Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

In terms of climate progress, Climate concerned members of the Oregon Legislature snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the 2023 long session drew to a close at the end of June. Many times, during the last decade, the minority party has walked out of one or both chambers specifically to deny a quorum and prevent comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions proposals from being passed.  They were and are able to thwart democracy in Oregon because we are one of only four states that ludicrously requires two thirds of the members of the chamber to be present in order for business to be conducted. Forty-five states set the quorum at a majority, while Massachusetts requires fewer than 50% to be present in both houses.  Oregon is joined by Indiana (the model for our constitution), Tennessee, and Texas in demanding a number so high that even a party with a distinct minority can walk out and thwart democracy.  Further discussion of the state-by-state quorum and noteworthy walkouts is available here. In walking out to defeat both democracy and climate progress in Oregon, minority party members consistently claimed legislation was designed to benefit urban Oregonians but they would consider legislation that provided economic benefit to rural Oregon.  As a result, since 2020, climate legislation has been proposed in smaller pieces.  Some of these, such as House Bill HB 2021 coincidentally (maybe) in 2021, which requires that retail electricity in Oregon shall be generated 100% from clean energy sources by 2040, have been successful.

During the just-concluded 2023 session, a number of bills were introduced that provided incentives to promote climate action in different areas.  Several of these received bi-partisan support in committee and looked set to pass.  However, the minority party walkout, justified variously by a wide diversity of explanations, put a hold on these proposals. In an effort to salvage progress, several thoughtful legislators developed a couple of packages of bills that could be introduced should the quorum be achieved.  These were a Climate Package (HB3409) and an Energy Package (HB3630) Bill.

When a sufficient number of minority party members returned to the Senate to satisfy the quorum, these bills were introduced. On the Saturday before the day when the session statutorily concluded, the second of these bills was finally passed and victory was snatched from the jaws of a defeat that the minority party walk-out seemed almost certain to impose. While many valuable legislative proposals were left to die in committee, the result was that the  following were passed.

Important Bills that passed in HB3409 were:

SB868-871: a set of bills promoting energy efficient and climate resilient buildings.
SB530: the Natural Climate Solutions Bill that sets place programs that allow rural Oregonians, especially farmers and forest managers, to access federal funds to promote the capture and storage of carbon dioxide in our natural and working lands.
HB2990: the Community Resilience Hubs Bill that provides funds to establish around the state centers that provide information on how to respond to emergencies such as wildfire, earthquake, and severe weather such as floods and heat waves, and provide shelter for those displaced by such events.

SB522 the Climate Act Modernization Act updates the Oregon Global Warming Commission as the Oregon Climate Action Commission and provides it increased support.
Also included in this package were the TREES Act (HB3016), the Climate Protection Program Fee Bill (HB3196), Medium and Heavy-Duty electrical Vehicle Incentive (HB2714), Renewable Energy Siting (HB3181), Harmful Algal Blooms (HB2647), and Wood Biomass for Low Carbon Fuels (HB3590).  The last of these we would have preferred had been omitted, but overall, the package was distinctly positive.

Meanwhile HB3630 allowed passage of:

HB3166 the Oregon Department of Energy One Stop Shop that assigns ODOE the task of developing a one-stop location where Oregonians can go to learn about state and federal incentives that are available to promote sane climate conscious behaviors.
HB3418 the Solar and Storage Rebate Extension that extends incentives for solar and battery installation.
HB3056 the Residential Heat Pump Extension that continues incentives for installing these incredibly energy efficient heating and cooling devices.
HB2021 the Community Renewable Energy Grant program that incentivizes the increasingly popular community solar program as a means of allowing Oregonians unable easily to install solar panels to benefit from solar power generated elsewhere.
Also included in this package were the Environmental Justice and Tribal Navigator (SB852) and State Energy Strategy and Resilience Planning (HB2534 & 3378),

We await a decision from Governor Kotek regarding her signature on these bills.

Since the Federal Congress passed the Infrastructure and Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act during President Biden’s first two years in office, funds have become available to invest in those rural communities that take steps to address the climate crisis.  But, to access these billions of dollars of funds, states need programs in place that can use the funds.  One would think the incentive of federal investments in rural Oregon would entice the minority party to support proposals to establish such programs, just as they claimed they wanted during prior walkouts.  But sadly, one would be wrong!  As the minority party abandoned rural Oregonians it claims to represent, the two packages passed largely on party-line votes thanks to the commitment of the majority party.

SOCAN submitted testimony both written and orally on many of these bills.  Submitted testimony can be found on our blog at by entering the bill number in the search feature.

We express tremendous appreciation to our legislators from House District 5 (Representative Pam Marsh) and Senate District 3 (Senator Jeff Golden) for being our champions on the climate front, and for joining their climate conscious colleagues from across the state in passing these important bills.

Additional bills of interest that were passed in both legislatures and received the Governor’s signature are:

SB543 which banned polystyrene containers and packaging in Oregon.

SB545 which will allow consumers to take personal containers into restaurants for take-out meals (one the Oregon Health Authority develops the rules).

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