Donald Trump may be hell bent on dismantling any and all US climate change programs (the photo heading the Bureau of Land Management webpage is now a lump of coal. Ho, Ho, Ho!), but that hasn’t stopped America’s states and cities from rededicating themselves to fighting the tyrants of the fossil fuel industry. Some people just don’t think it’s right that large corporations are able to make our waterways and public lands toxic or the air we breathe a danger to human health. Radicals!
In Oregon, a hearing will be held April 10th on a bill in the legislature that would require fossil fuel companies to undergo a more extensive environmental review process before any project could be approved for construction in the state. Call it “extreme vetting,” if you will. Known as the “Climate Test” bill, it would require any proposed fossil fuel project to undergo a review that would calculate the total emissions of the project and its impact on the climate. Portland, the state’s largest city, passed a law last year banning new fossil fuel infrastructure from being constructed within city limits.
Access to Asian markets has spurred a number of proposals by coal and oil companies to build massive fossil fuel infrastructure projects in the Northwest in the last few years. (Coal companies are asking The Donald not to withdraw from the Paris climate accords so they can continue to sell their death-dealing product to the world’s poorest countries, like Bangladesh.)
Several large infrastructure proposals have failed in recent years, mostly for economic reasons. But other projects are still in the works, including a proposed natural gas export terminal in Vancouver, Washington, which is situated just across the Columbia River from Portland. That terminal, if completed, would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the United States.
Taking climate change into account when considering a fossil fuel project is not unprecedented, but it is rare. In 2016, President Barack Obama instructed the federal government to take climate change into account during National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews, but that guidance applied only to projects such as cross-border pipelines that required approval from the federal government. Trump’s minions of death have already revoked that policy, although that action will likely be challenged in court.
Some state agencies have also done studies on how a particular project might impact the global climate. In Washington, the Department of Ecology included climate impacts in its analysis of a proposed coal export terminal in Longview, Washington. The review determined the terminal would be equivalent to adding eight million cars to the road. But Oregon permitting regulations currently do not require regulators to look at the emissions impact of a particular project.
The sponsors of the legislation are hoping to change that. They are asking the Oregon Department of Energy to become the lead coordinator for all permitting decisions. That would be a change from the current rules in which permitting is handled by a number of state agencies. The bill would also require the emissions analysis to consider whether a particular fossil fuel project would be able to remain profitable in a scenario where the global energy economy is taking steps to remain below 2°C of warming, the limit set by the Paris climate agreement.
The “climate test” legislation is one more example of how the resistance to the Trump-led fossil fuel insanity is thinking globally and acting locally.
Source: Think Progress