PDX battle over fossil fuel heats up

Business groups and environmentalists square off on fossil fuel ban.

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In December 2016, the city passed several laws imposing limits on business practices. Portland approved the first tax on high CEO wages, then the Rose City followed with the first ban on new bulk fossil fuel storage. The ordinance also prevents existing fossil fuel storage facilities from expanding. Environmentalists lauded the decision, especially in light of the current administration’s stance on climate change. 

It didn’t take long for businesses to object. Earlier this month, a coalition formed seeking to overturn Portland’s decision. The coalition is made up of the Portland Business Alliance, Columbia Pacific Building and Trades Council and Western States Petroleum Association.

Willy Myers, executive secretary-treasurer of Columbia Pacific and council spokesperson sent Oregon Business the following statement on the lawsuit:

“We are of a coalition challenging the city’s new fossil fuel zoning because we believe strongly that it was done in violation of Oregon’s land use laws and is not only bad policy for the citizen of Portland, but also to the entire state since 90 percent of all the fossil fuels we consume pass through the city. Disallowing new infrastructure could create an energy bottleneck in meeting the needs of businesses and households across the state, lead to increased costs if supply is constrained and hamper economic growth.”

Meanwhile, the environmental community is doubling down on the policy. Columbia Riverkeeper, Oregon Physicians for Social FTZ Factsheet 062716Responsibility, Audubon Society of Portland and the Center for Sustainable Economy formed their own coalition and filed a motion to intervene in the pending lawsuit yesterday.

“People in Portland and throughout the Northwest will fight tooth and nail to defend what we love from dirty fossil fuel projects and their climate-wrecking impacts,” Dan Serres, Conservation Director for Columbia Riverkeeper said in a press release. “The City of Portland made history when it adopted the fossil fuel ordinance. Today we stand in solidarity with the City and will work to defend the groundbreaking ordinance against industry attack.”

Coalition participants stressed their support for the policy and their willingness to defend the city’s decision in the press release.

“The community overwhelmingly supported the ban and it is deeply disappointing to see the Portland Business Alliance, which represents primarily big business interests, and the petroleum industry trying to undo this progress,” said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for Audubon Society of Portland.

When asked about the motion to intervene, Myers said he was not aware of such a motion. He then said it’s too early to comment on the potential impact of the opposition’s motion.

“One thing I can say about their motion is it does not fix the city’s ordinance that we believe violates the land use laws,” Myers said.