Guest Contributor

Update On National Climate Legislation

by Jeff Hammarlund


Hello from our family cabin on Priest Lake in northern Idaho. We do have occasional access to the Internet up here, but we will leave by canoe on a camping trip tomorrow, so I won’t have any way to communicate for the next few days.,As you probably heard, the Senate passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill this morning.  Here is a link to the best summary I have found on what is and is not in that bill. 
The infrastructure bill now goes to the House. I hope Nancy Pelosi will stand by her commitment to keep a hold on the bipartisan bill (despite pressure from the more moderate House Democrats) until the Senate passes the much more extensive budget reconciliation package that includes the climate provisions that now must proceed through the reconciliation process. With their passage of the infrastructure bill, Senate Democrats immediately turned their attention to getting the filibuster-proof $3.5 trillion reconciliation package moving. On August 9, the Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Bernie Sanders, released its resolution that contains the instructions for Senate and House committees to draw up policies in their jurisdiction, which will be cobbled together in the coming weeks into a filibuster-proof reconciliation bill. Majority Leader Schumer released an accompanying memo that gives more detailed direction on which committees will be responsible for developing the specific policy details on different pieces of the reconciliation package.

Senator Sanders announced that he believes that his committee’s Budget Resolution “will allow the Senate to make the most significant investment in tackling the climate crisis in US history, and put America on a path to meet President Biden’s climate change goals of 80% clean electricity and 50% economy-wide carbon emissions reductions by 2030.” 

The Good and Bad News

The resolution and memo provide good and bad news. On the good news side, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, gets to play a major role in the reconciliation package. Wyden’s proposed Clean Energy for America Act is excellent, has already passed out of the Finance Committee, and will form the basis for the Committee’s work to be meet its budget resolution assignment. It provides a sweeping clean energy tax overhaul that would expand and consolidate a host of energy tax credits into three categories intended to push the production of clean electricity, clean transportation fuels, and energy efficiency. Just as important, it would also eliminate all existing subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry and provide a “border adjustment tariff” to levy charges against imported products from nations that lack significant carbon and other greenhouse gas emission controls. By eliminating these subsidies and tax breaks, the Finance Committee is charged with reducing the federal budget by $1 billion over the next 10 years and provide much of the funding for the clean energy tax credits. Other committees have been given important roles as well. For example, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is allocated $67 billion to establish and fund a methane fee, various clean vehicle investments, a clean energy accelerator, and EPA’s new environmental justice programs. The Agriculture Committee is allocated $135 billion for a variety of regenerative agriculture, climate resilience, and carbon reduction programs. The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is directed to draw up policies to electrify federal buildings and vehicle fleets as part of its $37 billion allocation. On the House side, the Energy and Commerce Committee would get a $486.5 billion allocation, while the Natural Resources Committee would get $25.6 billion.

The bad news is that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is allocated $198 billion to take the lead on the bill’s most important new climate program – what is now called the Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP) – that would fit the strict rules that govern the budget reconciliation process. We know that Senator Manchin is only open to a clean energy standard if it does not “forcibly eliminate fossil fuels.” His campaign ads are notorious for showing macho Joe shooting previous climate bills with a rifle “because it’s bad for West Virginia.”

Unfortunately, the best possible outcome now seems to be that Manchin will agree to a Clean Energy Payment Program that will primarily benefit truly clean energy (energy efficiency, solar, wind, geothermal, etc.) while also allowing his pet project, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, to qualify. as well  While Manchin is less supportive of new nuclear power plants, the CEPP will almost certainly be technology-neutral, so if new nuclear plants are built, they will also qualify as clean since they are not significant sources of greenhouse gases. It is very likely that CCS and new (and at least some existing) nuclear plants will fail since they will no longer be able to rely on their substantial existing subsidies (assuming Wyden does his job), but this remains to be seen.

The CEEP cannot be a true Clean Energy Standard because it is not possible to include a regulatory standard in a reconciliation bill. Instead, it will involve a system of fines and payments that will incentivize utilities to increase their proportion of renewable energy to meet the targets. Advocates argue that a CEEP actually has some advantages over the traditional clean energy standards and renewable portfolio standards commonly seen at the state level. It’s more progressive: the money to drive the transition comes from federal coffers (via taxes on corporations and the wealthy as established through the Senate Finance Committee) rather than from electricity rates, which are traditionally regressive. For more information on how this is expected to work, check out these two helpful articles linked here and here.

