Clean energy advocates in the United States have added another win to their recent string of victories on Thursday, as Portland, Oregon became the first city in the U.S. to ban all new oil, coal, or natural gas export infrastructure.
“We need to take more action to address climate disruption,” city Commissioner Amanda Fritz said about the decision. “We need to push for phasing out fossil fuels sooner rather than later. All responsible politicians and decision makers need to be taking similar steps.”
It’s not the first time this year that Portland has been in the climate change limelight. Back in July, the world watched as activists succeeded in descending from one of the city’s many bridges to block—briefly—an icebreaker ship from leaving a local repair dock to join Shell Oil’s drilling fleet in the Arctic Ocean.
After listening to testimony from dozens of the resolution’s supporters, Portland’s city council voted 5-0 to ban new projects dedicated to transporting or storing fossil fuels intended for overseas markets.
Adriana Voss-Andreae, director of the Portland climate action group 350PDX, said that grassroots action has been key to the passage of the new law. RELATED These Islands Are Showing the World How to Ditch Fossil Fuels
“Even with the talks in Paris coming up, even in the best circumstances it’s not going to be enough,” said Voss-Andreae, referring to the upcoming international climate conference in December, where nations are supposed to finalize a new treaty to both curb and adapt to global warming.
“The real change is happening at the city level,” she said. “We know how huge the problem ahead of us is, but we’ve become more hopeful than ever that people will rise up everywhere and take leadership at the local level.”
The oil and gas industry has proposed nearly 30 new fuel transportation, storage, and shipping projects across the Pacific Northwest, hoping to more easily move oil and gas from the middle of the continent to energy-hungry customers in Asia.
Portland’s move to block such projects comes barely a week after President Obama, citing both poor economic returns and high climate risks, rejected the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone was intended to transport crude oil across six states and 1,700 miles, from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to ports on the Gulf of Mexico coast.
According to the environmental think tank Sightline, the proposed new infrastructure would have five times the capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was projected to move up to 35 million gallons of oil a day.
Portland’s city commissioners will deliver “specific code language to implement the policy” in early 2016, said Fritz. These will include measures to assist blue-collar workers affected by shrinking oil and natural gas use to find equally skilled jobs in renewable energy, home energy retrofitting, and earthquake resilience.
“We’re not just leaving people behind,” said Voss-Andreae. “The city’s going to do what it can to transition in just way, by retraining workers to, maybe, move from the old fossil fuel industry to the new, clean energy economy.”