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Zombie Propane export terminal to get new legs?


Call, write, email Commissioner Fish;

Portlanders have made it clear–

We don’t want a Canadian-fracked China-exportin propane terminal in Portland!

(503) 823-3589

1221 S.W. 4th, Room 240, Portland OR  97204  


The Oregonian/OregonLive  —  Ted Sickinger —  May 22, 2015

A controversial propane export terminal that many assumed died when Mayor Charlie Hales yanked his support could get a second chance at City Hall.  

Portland Commissioner Nick Fish says he has asked the city attorney to determine if Pembina Pipeline Corp has a legal right to a hearing on the zoning change it is seeking to move the project forward.

The city planning commission has recommended the zone change, which requires city council approval. A hearing would bring up the matter for a vote.

Fish said he hasn’t decided whether to support the project. But if Pembina is entitled to a hearing, he intends to talk with company officials about bringing the issue before the council for a vote.

“I think at some point the integrity of the building is at stake,” he said.

Hales was the project’s most prominent champion until two weeks ago, when he abruptly decided that community opposition to the project was too strong. He also concluded that Pembina had not established that the project met the city’s environmental standards.

Hales didn’t cite specific standards, but he pulled the zoning change from the council’s June 10 agenda and said he wouldn’t put it back on.

The move was applauded by neighborhood groups and environmental advocates, who vehemently oppose the project. But it left Pembina in limbo, and many in the community questioning whether the city was running a fair and transparent process.

It’s a question that’s has swirled around the propane terminal since the Port of Portland and the mayor unveiled the project last September. Opponents claim environmental and safety reviews have been inadequate, and that city leaders were expediting the project without adequate vetting.

Some see the project as something of a referendum on the city’s commitment to sustainability and climate action. Others say it tests the city’s commitment to recruiting industrial jobs.

Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission narrowly recommended the zone change needed at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6. The change would allow the company to run a pipeline over a narrow strip of land currently zoned for conservation.

The zoning change is key hurdle for moving the project forward, and Pembina executives were in town earlier this week drumming up support to get the project back on track at City Hall. The business community is lobbying commissioners to do the same.

More here

Even if the zoning decision goes to the council, it’s not clear it will pass. None of the other commissioners has committed to support the project.

– Ted Sickinger 

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Climate justice groups call for mass actions in lead up to Paris climate talks
Climate justice groups call for mass actions in lead up to Paris climate talks

Starting this September, Rising Tide North America is calling for mass actions to shut down the economic and political systems threatening our survival.

Already, hundreds of thousands are streaming into the streets to fight back against climate chaos, capitalism and white supremacy.

This wave of resistance couldn’t be more urgent. To stop climate chaos we need a phenomenal escalation in organizing, participation and tactical courage. We need a profound social transformation to uproot the institutions of capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, the systems that created the climate crisis. And we need to link arms with allies fighting for migrant justice, dignified work and pay, and an end to the criminalization and brutal policing of black and brown bodies.

We need to #FloodTheSystem.

In the lead up to the United Nations climate talks in Paris, in December, we will escalate local and regional resistance against systems that threaten our collective survival. Together, we will open alternative paths to the failing negotiations of political elites.

This is not another protest. It is a call for a massive economic and political intervention. It is a call to build the relationships needed to sustain our struggles for the long haul. To build popular power along the intersections of race, class, gender and ability. To collectively unleash our power and change everything.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are mobilizing locally.  If you want to get involved, let us know.  And if you already know you are willing to take direct action to address the climate crisis and stop the fossil fuel projects in our region, sign the Rising Tide Regional Pledge of Resistance.

See you at the barricades.

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Tim Norgren lock to barrel, supporters nearby with banners

Union Member Risks Arrest at Arc Logistics, Opposes TPP and Fossil Fuel Exports


Union Member Risks Arrest at Arc Logistics, Opposes Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fossil Fuel Exports

LIUNA member Tim Norgren Locked Down to a barrel full of set cement on railroad tracks at Arc Logistics
LIUNA member Tim Norgren Locked Down at Arc Logistics

Portland, OR. Tim Norgren of Stevenson, WA and Laborers International Union of North America member is locked to a barrel at Arc Logistics Partners’ Portland Terminal to draw a clear connection between fossil fuel exports and trade agreements like the TPP, and to call for action to put a stop to both. Tim is supported by the climate justice group Portland Rising Tide.