My Very Limited Role

I am now able to mention that I had a very small role in the development of the CEPP. My participation was due to a number of factors: I was once a member of the professional staff of the Senate Energy Committee with the responsibility for addressing renewable energy and energy efficiency provisions, I currently serve as an adviser to the DNC Climate Council, and, probably most important, I have personal and professional relationships with some of the key people who had a much more significant role in the development of the CEEP.  (It is worth noting that I made it clear that I was participating on my own as a concerned citizen and was not “wearing any of my other hats” such as those associated with Climate Crisis Policy, Earth Bill, Indivisible, EMO Creation Justice Committee, NW Energy Coalition, etc.) My role was very limited and simply involved serving as a sounding board to respond to specific questions and offer occasional suggestions when asked. To use an analogy from the musical Hamilton I used once before, I was most definitely not “in the room where it happened.” I was not even in the room next to the room where it happened. At best, I was in the closet in the room next door, but the closet door was sometimes opened enough for me to get a general sense of what was going on. That was exciting enough for me at this late stage of my life. 

I also made sure my contacts knew that I was personally opposed to measures that would advance CCS and civilian nuclear power, and that their inclusion would receive vigorous push back from many.  However, it was explained to me that the political realities are that if these were not allowed under the CEEP, no meaningful climate bill would pass out of the Senate, period. Bernie Sanders, and all the other progressive environmentalists in the Senate and House know this to be true, and while they are not happy about it, most are now demonstrating a willingness to be candid about it.  I wish this was not the case, but we need all 50 Democrats in the Senate to support this bill, including Joe Manchin. And Joe Manchin’s (and Kyrlsten Sinema’s) votes will come at a cost.  

My Thoughts on Next StepsI appreciate that many of my friends and colleagues in the climate movement will be disappointed that this bill does not go as far as we had hoped.  They have every reason to be disappointed.  At the same time, I will tell you that I plan to support this bill as vigorously as I can.  Why? David Roberts said it best in his recent essay, Crunch Time: This Is America’s Last Chance at Serious Climate Policy for a Decade. To summarize his very important essay, “What Democrats are able to get through in the reconciliation bill is likely to be the last big federal climate legislation for a decade at least.”

When David published his essay on August 8, he wrote “Looking around, it doesn’t seem like clean energy supporters, climate hawks, or the left more broadly really get that. So let’s talk about why this is such an important moment and what’s at stake”.  Fortunately, some important players on the left, including the Sunrise Movement, have since indicated that they do get it, as suggested by their “Seal the Deal Day of Action on August 19. 
I encourage you to take a good look at the Reconciliation Package as it develops and see if you can get behind it too  It is consistent with Biden’s climate goals and objectives.  The only reason it stops at 80% clean in the power sector by 2030 rather than 100% by 2035 is the fact that a budget reconciliation can only go out to 2030.

As a political scientist who used to work on the Hill, I know that democracy is often messy and frustrating. For better or worse, our founding fathers decided to make it very difficult for major legislation to pass both chambers. If they knew then what we know about the urgent need to address climate change, they might have setup the system differently. But they didn’t, so we are stuck with what we’ve got.  
Let’s get the best deal we can given the political realities while the Democrats still have their razor-thin majorities in both chambers.  It may not be enough, but we have a better chance of improving an imperfect law through future amendments once the law is passed. At least we will have something on the books we can work with to improve. This is how it has worked with most of our major environmental laws – the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and many more.

REVERSING A MAJOR INJUSTICE IN OREGON’S FLAWED TRIAL SYSTEM

Sally Joughin & Jim Kahan, members of the Multnomah Democrats Platform Committee’s Criminal Justice Study Group

August 2021

The criminal justice system in the United States is deeply flawed in many ways. While there are many resources for prosecutors, it is difficult for the majority of defendants in terms of the cost of a private attorney and inadequate support for public defenders for the indigent people who qualify for one. Prosecutors try to close as many cases as possible through plea bargaining, often by threatening charges that will result in long sentences should the defendant opt for a trial and lose. While the legal standard for a verdict of guilty is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that standard does not have a universally defined understanding, which introduces a random component into any jury trial.

