necessary to charge ratepayers for the additional expenses that might be involved in those programs. These programs would allow communities to look at what kind of power they want, to look for local ownership or jobs, or whatever the priority is in that community for their power grid. It’s a good thing for utilities and it’s a great thing for the communities that want to expedite their climate work.

We also have labor agreements for renewable projects. These are private projects over 10 megawatts. There are specific wage and benefit standards and a requirement to use apprenticeship programs, and an encouragement to use project labor agreements. What we want to have coming out of the renewable world is really good jobs. Labor agreements are a path toward that.

And then the last significant component is that we are setting pathways towards more community renewable development. The clean energy planning processes that will require utilities to address community resiliency projects and also require them to address how to change out fossil fuel development with community renewable development.  We’re not mandating the utilities do specific kinds of projects. We’re trying to understand how to make those local projects viable. Because if they’re viable, they’ll be part of the grid.

Lorrie: Are there other aspects of HB2021 we should know about?

Rep. Marsh: A strength of HB2021 is that it is technology-neutral. It’s not picking winners or losers, it’s just setting a standard that we are going to reduce emissions, everything that goes into the system is going to have to be constructed in that way. I think everyone expects that what that means is that there are energy sources that aren’t real yet, but will become real, and that will contribute a whole lot to the viability of the system going forward.

From a policy point of view, if we go to renewables, we have to take a regional approach. We need to do it in a way that contributes to the reliability of the system by diversifying the kinds of energy sources that are coming into the grid. So consumers are served in the best and most efficient way.  I think we’ll get some facts that we will be able to use in the next round of this discussion.

The bill also requires that the Department of Energy do a study of community-based renewable projects. We want to understand the challenges and the opportunities. They’ve been instructed to come back with recommendations for legislative action.

Another big thing in HB2021 is a $50-million community renewable investment fund that will issue grants to local governments or consumer-owned utilities or tribes to plan to develop projects under 20 megawatts.

Our hope is that we start to learn what makes sense, and have a much better handle on what level of subsidy is actually required for small projects. We don’t have agreement on what the numbers are. Without an agreement on the numbers, we can’t just throw out an expectation for those projects to be there because you don’t know what kind of burden you’re putting on the ratepayers who are ultimately the people who will have to pay for that.

Many of us think we need more resilience within our small communities. But we need to figure out what that is and how to do that. How you make it meet bottomline expectations.  I’m very optimistic that through all these steps, we’ll be able to come back in a couple of years with some actual data to help us figure out what actually required

So that’s the bill in a big nutshell.   We know that utilities are moving in this direction. We know the feds are going to make us… And we hope that they make us move toward renewables. But the bill is really constructed in a way that speaks to affected individuals and communities, the affected labor force, and then the opportunity for economic development out of local renewable projects.

Lorrie: How might HB2021 impact people here in your district?

Rep. Marsh: Ashland has a municipal utility, so it will not be affected from a regulatory point of view, but it will be eligible for the community renewable investment grants.

The balance of my district is served by Pacific Power. Before the fires, Talent was looking at how to expedite its climate goals. Things are different now as we regroup and try to rebuild the community, but that would have been a great example of a community that might have wanted to develop a green tariff program with Pacific Power to customize the mix of power coming into the community.

Southern Oregon, eastern Oregon, and coastal Oregon are places that are going to get renewable development.  There’s tremendous potential for getting projects here, and with projects come jobs — and very good jobs. So, there’s a lot to gain, and then, of course, there’s the overriding climate issue, and talking about how we change in a way that is very Oregonian.

We’re trying to really set communities on a path toward resiliency because we know that more disaster is around the corner. We are addressing the energy mix in our electricity, we are trying to mitigate the climate changes that are driving conditions on the ground. Because we’re experiencing climate change right here, right here, right now.

Lorrie: Previous attempts to pass climate legislation in Oregon failed spectacularly. Most notably, the 2019 legislative session ended prematurely in a dramatic walkout by Republican legislators in order to prevent passage of HB2020, often referred to as the “cap and invest” bill.

Rep. Marsh: Cap and invest was a much broader, more ambitious bill. It would have addressed the flow of all fossil fuel-based energy, and it would have directly affected many of our businesses and industries, and of course, we heard about that.

This bill picks off a share of the fossil market.

Electricity is about 30% of our state’s energy mix. The big utilities are 75+% — probably closer to 80%–of the actual emissions in that sector. So if we get to 100% by 2040 (and maybe sooner, depending on technology), that’s a very significant contributor towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the low-hanging fruit, because renewables are cheaper than fossil in many or most cases now. We know we need to do this. It’s frankly much easier to figure out how to change the content of electricity than it is to figure out how to get us all into electric vehicles.

Lorrie: The Healthy Homes Bill (HB2842) also passed this weekend, establishing a Healthy Homes Program within the Oregon Health Authority to provide grants to entities to provide financial assistance to low-income households and landlords.

Rep. Marsh: The Healthy Homes bill is about the intersection of health and housing and it got a lot of support.

We’re trying to address the upstream elements of housing that create poor health outcomes for people. We will look at those outcomes and be able to document the effectiveness of the interventions. People who live in energy inefficient homes or homes that have lead or radon or homes that are susceptible to wildfire smoke, or the many issues that emerge when you have a house that is not well-maintained or where the roof is leaking or the sewage isn’t correct have tremendous health impacts.

We learned through the pandemic how important it is to have a home where people can be safe and be healthy, and that’s absolutely true during the changing climate conditions.