The crowd is gathered at Arc Logistics to support Tim and draw the connections between existing & proposed fossil fuel infrastructure and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive trade deal being pushed by many politicians including Democrats Senator Wyden, Representative Blumenauer, Representative Bonamici, and President Obama. Many environmental and labor groups oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the grounds that it is written and promoted by the fossil fuel industry and American Legislative Exchange Council, gives multinational corporations more rights than communities here in the US, sends jobs overseas, and jeopardizes worker and environmental protections around the Pacific Rim.

The AFL-CIO opposes the TPP and is holding a rally today at 4:30pm at the Sentinel Hotel to tell President Obama, who is in Portland to speak on trade agreements, to stand up for workers and the environment. “I’m locked down today in part because climate change is an issue of survival inextricably linked to so-called ‘free trade’ globalization efforts like the TPP. While many of us strongly appreciate President Obama’s willingness to bring the climate crisis into the national debate, he has been unwilling to connect major fossil fuel exports to the TPP or veto the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Tim Norgren.

With proposals by major Alberta Tar Sands investor Pembina Pipeline Corporation for a propane (derived from fracked gas in Alberta, Canada) export terminal in Portland, the Jordan Cove Natural Gas terminal proposed in Coos Bay, a proposed natural gas terminal in Warrenton, as well as already-operating Arc Logistics and Port Westward oil-by-rail terminals, Oregonians are concerned that the Trans Pacific Partnership will promote more export terminals, send domestic energy overseas to fuel jobs in countries with lower workers’ rights standards, and hasten climate change. At a time when scientists tell us we need to leave most fossil fuels in the ground to prevent disastrous climate change and runaway global warming, this is completely unacceptable.

Tim hopes this action will send a message to union leaders and politicians alike that everyday workers want sustainable jobs. “I’m also taking this action to let my union, the Laborers International Union of North America, know that it has rank and file members who are willing to stand up not only for prevailing wage contracts, but for the survival and rights of all workers, rather than support those who would see minimum wage remain at poverty levels while jobs are freely outsourced to foreign factories with subsistence wages and no safety or emissions standards whatsoever. All they offer us in return is a chance to build infrastructure for an economy based on environmentally destructive resource extraction, and that’s just not sustainable.”

People gathered today at Arc Logistics spoke about being inspired by resistance from other communities in the Pacific Northwest, and hope that local governments can be leaders in stopping fossil fuel exports. “In Seattle, the Mayor recently took a strong stance against Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet and hopes to stop drilling in the Arctic entirely. We can only hope Mayor Hales will do the same, reverse course, say no to the Pembina propane export terminal and begin the process of dismantling all current fossil fuel infrastructure in Portland,” said Rising Tide organizer Jonah Majure.

Portland Rising Tide will be hosting a legal defense fundraiser for Tim at 7:30 pm on May 22nd at Ecotrust (721 NW 9th Ave, Portland OR).

Media Contact: Jonah Majure: 623-262-3063

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Ain’t Enough Paint to Greenwash This Pig

“Canadian energy giant Pembina Pipeline isn’t sweating” Mayor Charlie Hales’ withdrawal of support for the $500 million propane terminal proposed for North Portland according to the Portland Mercury’s May 7 report.

Hales assured us back in September, 2014 that the facility in the Rivergate industrial district would be “transformative”, yielding 600 to 800 construction jobs, up to 40 permanent jobs and paying $3.3 million in property taxes each year, recounts the Willamette Week.  “This is great news,” Hales extolled.

