Oregon Environmental Council | Public Policy Change

Public Policy Change

Oregon Environmental Council advances effective public policies that safeguard our future. Since our founding in 1968, our staff and volunteers have worked every legislative session to protect the Oregon we love. Together, we have a history of results.

See our legislative recaps for for 2015 and 2016.

In 2017, we are continuing to work with elected officials and government agencies to provide effective and equitable environmental leadership. Our 2017 priorities include:

Transportation for Oregon’s Future. For too long, Oregon has focused on moving cars, not people. A lack of options across the state means that most Oregonians cannot easily get around without a car. Transportation is not only a major source of air pollution in Oregon, but is also our #1 source of global warming pollution. A comprehensive transportation package must invest in public transit, safer infrastructure for walking and bicycling (especially safe routes to school), clean electric vehicles, and innovative ways to reduce congestion and move freight sustainably. Oregonians deserve a modern transportation system with safe, affordable, clean and healthy options for all. For more information on our transportation priorities, click here.

Clean Energy Jobs. Oregon has already begun to experience the drought and economic harm (such as our damaged shellfish industry) that climate disruption brings. We have a responsibility to reduce Oregon’s share of climate pollution, which means that Oregon’s current unenforced greenhouse gas reduction goals must be turned into actionable, enforceable limits. And the true cost of climate pollution must be reflected in the price of dirty, outdated fuels. By limiting and putting a price on pollution, Oregon can generate funding to 1) invest in clean energy solutions that support jobs, especially in economically distressed rural areas and communities of color; 2) assist low-income Oregonians with their energy bills; and 3) help energy-intensive industries transition. Only a comprehensive policy that limits and prices pollution will lead to an affordable clean energy future that protects those Oregonians hardest hit by climate change—including rural, low-income, and people-of-color communities.

Ditch Dirty Diesel. Deadly diesel pollution causes more fatalities than car crashes. 90% of Oregonians live in counties where diesel exhaust is at levels that raise the risk of cancer over a lifetime; and chronic exposure to diesel fumes can harm the heart, lungs and brain. Oregon lags behind neighboring states in addressing this health crisis; in fact, dirty old diesel engines that are no longer allowed in California can be dumped into Oregon. To protect people’s health, Oregon must accelerate diesel clean-up through stronger standards and financial assistance to replace polluting diesel engines in trucks, school buses and construction equipment. New diesel engines run up to 95% cleaner, deliver $17 dollars in health benefits for every dollar invested, and benefit our climate by reducing black carbon. See more about SB 1008 and our diesel work.

Sustainable Water Management. Oregon’s economy and way of life depend on a clean and reliable source of water for our farms, fish and faucets. However, the future of Oregon’s water resources is uncertain – across the state, wells and streams are going dry because officials have promised more water than our rivers and aquifers can deliver. Already, more than 70% of Oregonians rely on groundwater for at least a portion of their drinking water. As climate change brings less snowpack and more drought, more communities are looking to groundwater to serve their needs, but the state doesn’t have the data to fully understand water availability for drinking water, farming and replenishing streamflows. Oregon must prioritize measuring our water use, monitoring supply, and planning for sustainable use of our water resources across the state. Learn more about the smart water management bill package and why water can’t wait. 

Safe Well Water Many Oregonians are drinking unsafe water from their wells without knowing it. Arsenic, bacteria, nitrate and pesticides are common well contaminants. Drinking well water with high levels of nitrate can cause serious health impacts like miscarriages, birth defects, thyroid disorders, gastric or bladder cancer, and an illness called “blue baby syndrome.” While the Oregon Health Authority recommends annual well testing, in many cases that does not occur. A segment of rental properties are not required to test their wells, leaving tenants in the dark about their water quality. Oregon needs to increase well testing, streamline data gathering and analysis, and target increased funding and education on communities in need. In addition, well owners need better information about contamination so they can take action to protect their families. See more about HB 2404, a safe well water bill.

• Budgets that Support Clean Air & Water, Climate Protection, and Public Health. Oregon’s natural resource agencies do not have adequate funding to protect public health and the quality of our air and water; nor do they have the resources to protect Oregonians from the impacts of climate change. Every major Oregon river is out of compliance with the Clean Water Act; groundwater is dwindling; and in some areas drinking water is unsafe for human consumption. Air pollution poses significant health risks, with some communities violating the Clean Air Act; and the impacts of climate change leave no area of the state untouched. These are not trivial concerns to be addressed only in times of budget surplus. Oregon must maintain and increase funding for effective state programs —including enforcement of environmental laws—that lead to a safer, healthier, cleaner Oregon for all.

Oregon Environmental Council advances and supports legislation that meets these standards:

  • Lasting solutions that get at the source of Oregon’s environmental problems
  • Creative solutions that are based on sound scientific evidence, economic analysis and life cycle thinking
  • Equitable solutions that respect the needs of Oregon’s diverse communities
  • Solutions that support a highly functioning economy

We provide leadership and opportunity for all Oregonians to create and implement a vision for a healthy environment.


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