While these and other aspects of our criminal justice system operate in favor of conviction and against exoneration, one feature of the system that works in the other direction is a requirement for a unanimous jury decision in felony trials. In federal and 48 states’ felony trials, prosecutors had to convince all 12 of the jury members who heard the evidence in order to convict a defendant. If all 12 jurors couldn’t agree, it was a “hung jury”; prosecutors then decide whether to re-try the case or drop it. The two exceptions to requiring unanimity were Louisiana and Oregon. Louisiana’s acceptance of nonunanimous verdicts, which dated from 1898 and had explicit connections to facilitating the convictions of Black defendants, was eliminated by LA voters in 2018. Oregon’s policy, instituted in 1934, was also rooted in discrimination—to mute the effects of Blacks and Jews who might become jurors. In 1972 the US Supreme Court [SCOTUS] narrowly ruled in an Oregon case (Apodaca v. Oregon) that states did not have to align with the federally constitutional policy of requiring unanimous juries, even though 48 of them did so.

In 2019, Evangelisto Ramos, who had been convicted in Louisiana in 2016 by a 10-2 jury verdict, appealed his case to the Supreme Court. This time SCOTUS ruled 6-3 that all non-unanimous jury decisions were unconstitutional. This April 2020 ruling not only brought Oregon into compliance with all the other states, but also applied to LA and OR cases still under appeal. In a later case, (Edwards v. Vannoy, May 2021) SCOTUS upheld its precedent that new rulings (such as Ramos) are not federally retroactive to past “settled” cases, leaving it to Louisiana and Oregon to make their own decisions about retroactive application. 

In March 2021, even before the ruling in Edwards v. Vannoy, the Justice Study Group of the Multnomah Democrats’ Platform Committee joined the Still in Prison coalition of over 40 organizations, led by legal experts, calling on Oregon’s Attorney General to allow all individuals previously convicted by an unconstitutional non-unanimous jury to appeal their cases. In July the Study Group, seeing no movement by AG Rosenblum, submitted its own Resolution, calling for retroactivity, to the Multnomah Democratic Party’s Central Committee, which passed it by an 84% vote. That Resolution called on our AG to take action, and—absent that action—for the Governor to call a special session as soon as possible so that the Legislature could take action, or for a defendant’s attorney to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court for relief. 

While an 84% vote in support of retroactively addressing unconstitutional convictions is substantial, the small percentage of opposition revealed some lack of understanding of the extent to which our trial system is flawed. While it is true that no criminal justice system is perfect, and that some innocent defendants will be convicted and some guilty defendants will be acquitted or not receive a verdict because of a hung jury, we must look carefully at what this means. The established criterion of “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” directly conveys the message that our society believes that it is more important that an innocent defendant not be convicted than a guilty defendant go free. So yes, it is possible—by retroactively applying the non-unanimous jury decision—that some “dangerous criminals” might go free, but the overall effect on public safety will be small given the errors that are known to exist in our flawed system.

And consider this: Only half of serious crimes are reported. For only 11% of those reported crimes do the police arrest somebody; and only 2% of such arrests result in conviction!  Moreover, there are well-known racial and socio-economic biases involved in arrests, trials, convictions and sentences, resulting in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color and poor people.  In addition, the objective of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by presentation of evidence has inherent uncertainties, as jury members are known to form their opinions on the basis of their own biases, tricks by prosecutors, and other factors. As one supporter of the Resolution pointed out at the Multnomah Democrats’ meeting, if the prosecution couldn’t convince all 12 jurors that the defendant was guilty, why should we assume guilt? This, indeed, was the conclusion of SCOTUS by a 6-3 vote.

In seeking public safety, our system of trials and convictions is only one of many factors that need to be addressed. But in the case of Oregon being out of step with the rest of the nation for 86 years by unconstitutionally convicting with non-unanimous juries, now is the time to reverse this anomaly. Reconsidering a few hundred old cases may present some difficulties, but will not significantly impact public safety; however, it might make up for Oregon’s failure to reform its unfair unconstitutional behavior.

———————————————————-


For more information, check out these websites:

https://www.stillinprison.org/

https://eji.org/news/supreme-court-limits-relief-for-people-who-were-wrongly-convicted/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramos_v._Louisiana#:~:text=In%20a%206%E2%80%933%20decision,the%20states%2C%20overturning%20Apodaca%20v.

https://www.streetroots.org/news/2021/05/12/hundreds-oregon-still-await-new-trials-year-after-supreme-court-ruled-non-unanimous

Celsi Recap – 2021

The Celsi Event held on June 26th was fun and successful. $22,000 was raised after expenses to help with 2022 races and issues. We had some great talent perform including musician Michael Allen Harrison, local comedienne Susan Rice, and Liberace tribute artist, David Saffert.

Gov. Barbara Roberts presented the Young Democrats Award to Ali Krasnow and Madison Mordaunt. The Bill & Gladys McCoy Service Award was presented to Sen. Lew Frederick by last year’s recipient, Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer. County Chair Julio Castilleja presented Bobbi Yambusa with the Dick Celsi Award.

