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Portland, Ore., prohibited the development of new bulk fossil fuel terminals over 2 million gallons and the expansion of existing ones Dec. 14, declaring in an ordinance that the fuels are “major contributors to climate change and pollution.”
The move likely forecloses Oregon’s largest seaport as a gateway for the export to Asia of Bakken crude oil and any moves to increase capacity at existing petroleum terminals in the city, including BP West Coast, Chevron, Phillips 66, Equilon/Shell and Kinder Morgan, according to a Portland planning bureau map.
“The cities of our country that are climate-action cities are still in this work and we are still committed,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, who cast the final vote making the measure’s passage unanimous.
Hales, who sponsored the zoning ordinance, told Bloomberg BNA minutes before the vote: “We’ve concluded as a city that we don’t want to be party to the expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure.”
In November 2015—long before Donald Trump was considered a leading contender for the White House—the Portland City Council passed a resolution introduced by Hales making clear the progressive body’s attitude toward fossil fuels. The resolution lays out litany of the external costs to society of fossil fuels, including toxic effects and the chances of a catastrophic accident, and concluded Portland is making the transition to a low-carbon future.
“Resolutions are great and they express the community’s will,” Hales said in a telephone interview. “But one of the fundamental authorities of cities is our zoning codes. It’s a bedrock power of local government to zone. And we are making sure that our zoning code is bolted down to that bedrock and that it is absolutely clear that it is not legal to build a fossil- fuel export facility anywhere in Portland, including in our industrial zones where up to now that would have simply been a building permit if you chose the right site.”
Asked if he has talked with other mayors about the ordinance, Hales said: “There is strong interest in a green wall of progressive policy along the west coast that says we are still serious about climate action; we’re still committed to a low-carbon future; and we’re not interested in moving fossil fuel to world markets through our cities exacerbating the problem that we are all working locally to solve.”
The ordinance was opposed in a letter to the city council by the Working Waterfront Coalition, which includes many of the petroleum terminals. “It doesn’t happen overnight,” Coalition Executive Director Ellen Wax told Bloomberg BNA in a Dec. 3 phone call. “Most people are reliant on fossil fuels to this day. It’s not going to go away over night. We have to work on strategy to reduce dependence. I’m not sure that making it more difficult serves the people of our state as opposed to a goal of decreasing our dependency on fossil fuels.”
Existing Portland petroleum terminals serve more than 90 percent of the statewide market, according to city planners.
Just before the vote, council members took just the kind of step Wax had suggested on reducing reliance on fossil fuels when it unanimously adopted a strategy “to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles and increase deployment of public charging infrastructure.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Shukovsky in Seattle at PShukovsky@bna.com
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