The Mayor’s sudden about-face followed months of overwhelming public opposition to the terminal, including a six-hour marathon before the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission on April 7.  The Portland Mercury reported that “more than 300 activists showed up for the meeting, with representatives from neighborhood associations, Native American tribes, and environmental groups” to express concern and anger around environmental and safety issues. One overriding concern was that the terminal would fly in the face of  the city’s Climate Action Plan.  The commission, in a 6-4 vote, recommended supporting a proposed zoning change to accomodate the terminal, and sent the issue to Portland City Council for a final decision.

Whether Mayor Hales’ change of heart was motivated by political survival or genuine consideration of public opposition, he had already let the pigs out of the barn. Now Portland faces an uphill battle, one that both propane proponents and  the opposition are more than ready for.

Indeed, just hours after Hales’ declararon the project is “not a winner,” Pembina issued a press release stating that the company “reaffirms its plans to proceed towards next steps in the development of its proposed Portland Propane Export Terminal Project”.

Really? What happened to Pembina CEO Mick Dilger’s assurances that “if it turns out the people of Portland don’t want this, we don’t have a deal“.

And now, the Port of Portland doesn’t wanna take “No” for an answer: “The Port fully supports Pembina’s continued efforts to site a propane export facility here. The Mayor’s withdrawal of support for the proposed propane terminal … is surprising and disappointing…due to the Mayor’s early support, the company has spent $15 million to comply with various city regulations and requirements of the zoning change process.

The City Council and the Port Commission will come to realize that there ain’t enough paint in this town to greenwash a 36,000 barrel-per-day fracked gas propane terminal on the Columbia.  Our job is to make it crystal clear that support of this terminal would be political suicide.

Charlie finally got the message. The rest of the City Council and the Port Commissioners are next.

The next hearing is June 10th. Please call and write the City Council today.

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CTUIR Supports OR DEQ Budget Citing Increased Danger of Spills

What follows is the March 25, 2015 testimony of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation at a public hearing on HB 5018 in front the Joint SubCommittee on Natural Resources in Salem. HB 5018 will specify the budget for the DEQ for the next biennium starting July 1, 2015. 

Co-Chairs Devlin and Rayfield and Members of the Committee:

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) would like to offer our support for the budget of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ). The CTUIR appreciates the cooperative working relationship we have with ODEQ, and have for many years. Our relationship has not been without disagreements from time to time, but the CTUIR remains confident that ODEQ is doing an excellent job protecting the resources on which the CTUIR and all citizens of Oregon rely.

The CTUIR is aware that there are many priorities that the legislature must balance in developing the budget and we would like to lend our support to the important work ODEQ does to reduce risks to the public from environmental hazards. In addition to the proposed budget items, the CTUIR would like to see additional funding provided to ODEQ to address implementation and enforcement of water quality standards and regulations as well as sufficient resources to address harmful spills to the environment. ODEQ has a solemn duty to help reduce the burden of toxic chemicals that are too often found in our water, in our air, and across the landscape. We should constantly seek to reduce the use and discharge of unhealthy chemicals and contaminants in the first place as much as possible.

Source reduction is the most sensible, productive and cost-effective approach, one that should go hand-in-hand with protective standards and regulations. Delay, either in reducing sources or repairing the damage that has already occurred, will only result in a greater toll on human health and the environment. Furthermore, delay will increase the long-term costs of restoring what has been damaged.

A study by the Oregon Environmental Council found that environmentally attributable diseases—like cancer, birth defects, and neurobehavioral problems—cost Oregonians at least $1.57 billion annually. We as a state must do all we can to limit these unnecessary risks to our health and other costs to our communities. We cannot afford these preventable and excessive expenses in times of economic hardship, but most importantly, we should not tolerate the needless harm to the health and well-being of our people. The CTUIR believes that ODEQ Director Pedersen has demonstrated strong leadership and vision in recognizing that we as Oregonians must do more to understand and reduce the damage caused by environmental pollutants. The Director and his staff are implementing initiatives that are crucial to a healthy, sustainable and resilient Oregon.