22 people attended the VIP event held just prior to the Main Event with music, guest speakers, and chatting. Those that attended also had sumptuous appetizers to snack which were delivered earlier in the day and prepared by Spin Catering. 109 ticket holders attended the Celsi Celebration which also had guest speakers, music, plus awards and comedy. Swag Bags were delivered with treats, face masks and coffee mugs for those who attended.

Thanks to all who attended and donated, including our sponsors IATSE Local 28, Betsy & Greg Hatton, LiUNA Local 737, Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Akashi Lawrence Spence, American Federation of Teachers, Lisa Morrison, Oregon Rep. Rob Nosse, NW Oregon Labor Council, and Heat & Frost Insulators Local 36.

Feel free to contact Valerie with any questions,

(503) 380-8458

Ally Spotlight: 350 PDX

By Jenifer Schramm

Jenifer Schramm helps lead the 350 PDX Defund/Divest campaign to get institutions to stop funding companies that contribute to climate change. Find out more at https://350pdx.org/campaigns/defund-divest/

Organization: 350PDX

Our mission is to build a diverse grassroots movement to address the causes of climate disruption through justice-based solutions by inspiring, training and mobilizing people to act.

350PDX exists to address capitalist and political systems where profits trump people, false climate solutions are written by those protected from climate chaos, and the climate movement is steeped in white supremacy culture. We solve these problems by centering the needs of frontline communities in our campaigns and programs, while being co-conspirators in the fight for social and racial justice. Read more at https://350pdx.org/about-us/who-we-are/

While we understand your organization may be non-partisan, in what ways does your work align with our Democratic values and platform? http://multdems.org/platform

There is considerable alignment; see https://350pdx.org/about-us/who-we-are/ — notably the Natural Resources Protection, Equity, Justice, and Infrastructure pieces of your platform

What is a recent/past campaign you worked on in Multnomah and/or Oregon?

350PDX has been involved in dozens of campaigns locally, statewide, and regionally since we formed in 2013. Most recently, 350PDX was a key member of the Oregon Clean Energy Opportunity campaign, a frontline-community-led statewide legislative campaign that won three major bills this session: the Healthy Homes Act, the Energy Affordability Act, and the 100% Clean Energy for All Act. Also, in April, we helped bring about a major victory at Multnomah County on a new 100% Renewable Buildings resolution, which now requires all new County-owned buildings to be fully electric and built without fossil fuels. 

What is your current focus/campaign?

The Defund/Divest Team of 350PDX has just initiated a statewide coalition campaign to end new investments in fossil fuels by the Oregon State Treasury since they pose a financial and climate risk to Oregonians. While the campaign is still being shaped by the coalition which supports it, it is encouraging the Oregon Investment Council to end all fossil fuel investments and move to sustainable energy investments, using a social justice framework. See the Informational Package We work in collaboration with the Climate Safe Pensions Network 

How can our members get involved in your important work?

350PDX and the coalition working to end fossil fuel investment by the State are both open membership organizations with a volunteer base. Anyone who wants to join 350PDX can get on the mailing list and learn about teams/campaigns on the website: https://350pdx.org/. If interested in the Defund/Divest Team, sign up at: https://350pdx.org/campaigns/defund-divest/. If you are interested specifically in the Oregon divestment campaign, you can indicate that on the 350 website or contact .

How can we (or you) let your members know about our important work and how they can get involved?

We can let our members know about your article featuring 350PDX and use that to communicate about your organization. What do you want us to say?

Editor’s response: In your note to members, let them know that Multnomah County Democrats care deeply about the unfolding climate change crisis and are working tirelessly to elect climate champions and pass bills that address the causes and impacts of climate change. For a look at some of the bills Democrats passed this session, read more here.  We invite you to get involved in helping shape our platform and work for climate policies in the political realm. Our next platform convention is this Fall! 

How diverse is your membership? Are you making efforts to increase diversity?

350PDX was founded in 2013 as a majority white environmental organization that has now shifted to focus our work on climate justice and centering the leadership of frontline communities in our base and who we partner with. 350PDX is committed to the crucial work of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI), and is putting organizational resources including money, staff time behind it through the implementation of a 3 year JEDI Plan, which includes organizing a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Caucus within our base, a Solidarity Team to more adequately show up in genuine partnership and coalition building with our frontline partners, and a track record of fully showing up as an ally to frontline-led initiatives like the Portland Clean Energy Fund and the Oregon Clean Energy Opportunity Campaign

What is making you hopeful right now?

