Cities Transitioning To A Fossil Fuel Free Economy

The ECOreport examines the movement of West Coast cities transitioning to a fossil fuel free economy

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1After 23 years of attempting to bring about change on the state and national levels, Daphne Wysham came to the conclusion that the last bastion of hope in the fight against the fossil fuel industry was at the local level. America’s mayors and city councils are much more accountable for health and safety of their constituents. She focused her attention on the Pacific Northwest, where there are currently 27 proposed coal, oil and gas by rail projects. This initially brought her into conflict with Portland Mayor Charles Hales, who subsequently became an apostle for cities transitioning to a fossil fuel free economy.

Cities Transitioning To A Fossil Fuel Free Economy

Photo Credit: Paloma Ayala,shot in the Columbia Gorge
Photo Credit: Paloma Ayala,shot in the Columbia Gorge

Here is a list of local, state, and provincial leaders, that have committed to prohibiting new fossil fuel infrastructure in their jurisdictions, on Wysham’s website. It includes the mayors, and city councillors, from:

  1. Portland, Oregon
  2. Corvallis, Oregon
  3. Eugene, Oregon
  4. Hood River, Oregon
  5. Milwaukie, Oregon
  6. Mosier, Oregon
  7. Talent, Oregon
  8. Olympia, Washington
  9. Richmond, California
  10. Lancaster, California
  11. Santa Barbara, California
  12. Vancouver, British Columbia

There are also elected officials from Bellingham (WA), Hoquiam, (WA), Spokane, (WA), Port of Vancouver (WA), Woodenville (WA), Sand Point (Idaho), Los Angeles (CA), Truckee (CA), and the Oregon House of Representatives.

And there are sign-up forms for elected officials, individuals and organizations who wish to add their names.

The Portland Resolutions

Screen shot of Portland City Council Meeting November 4, 2015
Screen shot of Portland City Council Meeting November 4, 2015

This movement originated with two resolutions passed by Portland’s City Council. On November 4, 2015, they took a stand opposing new oil by rail traffic through the city. This was followed, a week later, by a resolution against new fossil fuel infrastructure in Portland.

Rob Mathers, the Marketing contact for Kinder Morgan’s North West Terminals, described it as “a pretext for declaring war on the working harbour and the use of all fossil fuels.”

“Portland Mayor Charlie Hales took a step no other mayor in our country, and perhaps the world, has yet taken,” said Wysham. “Right now, its not legally binding and the next six to seven months or so we will be working with the city council, and others, to make sure Portland puts in place the strongest possible land use changes to protect local residents. That will result in no new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

The West Coast Mayors Summit

(l to r) Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, & Portland Mayor Charles Hales during the West Coast Mayors Summit secretary castro, mayors murray, hales, lee, piercy
(l to r) Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro &Portland Mayor Charles Hales during the West Coast Mayors Summit

Portland is not the only city struggling with how to adapt to Climate Change.

On December 10, 2015, the mayors of four other cities that are struggling with homelessness, housing, and climate action came to Oregon for a two day summit.

In that meeting, the mayors described areas where they are already pioneering:

  •  “In Los Angeles, we have committed to adding 160 battery EV vehicles to our city fleet, and reaching our goal of 1000 publicly available EV chargers by 2017.” – Mayor Eric Garcetti
  • “San Francisco is the first large city to phase out petroleum diesel in its entire municipal fleet and replace it with renewable diesel, an estimated 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.With our aggressive climate action strategy, San Francisco will see zero waste sent to the landfills,” – Mayor Ed Lee
  • “Climate change is much more than an economic or environmental challenge. Fundamentally, it is an issue of social justice,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. (He recently declared a state of emergency because of the 2,800 homeless people in his city.)
  • Under Mayor Kitty Piercy, Eugene, Oregon, has adopted the goal of reducing GHG to 350ppm (effectively carbon neutral) by 2020.

This ended with the announcement of a joint agreement that their cities will reduce their CO2 emissions at least 80%  by 2050.

The Green Wall

Sunset from Harbor Island in San Diego by Chad McDonald (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Sunset from Harbor Island in San Diego by Chad McDonald (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

“We are creating a ‘green wall’ along the West Coast. When we act in collaboration, cities have an outsized impact. The West Coast will help move the meter on climate change,”said Mayor Hales.

This green wall stretches from Vancouver (BC), which is striving to be the greenest city on our planet, to San Diego, where the city just adopted a plan to obtain 100% of its’ energy from renewable sources by 2035.

“The cost of inaction is enormous, and the benefits of a healthy planet are obvious,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, just before the measure was adopted.

No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure: Just Transition Now

This story started out by mentioning the public officials signed a pledge to not allow any new fossil fuel infrastructure in their jurisdictions. It is now impossible to who signed on December 12 because there were ten and the list has grown.

However that press release says:

Among the speakers at the press conference were Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org (also available by video here); Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth in Minnesota; Andrea Reimer, Deputy Mayor of Vancouver, B.C.; the mayor of Richmond, CA, home of a major Chevron oil refinery; Lancaster, CA Mayor Rex Parris; an attorney representing plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit concerning a major gas well leak in Porter Ranch, CA; and local experts who spoke to Portland, Oregon’s groundbreaking fossil fuel resolution.

“Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ groundbreaking resolution opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure is gaining momentum, with dozens of courageous elected officials up and down the west coast following his lead,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

Top Photo: Mayors Hales & Piercy during West Coast Mayor’s Summit – from a dropbox of the event

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