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City of Portland takes a stand for clean energy

On November 4 and 12, Portland City Council took historic action to move away from fossil fuels. Transitioning to renewable energy is cleaner, safer, better for human and environmental health, and addresses climate change.

City Council passed two resolutions, both co-sponsored by Mayor Hales and Commissioner Fritz. The first, passed on November 4, opposes oil trains carrying crude oil from rolling through Portland and Vancouver.

“The City of Portland’s resolution to oppose any increase in the amount of crude oil being transported by rail through the City of Portland and the City of Vancouver, Washington is intended to stand in solidarity with the City of Vancouver’s decision,” said Commissioner Fritz, noting the City of Vancouver’s opposition to the proposal to build the West Coast’s largest oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

The second resolution directs City bureaus to identify how to use the City's authority to restrict the development and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure (other than infrastructure like pipes to serve direct end users.) Resolutions are not legally binding on their own. Any legally binding code changes will come back to City Council for consideration at a later date.

“Earlier this year the City of Portland’s new Climate Action Plan called for City Council to establish a fossil fuel export policy,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. “Now, with unanimous support, we have acted for future generations: Portland opposes new infrastructure that would expand fossil fuel storage or transport. This new resolution will allow staff to propose city code changes to make sure new fossil fuel projects aren’t built, protecting our planet and our people.”

The new resolutions build on a history of action:

1) Reduce direct use of fossil fuel use: The City has been systematically working to reduce fossil fuel use in Portland for more than 20 years, as detailed in four successive climate action plans. This most recent decision reflects the commitment of Portland’s leadership to stay the course, rather than a radical departure from past practice. 

2) Don't invest City financial resources in fossil fuels: In September 2015 City Council passed a resolution that adds fossil fuel companies to the City’s "do-not-buy" list of corporate securities.

3) Reduce fossil fuels in our electricity supply: The City continues to partner with clean energy advocates and allies to make it easier for renewable energy development to take place in Oregon. BPS has run programs to help residents and businesses go solar, like Solarize Portland, and has piloted new program ideas like crowdfuding for solar on community buildings. BPS has played an active role in supporting state legislative and regulatory proceedings that advance clean energy, like the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline underscores that the world is changing, and it also makes the work of West Coast cities even more important. The oil industry sees Northwest ports as the next best way to transport fossil fuels. Portland alone cannot change the world, but by showing leadership and linking our efforts with other cities from around the world, we absolutely have an impact. Portland is playing its part in the global shift toward clean energy. Mayor Hales will travel to Paris for the Conference of Parties climate talks in early December to share Portland’s story and lessons learned with other cities and leaders from around the globe.