350PDX and our team are working in collaboration with a broad section of the activist community and the success that generates makes me hopeful. The Defund/Divest Team is part of a 150-organization national coalition Stop the Money Pipeline and it is enormously energizing to work in campaigns with that collective power and support.

What advice or encouragement can you provide to our members in Multnomah County when it comes to working on the issues you care about?

This is a pivotal moment in which the fossil fuel sector is in decline and we have a chance to shape what replaces its influence in our government and our culture. With the backing of coordinated national campaigns and independent local action in concert with those campaigns, we can see how we are shifting the narrative and the funding. 

Democrats and the Oregon Economy in a Changing Climate

By Tracy Farwell, PCP

In 2016 Oregon Business Leaders convened their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Reduction Task Force to formulate a 5-year plan to recommend strategies to reduce in-state emissions.  These leaders did not question the link between business climate and state emissions.

Legislators, mostly Democrats, energetically responded to the carbon pricing strategies recommended in the task force report found here, pages 17-19.

This is what the business task force recognized:

The longer we delay, the more climate change adaptation and mitigation will cost.  Taking the wrong actions today could also increase costs; increasing energy prices would hurt the pocketbooks of Oregonians and reduce the competitiveness of Oregon businesses in the global marketplace. 

There was nothing unconventional about this strategy.  Notably, it provided evidence that declines in GHG emissions were attained with no adverse trends in economic measures like GDP.  Legislators, mostly Democrats, energetically researched and compiled a comprehensive bill and gave it a priority in the 2020 session in Salem.  It offered relief from economic stress to specified business interests including agriculture and forestry.  Then there were surprises.  Log trucks circled the Capitol.*  Rural legislators left the state.  It was clear that some electeds regarded economic threats from carbon pricing to exceed the prospects of climate/economic damage not seen until today (105 deg F, higher tomorrow).

These Oregon Business Strategies from 2017 clearly offered a success path in defending GHG-sensitive resources (people, property, agriculture, forestry, public health, the young and the old) from predictable and dire circumstances coming to pass now.

*It must be noted that Oregon timber harvester interests were not included as members of the task force but had a disproportionate role in defeating the business task force strategies dealing with cap and trade policy.

Oregon takes a significant leadership role

Today our Oregon legislature passed the 2021 Clean Energy Bill, HB 2021 C.  Rather than pricing carbon it calls for a positive transition to non-emitting energy sources that are less costly for utilities and eventually rate-payers than carbon-sourced energy.  Here are the emission reduction numbers (expressed annually in million metric tons of CO2 – mmtCO2 ) as committed for Oregon’s future if the transition non-emitting resources succeeds by the legislated end dates.  Oregon’s annual emissions are typically reported as 60 mmt CO2 in adding up all sectors.

1HB 2021 C‘Baseline emissions level’ means the average annual emissions of greenhouse gas for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 associated with the electricity sold to retail electricity consumers …Emissions Displaced per yearEnd dates
2010 = 20.3 mmt CO2
2011 = 18.1 mmt CO2
2012 = 17.3 mmt CO2, with average of 19 mmt CO2/year.
Ref  https://www.oregon.gov/deq/aq/programs/Pages/GHG-Inventory.aspx
Cut electricity emissions 40% of 19 mmt CO2/year  7.6 mmt CO2By 2025
Cut electricity emissions 80% of 19 mmt CO2/year15.2 mmt CO2By 2030
Cut electricity emissions 90% of 19 mmt CO2/year17.1 mmt CO2By 2035
100% non-emitting energy  19 mmt CO2By 2040
2UNEPCompared to 2010 = 65.6 mmt CO2
Cut all emissions 45% of 65.6 mmt CO2/year30 mmt CO2By 2030

You will find it difficult to find any enacted policy anywhere on the planet that in one measure attains half of the UN IPCC carbon reduction goals in the energy sector by 2030.  The good news does not end here.

Duty of care begins with knowing what is needed.  Significant progress in cutting carbon emissions since 2000 is not generally known.  To continue effectively and confidently, our advances must be understood from open evidence.

This IEA graphic shows that annual carbon emissions declined during the global COVID crisis and are expected to rebound as economies return.  Various possibilities for rebound are noted.  Global emissions are measured in Gigatons CO2/yr (Gt CO2).  Gt = billions = 1000 mmt

Chart, line chart

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From The Guardian

What is the % decline in emissions due to COVID beginning early 2020?  It’s about 11%.