Look at our current 110 degree weather. What does it mean to have a house where you can be cool and breathe? That’s essential. I was thrilled that we finally got the right combination of support. We had a tremendous coalition supporting it.

Lorrie: Are the healthy home funds available to people in your district?

Rep. Marsh: Rural communities are included in the environmental justice definition. Oregon Health Authority grants can be applied for by non-profits, community agencies, and local governments. I can give you three organizations locally that I think would be prime for this:

  1. Habitat for Humanity
  2. The city of Ashland. Previously, we got $250,000 from the state to provide air filtration systems for smoke for low-income households. We clearly need to do more of that work.
  3. Local organization that helps seniors and disabled individuals who need help with ramps or other adjustments for their homes. That also would qualify for a healthy homes project for people on the right income level– to be able to transition your home so that you can stay there.  I hope our coordinated care organizations get involved in this work. For example, asthma is a tremendously expensive public health problem. if we invest in people’s homes to help them breathe better and ameliorate the impacts that are leading to asthma, that’s cost-effective, and it also is energy efficient.

Lorrie: What about tenants? Can they take advantage of these funds

Answers:  That’s a really important question. These weatherization programs are oriented toward people who own. That’s why we have put so much money into manufactured housing over the last few years–many of those people own their own homes and they all need weatherization, and many of them are low income.  That’s also why we also created these purchase programs for manufactured homes through Energy Trust.

We have to figure out how to make this work for tenants. The problem is that the person that benefits is [not the one who pays for the work] to pay.  So we specifically called out in this legislation that we have to figure out what kind of rules to create so that we can make investments for low-income tenants. If we don’t do that, we miss 40% of the market, because 40% of us are tenants. The vast majority are privately held rentals. It’s an issue that’s really close to my heart.

Lorrie: Tell us about other climate-related bills that passed this session.

Rep. Marsh: We also passed a big electric vehicle bill during the session as well. The EV bill, (HB2290) which will allow the utilities to develop EV infrastructure. It also expands the subsidies available to low-income folks who would like to buy EVs.

And then we passed a bill to reauthorize the public purpose charge (HB3141).  It’s kind of in the weeds, but it was definitely an energy priority.

The public purpose charge, [established originally in 1999] has been 3% on bills paid by the customers of the investor-owned utilities. It goes to Energy Trust of Oregon, a non-profit organization that develops incentives and supports energy efficiency investments. The public purpose charge expires in 2026, so there was a work group to talk about how to renew it.

We were actually able to reduce the public purpose charge to 1.5%, because energy efficiency has to be pursued by the utilities anyway, so we don’t need to pay extra for them to do that. It’s just folded into the rate process…which is a very in-the-weeds kind of idea.

The continuation of Energy Trust is huge because energy efficiency is frankly our cheapest way out of this mess, and they are positioned to do interesting innovative work. For example, Energy Trust has a manufactured home replacement program where they’ll give incentives for manufactured home replacements. We realized a long time ago that these older manufactured homes across the state were just leaching energy. It made more sense to help people buy new ones than to continually try to upgrade these old manufactured homes, and so Energy Trust has a program. If you upgrade, you can get some money for the process of doing that.

In Southern Oregon, people are replacing manufactured homes because they burned up. If they live in the Pacific Power territory, they should be eligible for these Energy Trust incentives.

Although it’s not sexy, the public purpose charge legislation is really important too. But no one ever wrote about it because it’s boring.

Those were the four really big bills of the session.  But there’s a fifth environmental bill that is also really important, and that is a revamping of our recycling system (SB582).

It’ll take a few years, but it will move us toward a system where we have the same baseline recycling services available all over the state.

And, we’re going to engage producers. It’s much like the bottle bill, in which producers figured out how to run the recycling system and do run the recycling system. We’re going to involve producers of certain items that normally are going into landfills to help us figure out how to recycle them.

So there’s a great hope that we will have not just a more robust recycling system, but that this approach will actually serve to reduce the amount of crap that we’re recycling. If you’re involving the producer and figuring out what happens to that packaging, there is a very strong incentive for the packaging to get sleeker and less invasive, and I hope that happens.

This is very much an energy issue at its base too, because petroleum is going into the production of a lot of that packaging.

Lorrie: The legislature also succeeded in passing major wildfire legislation. 

Rep. Marsh: Yes.  Jeff’s committee — [Senator Jeff Golden who chairs the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery] was where the wildfire bill (SB762) got its start. Then we worked on it as it came through the House side. I carried it on the House floor on Saturday, which was fun. It was huge.

I consider the wildfire work and the climate work as partners. Wildfire is climate-driven. We’ve got to start doing all the preventive stuff that we possibly can. That bill is more directly related to wildfire: around stabilizing forests, creating defensible space, building codes, and emergency preparedness. It has many different elements to it, a number of them in the prevention front, although the parts that got the most attention were questions around defensible space.

Lorrie: Anything else?

Rep. Marsh:  There was a lot of other work as well. We revamped property tax for people who have suffered loss. I did insurance reforms to make sure that people have support and rebuilding. We did manufactured-home legislation to resolve some of the questions that came up around responsibility after a manufactured home park has been destroyed. And we have a whole lot of money to invest in rebuilding the communities.

What we tried to do was respond to the big underlying issues — the long-term crisis that’s fueling the short-term crisis. Otherwise, if we fail, we’ll just be here year after year after year, trying to pay for a lot of communities that have separate disasters.

Lorrie: Thank you so much for all your great work. I hope you get some rest.

Rep. Marsh:  Thanks! I’m sort of exhausted.

Lorrie: I imagine so.