As the Trump administration moves to allow offshore drilling in nearly all U.S. waters, the city of Portland is gaining ground in its fight to restrict fossil fuel terminals along the Willamette River.
In 2015, Portland City Council passed an ordinance limiting the expansion of infrastructure used to transport or store fossil fuels. The council strengthened that resolution in November of 2016, shortly after the election of President Trump — but then the hurdles began. The Portland Business Alliance challenged the restrictions with the Land Use Board of Appeals and won. Shortly afterward, the city appealed that decision with the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Now, the Willamette Week reports, the state court has revered key parts of the Land Use Board of Appeals’ decision. The court ruled that while the city had technically violated land use policy, it had not violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision could potentially clear the way for the city to proceed with its climate-friendly zoning.
The ruling was championed by environmental activists.
“Today’s decision allows Portland to continue its internationally recognized work to stop fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases, and ensure a justice based transition to 100 percent renewable energy,” Mia Reback, lead organizer for 350PDX, said in a statement.
As Next City covered in 2016, one critique of the city’s ordinance was that in not allowing expansion, officials were stunting terminals’ attempts to add new, green infrastructure necessary for transitioning away from fossil fuels. But Michael Armstrong, sustainability manager at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), which drafted the ordinance, told Next City at the time that the fossil fuel industry was putting pressure on many west coast cities to open up new terminals.
“All the new hydrocarbons coming out of the Rockies are looking for ways to get to market,” he said.
Zoning was one of the few tools that cities had, especially if they pooled their influence.
“No one of us can do this on our own, but if we stand together we stand a chance of keeping those fossil fuels in the ground,” Armstrong said.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.