A similar decline occurred from the 2008 mortgage crisis, measured in millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions reduction in 2009 in California.  The % decline measured from CA emissions data was 6% per year.

As our commitments get more serious, it’s good to know what it took to attain these historical reductions on a beneficial scale.

Emissions from business-as-usual in the US have been in decline for a number of reasons.  “With emissions down 21% below 2005 levels, this means the US is expected to far exceed its 2020 Copenhagen Accord target of a 17% reduction below 2005 levels.”  This quote from a Rhodium Group report indicates a trend that should enlist continuing confidence in steady decarbonization:  business is finding ways to reduce carbon fuels, operate more efficiently, invest in energy saving technology.  https://rhg.com/research/preliminary-us-emissions-2020/  

Clean energy subsidies have taken on a significant role, enabling cycles of virtuous investment.  “How the U.S. Made Progress on Climate Change Without Ever Passing a Bill

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/06/climate-change-green-vortex-america/619228/

Democrats and the Oregon Economy?  Is anyone more effective in dealing with the fossil fuel-driven future that no one wanted or admitted?

The Future of Natural Gas Utilities

by Pat DeLaquil, PCP

Under Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-04, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is engaged in rulemaking on a Climate Protection Program to reduce GHG emission reductions from three main sources: Fuel suppliers; Natural gas suppliers; and Stationary industries.  Results from the energy system modeling work supporting the rulemaking show natural gas consumption declining in all policy scenarios by 59 to 63% compared to more than 9% growth in the reference scenario.  Furthermore, the policy scenarios show a greater contribution of renewable natural gas (RNG) contributing up to 57% of total gas use in 2050.   

These modeling results show that electrification of buildings is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions, even before the benefits of the recently passed 100% clean electricity law are considered.   This modeling result underscores the importance of the new fact-finding docket opened by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission on the future of natural gas utilities.   The goals of the fact-finding are “to 1) consider potential customer impacts that may result from limiting GHG emissions of regulated natural gas utilities and 2) identify the regulatory tools available to the PUC to protect consumers during the upcoming transition.”     However, the potential impacts of GHG reductions on the natural gas industry will not be limited to DEQ’s Climate Protection Plan.  Many other market and societal factors will also motivate most consumers to transition away from methane-based fuels in any form.   

This docket will help set the stage for how Oregon can wind down its residential and commercial sector natural gas use while protecting remaining customers and promoting the public utilities to transition to suppliers of clean fuels for industrial consumers with applications that are not easily electrified, and building the green hydrogen infrastructure that will be needed to provide the seasonal storage capacity that our natural gas system currently provides. For more information click here.   Interested members of the public can participate in this new docket by emailing .  The docket number is UM 2178.

Legislative Update: Climate Change Bills

By Tracy Farwell and Catherine Thomasson

Big wins and some losses on Climate Change in Salem

As we face another heatwave in Southern Oregon that sucks the desert dry due to drought we did have some wins…

HB 2021 – Clean Energy for All passed along party lines. This commits our 2 commercial electric companies to 100% clean, carbon-free energy by 2040 the strongest targets in the nation. The bill has the strongest labor and apprenticeship provisions ever included in a 100% clean law and contains multi-million dollar investments for community-based renewable energy and storage projects to protect marginalized and frontline communities during outages.

House Bill 2842 – Healthy Homes passed 56-2 in the House and awaits the governor’s signature. It creates a healthy homes program in the state’s health authority and provides grants for low-income households and landlords to repair residential units at the same time as energy efficiency work.

HB 2165: Electric Vehicle (EV) Incentives are extended for purchasing or leasing electric vehicles. The bill expands the Charge Ahead Electric Vehicle Rebate Program for low- and moderate-income residents and requires utilities to invest in EV infrastructure with at least half the funds going to underserved communities. 

HB 2180 EV Ready building codes are now required in new construction so that electrical hookups are available to cost-effectively install EV charging stations in the future. Sadly similar codes for solar have not been enacted or developed through the Executive Order on climate and in the next legislative session.

Unfortunately, SB 583 and HB 2924: Prohibition on future Confined Animal Feedlot Operations (CAFO’s) or mega-dairies died in the legislature, again!

Join the Multnomah Climate Action Team to learn more and to help create more wins in the future!

Campaign Finance Reform with Teeth

By Gary Leitke, Election Integrity Study Group

Campaign Finance may well be the FOREMOST PRIORITY for this Oregon legislative session. Until comprehensive limits are set, elections will remain unfair and unreachable to everyday citizens. 