Implementing Water Quality Standards: A major priority for the CTUIR with respect to ODEQ’s 2015-16 biennium budget is support for implementing revised toxics water quality standards for human health and aquatic life. Oregon was TUIR Testimony regarding SB 5018 Before the Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources March 25, 2015 Page 2 of 2 Treaty June 9, 1855 ~ Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Tribes the first state in the nation to adopt a Fish Consumption Rate based on scientific data derived from tribal consumption surveys. Water quality standards based on this rate protect not only tribal members but every citizen of the state who consumes fish. The Oregon standards protect the State’s citizens and fish and other resources that form a major part of our shared heritage. They have been a beneficial step forward that we can all be proud of. But to fulfill their promise, they must not merely exist on paper, but in actual practice, on the ground.

Decreasing toxics and their effects on people and organisms requires full, fair and timely implementation of the revised standards. Sufficient, secure funding is essential, and will ultimately pay ample dividends in the future. The CTUIR appreciates ODEQ’s long-standing commitment to these efforts, and the support of the Legislative Assembly to make them a reality.

Funding Additional Staff to Address Spills Oregon and the region are facing an onslaught of fossil fuel transport projects—coal, oil and natural gas, by rail, barge and ocean-going ships. Increasing shipments of crude oil by rail are already taxing an overly-stressed rail infrastructure. The State of Oregon needs more staff at ODEQ who can respond to spills to make sure that the environment is protected. Derailments occur constantly, most of them in railroad yards or on sidings at slow speeds with little or no releases. However, our rail infrastructure is incredibly open and expansive, with hundreds of miles of rail in Oregon. There are thousands of crossings, with each one a potential disaster from vehicles getting struck by an increasing number of trains. The CTUIR has witnessed two train derailments in our ceded lands in just the last eight months. They could have been much more disastrous than they eventually turned out to be. The first occurred on August 1, 2014, along the Columbia River, where 13 cars derailed and 7 ended up in the river. Fortunately, the seven cars in the water were empty; had they been loaded with crude oil the consequences may have been far different. The second derailment occurred on March 2, 2015, just weeks ago, when 10 cars derailed two miles east of Meacham, Oregon, on the headwaters of Meacham Creek, just a few miles away from Interstate 84. Meacham Creek is one of the primary tributaries to the Umatilla River that runs through the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Two derailed tank cars contained hazardous materials; one contained residual pressurized propane and another contained Methylene Diphenyl Diisocyanate. Both cars came to rest less than 200 feet from Meacham Creek along the canyon wall above the creek.

Derailments like these, and similar ones that are likely to happen, pose a substantial and direct threat to the health and well-being of the citizens of Oregon, and additional funding for staff to respond to these spills in a timely manner is imperative. The CTUIR thanks you for the opportunity to provide this testimony in support of ODEQ’s proposed budget, including resources for toxics reduction programs to improve state-wide environmental stewardship and to enhance overall spill response. Under the able direction of Director Pedersen, ODEQ is focused on positive results, productive partnerships and sensible environmental safeguards. We ask that the Department receive the funding needed to maintain the critical work it is doing for this generation and those in the future.

If Committee Members or staff require more information, please feel free to contact: • Phil Donovan, Northwest Public Affairs, at (503) 522-3023; • Carl Merkle, CTUIR First Foods Policy Program, at (541) 429-7235; or • Lisa Ganuelas, CTUIR Legislative Coordinator, at (541) 429-7392. Thank you.

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Opponents of Pembina propane terminal pack PSC hearing

Propane Terminal Decision Goes To City Hall

Raging Grannys sing "Do Do" on propane at PSC hearing.
Raging Grannys sing “Do Do” on propane at PSC hearing./Lowen Berman

On Tuesday evening (April 7) the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission voted 6-4 to allow the zoning and code changes necessary to permit the construction of the proposed Pembina propane terminal in North Portland at Port of Portland Terminal 6.

