science environment

Portland City Council Moves Toward Readopting Fossil Fuel Restrictions

By Cassandra Profita (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Nov. 21, 2019 12:45 a.m.

UPDATE (Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at 5:38 p.m. PT) — The Portland City Council moved a step closer Wednesday to reapproving its 2016 ordinance banning the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.

The council voted unanimously to approve one of the several draft amendments it's considering to fix problems in the findings used to support the original ordinance that were identified by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.


The original ordinance was challenged by industry groups, and the state land board overturned the rule.

The Oregon Court of Appeals went on to reverse many of the land board's findings, but upheld part of its decision. The city council now has the option of adding more findings to support the ordinance and amending the rule to comply with new city codes.

On Wednesday, the council adopted one technical amendment to the original ordinance that requires any terminal developers working on projects that are allowed under the rule to notify the neighborhood of their plans. Tom Armstrong of the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability explained to the council that the idea is to inform the public of any new terminal developments — even if they don't involve fossil fuels. The city's restrictions will not apply to renewable fuels, aviation fuel or projects that upgrade or replace existing fossil fuel infrastructure.


"In the future, if any of these terminals come in for additional storage capacity, whether it's to replace and reconfigure their existing capacity, whether it's for non-fossil fuels or for aviation fuels, they need to notify the neighborhood ahead of time," Armstrong said. "There's a whole series of regulations about how they do that so there is advance notice about what they're doing and why they're doing it so everybody understands what's going on."

The city plans to add findings about the future of fossil fuel use, which is projected to remain at its current level nationwide. Armstrong told the council the key question is whether the city's restrictions will allow for enough fossil fuel capacity to serve the region's needs in the future. Armstrong noted that local, regional and statewide policies are aiming to reduce fossil fuel use through programs such as the low-carbon fuel standard.

"Limiting fossil fuel terminals to what is existing is likely to be what is necessary to serve the regional market when you look at all these trends and forecasts," he said.

Additional findings will further explain how the new rules apply to the Guilds Lake Industrial Sanctuary, where Armstrong said the amended ordinance should not impede other kinds of industrial use or discourage investment in infrastructure, facilities, equipment and jobs.

Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city leaders voiced their ongoing commitment to reducing fossil fuel consumption and its contribution to climate change.

“Fossil fuels are a dual-threat to our community,” Wheeler said. "They’re a primary component of carbon emissions that threaten our planet, and they’re a safety threat to our community. As we work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, the first step we need to take is to ensure the situation doesn’t get any worse. Continuing to allow more fossil fuel terminals increases the risk to the surrounding industrial district, the Willamette River and indeed our entire city."

The city's amended rule restricts the addition of new fossil fuel tanks at new or existing facilities.

The Portland City Council took public testimony on the draft amendments and is scheduled to vote on the amended ordinance Dec. 18.