Voters resoundingly approved constitutional amendment Measure 107 last November, to allow finance limits, post SCOTUS Citizens United decision.

But unless follow-up legislation establishes stringent, comprehensive limits—elections will continue to be “bought” and money will steal the ability of everyday citizens to be heard fairly. Electeds will be chosen by money and subsequently influenced by money. Few of lesser means can compete as candidates. Legislation aimed to benefit everyday (esp. poor) people will be impaired. That includes many, many bills for which MultDems advocate in our Platform and support by testifying at hearings and writing to their electeds.

Our Election Integrity study group sees HB3343 as the best of 3 current limit-setting bills still alive. But we are not satisfied that any of them satisfactorily limit money flow FROM groups (e.g., PACs, SuperPACs, and party caucuses).

Unless legislation effectively limits ALL contribution sources, especially including groups, from funding a campaign, it’s like squeezing a balloon; flow may be partially restricted, but rushes in from the rest of the balloon.

Write your legislators to boldly restrict contributions by groups.

Your direct voice in county decision-making is gone

A report on the state of community participation in county processes and oversight

By Bernardino De La Torre, Chair of the Multnomah County Citizen’s Involvement Committee

What has happened? Independent community involvement in Multnomah County government, created by community initiative and embedded in the County Charter, is gone – but the Charter has not changed! 

Public mistrust of government at many levels is growing. Why would a government body choose to increase that mistrust by improperly eliminating a community voice in government policy-making? Our Multnomah County government has done exactly that by co-opting and stifling the community’s voice – a Community Involvement Committee that has quietly and successfully connected the community and its government for over three decades. 

What has been lost? The CIC no longer has dedicated staff. The staff now reports to the Chair’s Office. The ability for the CIC to act quickly and independently of elected officials as an accountability mechanism is gone. None of the award winning programs and initiatives created by the CIC have continued, except for the Citizen Budget Advisory Committees (CBACS). Unfortunately, the CBACs have lost their independent status, creating suspicion of what had been truly independent budget recommendations. 

So what has been gained? Extra layers of filtering and diversion, a lack of transparency and delayed input into decision-making are now parts of the community involvement process. The record of accomplishments in the last two and a half years is nonexistent as no programs are running, no forums or workshops have taken place to gather public input regarding county policy or budget. One staff-created survey was done but only polled selected participants, with no public input into what questions were asked. The only thing that has been gained from this gutting of citizen oversight, as far as we can determine, is that the County Chair’s office now once again directly oversees the county charter review process, through her staff which now manage the CIC.

How did this happen? The transition from watchdog to lapdog.

Here’s a step-by-step process of what happened:

1)  In 2016, voters transferred coordination of the charter review appointment process from the County Chair’s office to the independent Citizen Involvement Committee (CIC).

  • The CIC had been created by voter initiative in 1984 as a government watchdog with the explicit power to hire and fire its own staff.
  • For over 30 years, the CIC managed its staff and oversaw its Office of Community Involvement, shedding light on county decision-making by involving hundreds of volunteers annually on budget and policy advisory committees. It won numerous national awards and recognition for its work.
  • That all came to a crashing halt in 2017 following a vote by citizens to transfer coordination of the charter review appointment process away from the County Chair’s Office to the independent CIC.

2) A month later, the County Chair began a relentless effort to wrest control of the CIC away from its volunteer board by taking over hiring and managing their staff:

  • After voters transferred the appointment process to the CIC, the county appointed a bunch of new CIC members and the County Chair’s Office encouraged the new CIC members to adopt new bylaws removing references to CIC supervision of its staff.
  • The county then informed the CIC that the County Chair would decide who would staff the CIC (contrary to the county charter).
  • The County Chair assigned her Chief-Of-Staff to train and supervise the new staff, asserting a new admin model for the position without discussions with the CIC or other commissioners.
  • The staff subsequently informed the CIC they would no longer supervise their own staff or oversee the Office of Community Involvement.
  • In a blatant conflict of interest, the inverted admin model effectively transitioned the voter-mandated independent watchdog organization from managing its staff to being managed BY its staff who were now taking orders from the County Chair’s Office.

