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Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability gets City Council approval on two critical climate-related initiatives

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Commissioners unanimously adopt the Climate Emergency Workplan and the Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments; pave the way for new renewable fuel standards.
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Portland City Council approved two major climate action initiatives from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability on Wednesday, Aug. 24. In the morning session, commissioners unanimously approved the Climate Emergency Workplan (CEW), which will act as the City’s new climate action plan. In the afternoon session, commissioners quickly and unanimously voted to approve an ordinance that would limit the size and use of fossil fuel terminals in Portland, while supporting improved safety and access to a supply of renewable fuel.  

Climate Emergency Workplan  

The CEW includes 43 actions and strategies that BPS and 10 other City bureaus are prioritizing for the next three years. Implementation of these actions and strategies will help Portland to reach 50% carbon reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. The workplan divides these actions into sectors, including electricity supply, buildings, transportation, industry, and other emissions.   

These intersecting strategies and actions will: 

  • Reduce carbon from the transportation, industry, and building sectors. 
  • Reduce carbon from the consumption of food, goods, and materials. 
  • Sequester carbon in trees and green spaces. 
  • Build Portlander’s resilience of the impacts of climate change, focusing on the most vulnerable community members.  

In addition to cutting carbon emissions, the workplan outlines actions designed to address resilience for Portland to address current and future climate impacts. The workplan also notes that the actions must respond to the reality that Black, Indigenous, and communities of color are being hit first and hardest by climate change.  

In their comments before voting, commissioners recalled the recent heat domes and noted the timeliness of the plan. They also expressed a desire to see progress on the actions via a dashboard

Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Code Amendment   

In the afternoon session, City Council quickly readopted amendments that restrict fossil fuel terminals in the city. Council had previously adopted an ordinance to do that in 2019. However, it was appealed to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) and sent back to Council to provide more evidence (“findings”) that the ordinance is consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan policies. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability prepared additional findings, and the ordinance went back to City Council. 

This ordinance will reduce the risk of damage from a catastrophic earthquake by limiting the expansion of fossil fuel storage tank capacity in an area with high susceptibility to liquefaction. It also allows existing terminals to make safety upgrades, serve future regional needs, and transition to cleaner fuels to reduce carbon emissions.   

The amendments support a transition to reliable, low-carbon energy infrastructure by designating existing terminals as a limited use. This allows the terminals to continue operating and investing in storage facilities for renewable fuels to help meet City and State carbon emissions reduction goals.   

“The City acknowledges the role the terminals play in serving other businesses and the regional economy to sustain the movement of goods,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio in her remarks. “The proposed ordinance will not decrease the availability of fuel to the region and beyond, but it will help limit the risk to Portlanders in the event of a major earthquake and support a transition to cleaner fuels.”  

What’s next? 

In more climate action and fossil fuel news, next week BPS will roll out an update to Portland’s Renewable Fuel Standard that will gradually require all diesel fuel sold in Portland to transition to renewable diesel over the next few years. An update to the Renewable Fuel Standard is listed in the CEW under Transportation (action T-9).  

By 2026, the proposal would replace 99% of petroleum diesel sold in the city with a blend of renewable fuels. Currently, the minimum volume of renewable fuel required is 5% biodiesel. The proposal would apply to diesel fuel sales only (not use) and does not apply to gasoline.   

Staff will be releasing a public comment draft of the new standard next week, providing Portlanders an opportunity to review and provide feedback about the proposal.

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