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Kyle Diesner: BPS Climate Action Team member and so much more

A new installment in our series on BPS employees

Kyle Diesner, BPSIt’s Climate Action Plan season here at BPS, and we’re thrilled to have recently released the 2015 draft plan for public comment. This plan features two new focus areas -- advancing equity through climate action and a new consumption inventory -- which reflect innovative new research and extensive community engagement. From the benefits of low-carbon food choices to the need for more sidewalks in East Portland, the 2015 CAP is a pretty engaging read.

But who are the smart and passionate folks who have labored for more than two years to get this plan into the hands of the community? We’d like to introduce you to one of the key players, Kyle Diesner: BPS Policy Analyst, tireless equity advocate and chief consumption expert.

Kyle came to BPS (then, the Office of Sustainable Development) in 2003. Fresh out of college with a degree in Environmental Science, he joined the Multifamily (Weatherization) Assistance Program. As a volunteer, he spent his first few days copying hundreds of program files.  “Everyone has to start somewhere!” said Kyle. “The program was a great fit with my background in energy and my passion for equity.” After a stint at Ecos Consulting, Kyle rejoined OSD, because of the organization’s mission and workplace culture. His work with the BPS Multifamily Team resulted in energy efficiency improvements in tens of thousands of apartments.

Now Kyle has the opportunity to work on all kinds of projects, primarily climate, energy and social equity initiatives. One current project is a collaboration with the Northwest Solar Communities, which is a coalition of jurisdictions, utilities, industry partners and citizen groups working together to make rooftop solar electricity more cost effective for all.

Making the connection between climate and consumption

But Kyle is especially proud of his work on Portland’s 2015 Climate Action Plan, a roadmap for the City of Portland and Multnomah County to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. This plan builds on previous plans with new actions to advance equity and analysis around the consumption-based carbon inventory. This kind of inventory models global emissions produced when Multnomah County consumers purchase things made in other parts of the world.

The consumption-based inventory is near and dear to Kyle’s heart. Consider many products found in the home: A shirt, cell phone, TV or chair. It’s likely that they were manufactured in Asia where there are far fewer pollution controls. The inventory takes the conversation about reducing emissions a step further than riding bikes and turning down thermostats. It forces us to begin to look at consumer choice by shining a light on the bigger carbon footprint. 

“For decades cities around the world have been tracking emissions produced locally, which is important,” reflected Kyle. “However, when you consider emissions produced in other parts of the world to meet local demand, you have a more thorough analysis of the problem and how we can combat the challenge.”

Kyle was honored to collaborate with David Allaway at Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, who led the work to adapt Oregon’s consumption-based inventory for Multnomah County. 

“I believe there is a role for government to regulate emissions, but ultimately this situation is the result of choices made every day by consumers,” said Kyle. “It comes down to supply and demand. Consumers need to be informed so they can use their buying power to support products and businesses that disclose emissions and work to reduce them across their supply chains.”

A passion for equity

Kyle also serves on the Citywide Equity Committee, working with other City bureaus to dismantle institutional racism and advance equity. “People know I’m an advocate for racial equity. What you might not know is that I’m gay,” he shares. “People ask me why I don’t commit my efforts to gay rights. There are lots of talented gay men and women who work for LGBTQ rights and I honor them, but I feel I have more of an impact using my power as a white male to fight against racial oppression. For me the rationale is simple: we can move mountains when those who reap benefits of unearned privilege join the movements of the oppressed. Similarly, I would call to our straight allies and ask them to stand and do the same for gender and sexual minorities.”

In addition to his work at BPS, Kyle serves on two nonprofit boards — Resolutions NW and the Community Energy Project. He is also enrolled in the Executive Masters of Public Administration at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University, recently traveling with his cohort to Washington, D.C. to study the national policy process. The trip included meetings with advocacy groups, think tanks, lobbyists, and legislative and federal agency staffers.

Kyle is deeply committed to advancing equity, defending the environment and advancing democracy. In the future, he would like to parlay his experience in local government to work in Federal government. Maybe someday he’ll run for public office. “It would be an honor to serve Oregonians in Congress,” Kyle remarked. BPS is fortunate to have him on our team. 