3) The CIC pushed back against the illegal takeover, and staff responded by trying to discredit and oust CIC volunteers:

  • After researching the committee’s history, CIC officers were alarmed by the sudden unilateral change to the staffing structure and determined the changes were illegal.
  • Committee leaders started to present their findings to the committee, but the staff undermined their efforts saying the committee should only concern itself with the future, and not look back.
  • The committee then consulted the county Auditor who confirmed that past and current admin practices were in significant conflict, with no record of a process for making such a significant change.
  • A retreat at which the committee planned to discuss the recent changes was then canceled by staff without committee authorization.
  • In March, the CIC officers were told by the County Chair’s office that the historical independence of the CIC is ‘irrelevant’ because “Commissioners want to impose a new supervision model,” and CIC members who disagree are encouraged to resign.
  • Intent on restoring the legal authority of the CIC, the committee initiated a staff performance review. In retaliation, their staff asked County Commissioners to rescind the appointments of the CIC leaders.
  • Staff began making unsubstantiated allegations of “bullying” against committee volunteers who were asserting their right to run their own meetings in order to justify removing them from the committee, however public outcry led the Commissioners to dismiss the request.

4) Having failed to manipulate or bully the citizen watchdog committee into submission, the county disbanded the committee:

  • At its May meeting, despite staff efforts to interfere, CIC leaders were re-elected to continue the fight to restore their citizen mandate. Staff attempted to end the meeting early rather than certify the full election results.
  • In early June, the renegade staff stopped staffing committee meetings altogether, canceled meetings without authorization, and locked the committee out of their meeting room.
  • On June 22nd, the County Chair used the staff-created crises as a pretext to propose removing all members of the CIC. Rather than transfer or dismiss staff for failure to follow policy or staff the committee, the County Chair had effectively created a crisis in order to get rid of the committee that facilitates citizen input and serves a watchdog role for the county.
  • On June 28, County Commissioners voted to disband the award-winning organization due to “tension” and “gridlock” and uninvestigated staff allegations of “bullying.”
  • Seven months after voters transferred the charter review appointment process to the CIC, the County Chair effectively regained control of the charter review appointment process at the cost of undermining, defaming and disbanding its independent, voter-mandated community involvement organization.

What happened next? What has the real CIC been doing?

  • Following their ‘dismissal’, CIC officials consulted an attorney who determined the resolution dismissing the committee was not legal.
  • The CIC then held a follow-up meeting at which a quorum of members decided to restore the previous bylaws and dismissed their staff. They also voted to sue the county for the wrongful, illegal attempt to disband the Committee.
  • The county ignored their staffing decision and instead hired a private attorney to “research allegations of misconduct made against CIC members.” There was no investigation into staff misconduct, and no charges were ever brought.
  • The county also proceeded to recruit new volunteers to a new imitation CIC that takes its direction from the Chairs office.   
  • The lawsuit against the county for wrongful termination of the Citizen Involvement Committee is currently in the courts. The true independent CIC continues to meet to monitor progress in restoring the voter-mandated independence of the CIC. 

Spread the word, find out what happened and help pressure Multnomah County to restore an independent CIC!

You can show support at Follow developments at https://www.facebook.com/groups/MultcoVolunteers

 

UPDATE: Election Integrity Study Group

By Gary Lietke – 2021 03 11 Central Committee presentation

Article 8 of our MultDems Platform is usually summarized with the label of “Election Integrity”, but it’s so much more. Our study group addresses Governance, Campaign Finance, Elections, Political Party Election Integrity, Representation, Voting Rights & Suppression, and Voting Systems.

We are actively recruiting for more of you to join our study group, as our work load is particularly heavy at this phase of the state legislature and the Portland Charter Commission. Please indicate your interest in the Election Integrity SG Sign up form.

The Oregon House and Senate have initiated a copious number of EI bills that we need to track, critique to determine their strengths and weaknesses and how they represent the MultDems Platform, and intentionally convey our feedback to legislators.

Campaign Finance reform is a very hot corner—trying to set concrete limits as follow-up to the passage of Constitutional Amendment Measure 107 last November. There are at least 4 contending bills. Campaign finance is perhaps the most important reform we need, as without it, almost all other major reform advocated by MultDems Platform is choked.

We are also monitoring election audits and security and redistricting based on the new census.

Hearings have begun for 8 or so bills relating to alternate voting systems, including STAR and RCV.

Governance, especially as it relates to the new City of Portland Charter Commission, is extremely important and a cutting-edge opportunity. One key issue is representation, replacing the current at-large Council districts with geographic districts represented by multiple councilors.

And we need to speak to federal voting rights and suppression issues.

Our next meeting is Tuesday, March 23, 7 pm. And we regularly meet the 2nd Monday of the month at 7 pm. Stay current by checking the MultDems Calendar.

Thank you for caring!
Gary Lietke
EI SG