The hearing room was packed all afternoon and into the evening with most people indicating opposition to the terminal. Approximately 90% of the testimony given was against the project. Most statements cited climate change or safety (the worst case blast zone for the terminal extends nearly 3 miles from the terminal site) as reasons to deny the zone changes required for the project to proceed. Also mentioned was the fact that the propane exported via the proposed terminal would come by way of fracking or the Alberta tar sands

One of the commissioners who voted against the project, Christopher Smith, also expressed concern that a propane export terminal would smudge the Portland brand, which it would. If this and all of the other projects the fossil fuel industry wants to ram down our throats go through, we might as well start calling ourselves the Houston of the Pacific Northwest. Next thing you know, instead of IPA and bicycles, it will be Lone Star and mechanical bulls. Yeee hah!

The passionate opposition to the terminal that was expressed at the hearing is exemplified in this testimony given by Climate Action Coalition organizer Lowen Berman:

Hello. My name is Lowen Berman, I reside in NE Portland. I come today to speak to you of equity. As you all know, the question of climate equity or climate justice has been raised by the City as a key concern when considering any and all climate related issues.

Climate justice, or injustice, refers to the reality that those least responsible for climate change, those who have least benefited from the carbon economy, are the people who are paying the highest price regarding the impacts of climate change. How does this issue manifest itself in relation to the Pembina propane terminal?

There can be no question that propane, when burned, adds to global atmospheric carbon and that the quantities of propane that will be shipped through this proposed terminal will add significantly to global carbon emissions. Nor is there any question that the sources of this propane would be fracked natural gas and, potentially in the future, tar sands oil. Nor is there any question that the profits derived from the sale of the propane will only add to the profitability of oil and gas extraction. And as anyone who has followed recent news from Asia must realize, in the years to come propane will not compete with wood and coal but rather with solar and wind.

So let us look at this project through the lens of climate justice or equity remembering that equity considerations do not end at the borders of Portland. If the terminal is built, who gets what?

  • Pembina, a Canadian corporation heavily involved in the tar sands and in hydraulic fracking, will be the primary beneficiaries of the terminal. They will get substantial profits or they would not be here at all.

  • The 150 million very poor people of Bangladesh get to see the very existence of their country threatened by rising ocean levels.

  • The City of Portland will get to collect substantial tax monies.

  • The billion plus farmers of Asia who depend for their crops’ irrigation water on glacial melt, get to see those glaciers and their food supply disappearing.

  • The working people of Portland will get a few hundred temporary construction jobs and about 35 permanent jobs.

  • The working people of Portland will get to see their homes and livelihoods threatened by potentially catastrophic propane fires and explosions that are bound to accompany the 37% likelihood of a 9.0 subduction zone earthquake that is forecasted for the expected lifetime of the proposed terminal.

The list of costs can go on and on. The lists of benefits is very short. Portland is being asked to sell its soul for a few pieces of gold. If you, as a sustainability commission, truly believe in equity and climate justice you must turn away from looking only at short term dollars and business as usual and start looking at Portland’s responsibilities to the welfare of our people and the rest of the world.

Thank you for your kind consideration of these concerns.

One would think all that, combined with the strange weather that is happening everywhere, would be enough to guarantee a unanimous PSC decision against allowing a fossil fuel project of any kind to move forward on Portland soil. But, for whatever reason, a few of the commissioners seemed to think the decision to take a principled stand against the project was beyond their job description and punted to City Hall.

And so, we must stop this insane, irresponsible, and immoral project there. It will probably be a few weeks before the decision goes to a City Counsel vote. We must let the City Commissioners know our opposition as early and as vociferously as possible. Their numbers are listed below.