Proposal for New Multnomah County Health Department Headquarters in Old Town/Chinatown Subject of Public Hearing on April 28

Portlanders invited to review and testify on proposed height increase that would allow the County to consolidate Health Department administrative services in one building

Map showing Old Town/Chinatown site of proposed Multnomah County Health BuildingThe Multnomah County Health Department serves the county’s 748,000 residents, providing essential public health services, including direct medical and dental services, environmental health services, public health investigation and reporting, and chronic and communicable disease prevention. However, the County’s Health Department administrative facilities in downtown Portland are under-sized and functionally obsolete, and department functions are spread across multiple buildings throughout the county.

So the County is proposing to construct a new headquarters facility for its Health Department on a half-block site in Old Town/Chinatown. The new building would concentrate most of the County’s health-related administrative departments and include some direct-service functions.

Extra height required

The site selected for the proposed facility is the eastern portion of Block U, located on NW 6th Ave, between NW Hoyt and NW Irving streets, within the River District of the Central City (see map). The new building would require an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 square feet and would stand between 105 and 150 feet in height. While the density entitlement (with bonuses) for the site is sufficient for the proposed building, the height allowance (75 feet) is not.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is proposing to raise the height on Block U to a maximum of 150 feet to accommodate this proposal. This would be done by increasing the base height from 75 to 105 feet and making the site eligible for an additional 45 feet of bonus height. This could be earned through the use of floor area ratio (FAR) bonuses in exchange for providing various public benefits. The public is invited to testify on the proposed height increase at a public hearing with the Planning and Sustainability Commission.

Public Hearing on Multnomah County Health Department Building

Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission
Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 3 p.m.*
1900 SW 4th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Room 2500A

* Please check the PSC calendar or call (503) 823-7700 one week prior to hearing for scheduled time of this agenda item

Instructions on submitting testimony:

Download the proposal (including graphics and ESEE analysis update): 

Next Steps

A City Council public hearing to consider the recommendations of the Planning and Sustainability Commission on this proposal is anticipated in early June 2015. For more information, visit the project website or contact Nicholas Starin at or by phone at (503) 823-5837.


PSC News: April 7, 2015 Meeting Recap and Documents

Terminal 6 Environmental Overlay Zone Boundary and Code Amendment — hearing / recommendation


  • Terminal 6 Environmental Overlay Zone Boundary and Code Amendment — hearing / recommendation

Meeting files

An archive of meeting minutes and documents of all Planning and Sustainability Commission meetings are available at  

Portland business and government leaders speak up about bold climate leadership

Produced by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, a new video features Portland’s climate action leaders whose vision has contributed to a notable achievement, according to BPS Director, Susan Anderson.

“Total carbon emissions in the U.S. are up 7 percent since 1990. Here, in Portland and Multnomah County, we’ve cut total emissions by 14 percent, with 30 percent more people and over 75,000 more jobs. Clearly we are headed in a different direction," said Anderson. “The investments that have helped us cut energy use and reduce carbon emissions are the same things that make people want to live here: Creating walkable neighborhoods with shopping, restaurants and parks; investing in transit and bike facilities; and making our homes and buildings more efficient and comfortable.”

The draft 2015 Climate Action Plan --now out for public comment before consideration by Portland City Council in June -- builds on Portland’s 20+ year legacy of climate action and provides a roadmap for the community to achieve an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of a 40 percent reduction by 2030.

In 1993, Portland was the first U.S. city to create a local action plan for cutting carbon. The 2015 draft plan builds on the accomplishments to date with ambitious new policies, fresh research on consumption choices and engagement with community leaders serving low-income households and communities of color to advance equity through the City and County’s climate action efforts. Following community input and revisions, the draft plan will be considered for adoption by the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission, Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and the Portland City Council in June 2015.

As global leaders grapple with the concerns and opportunities the changing climate presents, Portland has become an international destination for planners and decision-makers seeking proven strategies for climate action. Since 2010, more than 160 delegations from around the world have come to Portland to speak with business and government leaders to understand how Portland has lowered emissions while welcoming growth and creating a more livable community. Portland and Multnomah County now have 12,000 clean tech jobs, an increase of 25 percent in the last 15 years.

