Portland city commissioner proposes $540M of climate action funds toward city bureaus

By Monica Samayoa (OPB)
Dec. 13, 2023 11:15 p.m. Updated: Dec. 14, 2023 1:34 a.m.
FILE: Portland City Council member Carmen Rubio, left, talks with fellow council members during a hearing at Portland City Hall, Jan. 25, 2023.

FILE: Portland City Council member Carmen Rubio, left, talks with fellow council members during a hearing at Portland City Hall, Jan. 25, 2023.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

A Portland city commissioner is proposing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years from a climate action fund on numerous city bureaus.


City Commissioner Carmen Rubio on Wednesday announced she is proposing $540 million in additional investments from the Portland Clean Energy Fund toward six city bureaus’ existing climate projects. The money would also fund climate ready projects within the selected bureaus. The proposed projects must meet the Clean Energy Fund’s requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrate community benefits to qualify.

Rubio, who oversee the fund, said the revenue will provide immediate budget relief and future protection for the city’s general fund.

“This means that we can double down on our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen the communities that are hit first and hardest by extreme climate events,” Rubio said during a press conference.

The Portland Clean Energy Fund is a climate action program created to address impacts of climate change on communities of color and others most likely to need assistance. It raises funds by levying a 1% tax on retail sales of large companies in the city and has repeatedly exceeded revenue forecasts.

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Donnie Olivera said as the fund was generating more than was anticipated, the Portland Revenue Division partnered with the City Budget Office to do a boarder forecast model.

According to the City Budget Office, there are about 500 payers into the Clean Energy Fund annually, with an average payment of approximately $370,000 per company or payer in the fiscal year of 2022-2023.


“What we realized is that the forecast that we had been sort of building our plans on was underselling the fund’s potential,” Olivera said. “Beyond just what we were collecting already, the future forecast was approximately $540 million more than we originally thought.”

Earlier this year, Portland City Council approved a five-year, $750 million plan for the fund.

The additional investment of $540 million, brings the total amount investment in climate action to nearly $1.3 billion in the next five years, according to city officials.

Olivera said once PCEF staff knew about the additional funds, they quickly worked to determine where the additional money could be allocated while still meeting the program’s requirements.

“We had this unprecedented level of collaboration amongst the bureaus to come up with an investment plan that we think is going to both mirror the [Climate Investment Plan] that council adopted in October, but also accelerate the needs of the bureaus to really resource the work that they’ve had planned for many years now,” he said.

The funds would be divided into two sets of allocations.

The first set, roughly $282 million, will go toward one-time investments and annual funding over the next five years to the city’s:

  • Bureau of Transportation — $112 million toward projects focused on walking and biking networks, LED street lighting and the Portland Streetcar fleet replacement.
  • Housing Bureau — $40 million toward energy efficiency upgrades and helping low-income residents with utility bills.
  • Office Management of Finance — $26 million toward electric vehicle charging infrastructure for a city EV fleet and improvements to Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
  • Parks & Recreation — $8.9 million toward replacing gas-powered leaf blowers in use by the city, as well as energy efficient upgrades to Mt. Scott Community Center.
  • Water Bureau — $17.8 million toward energy efficient upgrades to facilities, and expanding the home water leak repair program for low-income residents.
  • Bureau of Environmental Services — $77.5 million toward tree planting, natural areas restoration, watersheds and stormwater management.

The second set of allocations, another $258 million, would make investments in five projects: affordable housing, tree maintenance, climate upgrades at Keller Auditorium, Fire Bureau infrastructure and the Clean Industry Initiative.

Since 2018, the Portland Clean Energy Fund has generated $587 million and has awarded more than $165 million in climate action projects and proposals.

PCEF staff will meet with the Clean Energy Fund committee next month before making a recommendation to City Council for approval.