Mayor Charlie Hales: 503-823-4120

Commissioner Nick Fish: 503-823-3589

Commissioner Amanda Fritz: 503-823-3008

Commissioner Steve Novick: 503-823-4682

Commissioner Dan Saltzman: 503-823-4151



Pdx Planning & Sustainability Commission Caves on Dangerous Propane Proposal

by Columbia Riverkeeper

At the end of a marathon six hour public hearing, the City of Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission approved a code amendment that paves the way for a proposed propane export terminal on the Columbia River. But we still have shot at stopping this short-sighted project. The Commission’s recommendation will go to the Portland City Council for a final vote. The Commission heard overwhelming testimony opposing the project, proposed by Canada-based Pembina. Neighborhood association leaders, health professionals, faith leaders, environmentalists, and nearby residents explained why the City should not make a special make special accommodation for Pembina by amending the City’s Conservation Habitat Zone to make way for a dangerous propane mega-terminal on the Columbia River. Portland’s local longshore union also opposes to the project.  In a 6 to 4 vote, the Commission ultimately came down on the side of propane export.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission’s decision to move forward with Pembina’s propane export plan comes at the same time the city is making decisions on the nationally lauded Climate Action Plan, which includes a provision to ban coal and oil export from the city and state. In addition, Pembina has not received required approvals from the U.S. Coast Guard, which reviews the project’s impact on safety and transportation logistics. Propane supertankers will likely require a 500 yard exclusion zone, giving propane supertankers the upper hand over other industrial and recreational users.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission’s approval of Pembina’s propane terminal is especially disappointing for the residents who live in the 5.3 mile blast zone radius of Pembina’s propane export terminal. The mega-terminal’s impact extends from St. Johns to Sauvie Island, downtown Vancouver, Washington, and east of the Interstate Bridge in Northeast Portland.

Call the Portland City Council Today!
The Portland City Council will have the final say on the Pembina code amendment.  With a positive recommendation from the Planning and Sustainability Commission it is critical that the City Council hear from you.  We don’t know the timeline for the City Council’s decision and that’s why hearing from you sooner, rather than later, is best.  A phone call is more effective than an email.  Tell the City Council you do not agree with the Planning and Sustainability Commission’s recommendation on Pembina’s propane export terminal code amendment.  Also, share your concerns that Pembina’s conflicts with the Climate Action Plan and public safety.

  • Mayor Charlie Hales: 503-823-4120
  • Commissioner Nick Fish: 503-823-3589
  • Commissioner Amanda Fritz: 503-823-3008
  • Commissioner Steve Novick: 503-823-4682
  • Commissioner Dan Saltzman: 503-823-4151
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View of Red Lake with Ollalie Butte in the distance

Comment on Portland’s Climate Action Plan by April 10, 2015

The City of Portland recently released the nationally anticipated 2015 draft Climate Action Plan (CAP) for public comment. Rooted in science-based targets, the CAP aims to reduce local carbon emissions by 80% before 2050.

*Comment before April 10th and contribute to Portland’s climate planning.*

Highlights of the draft Climate Action Plan

  • Equity: The City formed the Equity Work Group to better ensure that communities most vulnerable to climate change – the elderly and children, people in poverty, and people of color – benefit from climate solutions.
  • Consumption: The CAP includes full life cycle carbon emissions – from extraction to disposal – for goods and services consumed in Multnomah County, and provisions to make it easier to borrow, repair and reuse everyday goods.
  • Transportation: The draft calls for continued investment in public transit and infrastructure for walking and bicycling, with a special focus on expanding transit access in under-served areas.

Where we need to go

Portland is recognized as a climate leader, but we need to do more. Comment on the draft CAP asking it to include:

  1. A provision banning all new fossil fuel export, storage, and transfer infrastructure, including coal, oil and gas (such as natural gas and propane).
  2. Commitment to act as a climate leader and work with other municipalities to pass binding commitments to reduce local carbon emissions, emissions from pass-through of fossil fuels and ban fossil fuel extraction & export in their jurisdictions until atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are back down to 350ppm.
  3. Full greenhouse gas accounting to include emissions from pass-through fossil fuels in our local carbon emissions reporting including source emissions and consideration of environmental degradation at the source of extraction.
  4. Develop a plan for the transition to sustainable energy in conjunction with dismantling existing fossil fuel infrastructure, including a commitment to work with workers at existing utilities and large fossil fuel facilities in Portland – such as PGE, PPL, NWN, and Arc Logistics – to create an immediate transition plan away from fossil fuels to a sustainable economy that is just, equitable and beneficial to all.
  5. City shall refrain from entering into contracts, subsidizing or permitting companies and facilities whose primary business is extracting, refining or transporting fossil fuels, including those that manufacture equipment for extracting, refining and transporting fossil fuels.
  6. City shall be 100% divested from all fossil fuel companies by 2020, starting the process now.
  7. City and County commitments to not prosecute anyone who engages in non-violent direct action against current and future fossil fuel export, storage, and transfer infrastructure.