Watch Portland’s climate action leaders talk about bold policy, benefits and the road ahead.

Download a copy or individual chapters of the draft 2015 Climate Action Plan at

Planning and Sustainability Commission Approves Terminal 6 Environmental Zoning Code and Map Amendments

Pembina’s proposal to transport propane through Portland moves on to City Council; carbon fund established to offset effects of greenhouse gas emissions

On Tuesday, April 7, after a six-hour meeting (including four hours of testimony), Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission voted 6 to 4 in favor of recommending zoning code and map amendments to City Council that would accommodate Pembina’s proposal for a propane export facility at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6.

The Zoning Code and Map amendments included:

  1. Amend the Environmental Overlay Zone to allow for the transport of propane through a pipe across an environmental overlay zone on sites zoned Heavy Industrial and only when the transporting is part of a river-dependent industrial use.
  2. Amend the zoning map to extend the existing environmental conservation overlay zone boundary to some of the currently unprotected significant natural resources identified in the adopted 2012 Citywide Natural Resources Inventory.
  3. Adopt a City-Port intergovernmental agreement (IGA) to address other issues not covered by the Zoning Code.

Intergovernmental Agreement
The IGA Framework covers a wide range of issues. It formally documents many of the commitments made by Calgary-based Pembina and the Port of Portland during the PSC hearings process. Some of the proposed terms address policy issues related to Portland’s Climate Action Plan; others address safety and community relations.

The key terms of the IGA include:

Community Advisory Committee (CAC): Provide a public forum to address operational issues that may affect the surrounding community, i.e. noise, lighting and other nuisance issues.

Safety: Ensure the Port and Pembina implement all of the safety measures, including providing the Portland Bureau of Fire and Rescue with the specialized equipment or training necessary to respond to an incident at the facility.

Onsite Energy Use: Require the facility meets 100 percent of its energy needs for onsite operations from Oregon renewable energy sources.

Grassland Habitat Mitigation: Ensure that the features and functions of the grassland special habitat area affected by the facility are fully replaced.

Environmental Impact Mitigation: Pembina to contribute $6.2 million annually to the Portland Carbon Fund to offset the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the propane itself. The fund will be used for projects that reduce energy consumption, generate renewable energy and sequester carbon.

Liability: Provide insurance and other financial assurances to cover damages from a catastrophic event.

Much of the public testimony and discussion was about safety. Prior to the hearing, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability provided extensive information to the PSC about safety, including detailed reports from technical experts. The City hired an independent consultant (Arkana) to evaluate Pembina's Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) performed by DNV GL, a Norwegian company that specializes in safety reviews for the world gas and oil industry. The final analysis put the odds of an injury to the nearest residents at about one every 10 million years. These and other documents from the April 7 meeting are posted on the PSC website.

Portland Carbon Fund
To account for carbon emissions from the propane, the PSC recommended an annual carbon mitigation contribution of $6.2 million/year to the City. This amount is estimated based on the life cycle of GHG emissions from the exported propane, including the processing, transport and end use of the fuel. These emissions have been discounted to account for some use of the propane in plastics manufacturing and as a transition fuel that will displace dirtier sources of fuel, such as coal and fuel oil.

Pembina’s contribution will be based on the market price for GHG emissions (roughly $6.77/metric ton CO2-equivalent or roughly a penny per gallon) in Europe, which has one of the most well-established trading programs in the world. If propane exports become subject to a carbon fee or pricing mechanism, the contribution will be re-evaluated.

The Portland Carbon Fund will be a separate fund administered by the City of Portland with oversight from an advisory board, much in the same way the City’s Children’s Levy is administered. This fund is different from the Community Investment Fund announced by Pembina and will fund projects across the city that reduce energy consumption, generate renewable energy, and sequester carbon.

Next Steps
With the PSC vote, the amendments and IGA move onto to City Council for another public hearing and a vote, tentatively scheduled for April 30 (time TBD). Check the Council agenda page about a week before to confirm the date and time.

For a recap of the April 7 public hearing and vote, please visit the PSC news feed