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Portland City Council unanimously approves largest single investment in climate justice in City history

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$107 million will fund 65 projects fighting climate change as nation faces unrelenting heatwaves, wildfires, drought and other extreme weather events.
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Today, Portland City Council voted unanimously to award more than $107 million in Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) grants to Portland community-based nonprofits.

The recommended portfolio features 65 proposals that support work in clean energy, regenerative agriculture and green infrastructure, workforce and contractor development, innovation, as well as capacity building and planning for the development of future projects to address the impacts of climate change on Portland’s frontline communities. View video statements made by selected grantees about their project proposals.

As the first climate fund in the nation created and led by communities of color, these investments are driven by, and will directly serve, those most impacted by climate change.

Funding request by the numbers

In its request, the PCEF Committee recommended that City Council award more than  $107 million in grant funding. The total authorized budget of $118 million will fund 65 grant awards, a 10% contingency for those projects, and year two of the Mini Grant program.

RFP #2 grant funds:
$107,215,441

10% grant contingency set-aside:
$10,721,545

Mini-grants program authorization:
$200,000

Total:
$118,136,986

What commissioners said

As Commissioners prepared to vote, they each had something to say about the program, its genesis and mission, staff and future.

“Over the last weeks, I’ve been touring Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund project sites, meeting dozens of people whose lives are better because of PCEF investments,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “As the Commissioner in Charge, I’m committed to both seeing that the Fund functions with unparalleled accountability and transparency – and responsibly getting this climate and life-saving funding out to community. These grants are changing and will continue to change the lives of Portlanders, creating opportunities and confronting systemic racism.”

Along with other commissioners, Mayor Ted Wheeler acknowledged the voters who overwhelmingly passed the PCEF initiative, saying “Our responsibility is singular; and that is to make sure it is as successful as possible.” He also quoted PCEF Committee member Robin Wong, who pointed out at last week’s Council presentation, that “PCEF is a seed fund, and there is inherent risk involved.”

“But we can minimize the risk and mitigate,” the mayor said. “The fund was designed to take calculated risks.”

Before voting aye, Commissioner Dan Ryan said, “I’m proud to be in a city that’s innovating, actively engaging with communities on the ground to focus on long-term survival.”

Prior to casting her vote in favor of the grant package, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty spoke forcefully about the role communities of color had in the creation of PCEF, but “… there seems to be an organized effort to discredit the Portland Clean Energy Fund and to question every person of color who’s getting a contract,” she said.

“In my short time here on this Council,” she continued, “I have to say, there are a lot of contracts that come through here and no one raises an eyebrow – that I raise all kinds of eyebrows on. I believe racism is playing a huge role, and that’s why every time there’s a penny going out on the Clean Energy Fund there’s so much scrutiny.”

Commissioner Rubio committed to a 45-day due-diligence period for a final round of review between Wednesday’s vote and when the funds are disbursed by the City of Portland to grantees. “These PCEF grants have been through lots of additional review based on certain criteria,” she added. “I hope we can apply these grant standards to all programs, not just PCEF.”

Watch the Council event recording:

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