Pass-through refers to fossil fuels that travel through Portland, but never stop here. Currently, coal and oil trains pass-through Portland, and could increase with the numerous proposals for fossil fuel exports.

How to comment:

Comments on the draft Climate Action Plan are due by April 10, 2015.

Share your feedback on the draft plan using this online form.

Email comments to

Mail comments to:
2015 Climate Action Plan
City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
1900 SW 4th Avenue, #7100
Portland,OR 97201

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View of Red Lake with Ollalie Butte in the distance

Climate Change: Mankind Must Stop Destroying ‘Our Own Mystical Place’

Author: Renée Roman Nose

[Resposted from Indian Country]

Milky way galaxy over the river and dark pine forest

Plants were blooming in the middle of winter near the Cascade Mountain Range; the Iditarod had to be moved almost 300 miles from Willows to Fairbanks due to lack of snow for the mushers; and California could run out of water in a year.

These are drastic indications that things are amiss, said American Indian leaders meeting in Portland, Oregon earlier this month. To them it was obvious that climate change is already here and that collaboration is necessary in order for tribes to survive and thrive.

They gathered, spoke and strategized at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Tribal Leaders Summit on Climate Change on March 10 and 11 in Portland, Oregon. Sponsored by the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University and the Department of Interior-Northwest Climate Science Center, the conference brought together tribal, federal, regional and state agencies and leaders to discuss the climate change crisis facing our world. Tribes from all over the northwest, including Idaho, Montana and Alaska, were represented and shared their concerns, and the theme that emerged was one of unity.

“Climate change is affecting the whole planet…the food and everything is out of balance,” said Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Vice-Chairman Lee Juan Tyler, addressing attendees on the second day. “We need to sit together for our future. Men are going to destroy our own mystical place if we don’t.”

The evidence was right outside the window.

The nearby peaks of the Cascades have been experiencing record low snowfall compared to past years. Some mountain areas were even devoid of snow this past winter. In Portland, bushes and flowers began blooming in late January, with some local rhododendrons bursting forth in February.

“The climate of the Northwest is changing,” says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website. “Over the last century, the average annual temperature rose by 1.5°F, with increases in some areas up to 4°F. Changes in snowpack, stream flows and forest cover are already occurring. Future climate change will likely continue to influence these changes. Average annual temperature in the region is projected to increase by 3-10°F by the end of the century. Winter precipitation is projected to increase while summer precipitation is projected to decrease, though precipitation projections are less certain than those related to temperature. Future climate change impacts would be compounded by pressures related to the region’s rapidly growing population.”

Farther south, California is well into its fourth year of drought. But the changes have been evident for much longer than that.

“Up in Alaska we’ve been dealing with climate issues for over 50 years,” said Dennis Katzeek, Athabascan, emphasizing the importance of trees as he urged that people take action. “Planting one tree can make all the difference to future generations. We are the stewards of the land.”

Climate change issues locally, regionally, nationally and internationally were discussed, providing additional information to attendees from the EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Also involved were a Tribal Leadership Panel consisting of Jamie Donatuto, PhD, from Swinomish; Salish Kootenai Environmental Director Mike Durglo; Kathy Lynn, Tribal Climate Change Project Coordinator for the Pacific NW Climate Change Networks, and Cornilia Rindt, Director of Ecosystem Services, among others.

The conference provided a solid foundation of expertise, experience, knowledge and ideas shared by presenters and attendees alike. Attendees posed questions and expressed great concern about climate change. Many suggested that tribes exercise sovereignty and reach out to other nations across the globe, partnering to create solutions for issues such as ocean acidification and methods of adaptation, as well as to help try and reverse climate change, or at least mitigate its effects on the planet and all her denizens.

