As the Oregon legislative session convenes this week, lawmakers face a long list of bills that take on environmental issues. The list includes proposals for a statewide plastic bag ban, a tax on carbon, a tax break for biodiesel made from used cooking oil, and a buffer zone around food waste composting facilities.
Here are some of the bills state Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee, are watching:
Extending The Low-Carbon Fuel Program: As I've reported, the state has started a program that would eventually require a 10 percent reduction in the total carbon emissions associated with transportation fuel. It was passed by the Legislature in 2009, but the state Environmental Quality Commission has only approved the program's first phase, which requires fuel suppliers to report the carbon intensity of their fuel.
The law has a sunset date that could prevent the second phase from being implemented. A bill proposed by supporters would lift that sunset date and allow the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to move forward with a second phase, which requires reductions in carbon intensity of 10 percent below 2010 levels by 2020.
Disclosing Toxic Chemicals In Children's Products: Environmental groups are supporting a bill that would require large manufacturers of children's products sold in Oregon to disclose whether their products contain 19 chemicals linked to health concerns. The bill is similar to a law passed in Washington, though the list of chemicals is shorter. It includes formaldehyde, bisphenol A, benzene and other chemicals used to make plastic, glue and personal care products.
New Rules For Water Management: Several bills tackle water management policy. One bill would charge water rights holders an annual water management fee that would help fund the Water Resources Department. Another bill sets guidelines for the state water management agency for buying and selling water as well as water banking. And, as EarthFix has reported, the governor's budget includes $12 million in financing for a water storage project that would take water from the Columbia River and store it in the Umatilla Basin aquifer for irrigation on farms in eastern Oregon.
Restrictions on suction dredge mining: Several bills address the controversial practice of suction dredge mining for gold in rivers. One bill would ban the use of a motorized dredge in Oregon, one would add restrictions to minimize its environmental impacts, and another would impose penalties for dredge mining without a permit.
Rules for killing wolves: One bill proposes a list of circumstances under which a wolf can be killed.
Changing the Renewable Portfolio Standard: Several bills aim to change the rules guiding renewable energy development in Oregon. One proposes to add more tax credits for hydropower, one adds exemptions for small utilities, and one extends the sunset on tax credits.