“The summit really focused on tribal resources, tribal sovereignty and the impact of climate change on tribal communities,” said Don Sampson, Umatilla, executive director for the Institute for Tribal Government and coordinator for the ATNI Climate Change Project. “It’s not that tribes don’t believe in what’s happening. It’s not like some public citizens who say, ‘Well, it is or isn’t happening.’ [Tribes] are clear and very convinced that it’s affecting their communities today—their lifestyles, the gathering of traditional foods, their treaty-protected resources like salmon.”

Many topics were discussed, and due to the limited time, people focused on their needs. Tribes were looking for “an action plan to move forward and the resources from the federal government to do so,” as Sampson put it.

“The takeaway is we have an incredible brain trust in the northwest,” said Fawn Sharp, Quinault Tribal Chairwoman and President of ATNI. “We have some amazing tribal leadership. We have some excellent partners. So I think we have the foundational pieces to really build a very strong Northwest agenda.”

She expressed appreciation for the presence of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), which added to the unified effort that tribes are making to address climate issues.

“Between the West Coast and the East Coast, we are on our way to building a very strong climate change agenda for Indian country,” Sharp said. “We face a daunting future. Right now we are in a crisis—there are wildfires in Idaho, in the dead of winter. People are going to become more and more desperate for solutions. Let’s lead the way.”

The unity theme extended to the personal level, as attendees made new connections and renewed ties.

“On a personal level, I appreciated the opportunity to connect with friends and meet new people,” said Arwen Bird, Climate Boot Camp Coordinator for the NW Climate Science Center at the University of Washington, heartened by the diverse audience at this vital meeting. “It’s important for me to be with people who do not view culture as separate from natural resources. I learned a lot as I listened to people share the breadth and depth of how climate change is affecting them. I appreciate being able to hear people share from their hearts. Attending the ATNI conference generated a surge of energy and ideas that will help in planning the NW CSC’s climate boot camp.”

There was also a sense of urgency.

“We need to act on greenhouse gas, which is the real reason we have climate change and ocean acidification,” said one of the speakers, Heida Adelsman, Executive Policy Advisor for the Washington State Department of Ecology, sharing information about the Pacific Coast Climate Action Plan and the dangers posed by ocean acidification. “The time to act is now. We cannot leave it in the hands of others. Ocean acidification is an urgent issue for us on the west coast. The PCC [Pacific Coast Collaborative] leaders have demonstrated that transitioning to a low-carbon economy can create jobs and support economic growth. Engaging the tribes is something we don’t even think about, it’s something that we do.”

The youth in attendance, those under 30, were asked to stand and witness the conference as Sampson emphasized the importance of their involvement.

“I think that the next generation needs to be engaged, and they’re going to be the ones who pick this up,” Sampson said. “So, that’s kind of the long-term goal. The tribes are mobilized, they understand the spiritual connection, they can start responding … by educating their own communities, as well as educating the youth.”

Next, Sampson said, the group will compile the input received from tribal leaders at the conference, as well as information from some of the conservation organizations that attended, and craft an action plan to be adopted at the May ATNI conference in Warm Springs. That will then be forwarded to the National Congress on American Indians (NCAI), as well as to states, counties and other partners who are neighbors of tribes or may affect tribal resources, he said.

Port Westward Blockade – Donate to Sunny’s Legal Fund

Sunny & supporters rally on the courthouse steps after the hearing
Sunny & supporters rally on the courthouse steps after the hearing
Remember last fall, when Portland Rising Tide blockaded the tracks to Port Westward for over 9 hours, successfully delaying an oil train from reaching the terminal?
Well, our brave friend Sunny, who was atop the tripod blocking the tracks, was sentenced on February 18th, 2015, in the courthouse in St. Helens, OR.  For their courageous act of resistance, Sunny has been ordered to pay $1860 in fines and to perform 80 hours of community service – as if standing up to the fossil fuel industry isn’t the pinnacle of community service!
Sunny is almost finished with the coerced labor aspect of their sentencing, but we need to fundraise to help cover the legal costs of the action.  Please donate today, and indicate that you’d like your donation to go to Sunny’s legal fees.  
For the Earth!


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