2013 Environmental Scorecard for the Oregon Legislature

2013: Session Summary

The 2012 election saw some big wins for the environmental community – a pro-conservation majority and new leadership in the House of Representatives, to start. But during the 2013 Legislative Session, all eyes were on the Senate. Would they be able to match the new pro-conservation House in taking meaningful steps forward on climate change, preserving our special places, and protecting our families from harmful chemicals?

Sometimes the answer was yes, but on the most significant legislation, the answer was no.

And during the 2013 Legislative Session, it seemed the environment took a back seat to other important issues – a disappointing trend, given the critical need to protect our natural legacy. Despite that challenge, as always, OLCV worked closely with our 44 Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) partners to pass pro-conservation bills and stop rollbacks to existing environmental protections.

Legislators responded to environmental advocates in the Capitol — and, more importantly, they responded to environmental advocates at home.

Together, we passed two “Priorities for a Healthy Oregon.” We protected Oregon’s rivers by placing limits on destructive suction-dredge mining. And we established energy efficiency requirements for battery chargers, most televisions, and one type of exterior lighting.

OLCV and OCN also helped pass significant conservation legislation, including bills to require state agencies to collaborate to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides, expand protections for Waldo Lake, improve fish habitat, conduct a meaningful study of an Oregon carbon tax, ban controversial canola crops in the Willamette Valley, and advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in Oregon.

We made progress on funding effective monitoring and management of our state’s waters as we face a future with a larger population and reduced snowpack. Unfortunately, a “Priority for a Healthy Oregon” that would have been a game-changer in funding such work fell short of passage.

Together, we watched with disappointment as two crucial bills – one that would have made Oregon a national leader in the fight against climate change with the establishment of the Clean Fuels Program and another protecting our children against toxic chemicals – died in the last days of the legislative session.

We were also dismayed to see a bill determined a “Major Threat to a Healthy Oregon” pass into law – a bill that may lead to otherwise healthy development within urban growth boundaries, but which leaves the state potentially liable for both natural resource mitigation and clean-up costs on those lands. In other bad news, two groups won the ability to bypass the usual local land use process despite OLCV and OCN opposition.

However, with the help of our legislative champions, the environmental community was able to stop every other bad bill or rollback attempt introduced. Legislators responded to environmental advocates in the Capitol – and, more importantly, they responded to environmental advocates at home.

In the fall, legislators were called back to the Capitol for a Special Session designed to address public pensions and revenue. OLCV and OCN were stunned when an unrelated and inappropriate bill preempting local efforts to restrict genetically modified crops was added to the agenda. While the bill passed over our strenuous objections and despite thousands of emails from constituents, the Governor and legislative leaders agreed to pursue a statewide policy to protect organic and small farmers who choose to be GMO-free.

The Oregon Conservation Network

Over 40 groups protecting Oregon’s natural legacy and ensuring a better Oregon for our kids

For nearly twenty years, the Oregon Conservation Network has brought together our state’s various environmental organizations. Together, we determine and advocate for shared Priorities for a Healthy Oregon. We also identify Major Threats to a Healthy Oregon and work collaboratively to defeat them. OCN is coordinated by the OLCV Education Fund and powered by the thousands of Oregonians who belong to its member organizations.

To find out more about OCN, visit www.forahealthyoregon.org.

Big Wins on the State Budget

When the conservation community comes together with consensus budget priorities, legislators listen.

As the state recovers from the global economic recession, it is critical that Oregon’s natural resource agency budgets recover from years of disproportionate cuts. With environmental champions Senator Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Representative Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) at the helm as Co-Chairs of the Ways and Means Committee, it’s no surprise that the budgets for these agencies moved strongly toward restoration. They recognized that a healthy environment leads to a strong economy.

Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) and Representative Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro), Co-Chairs of the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways and Means, were also crucial in holding the line on those budgets, while at the same time helping us to secure funding for important programs and bills.

In particular, OLCV and OCN were thrilled to see the following notable achievements:

  • Thanks to the leadership of Speaker of the House Tina Kotek (D-Portland), House Majority Leader Val Hoyle (D-Eugene), and Representative Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), bicycle and pedestrian projects will be eligible for Connect Oregon, a program designed to fund non-road transportation infrastructure projects.
  • The Department of Environmental Quality and the Water Resources Department saw an increase in staffing, as well as funding to implement the new Integrated Water Resources Strategy for Oregon.
  • Thanks to the leadership of Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem), an important OCN ally on land use and agricultural issues, Oregon will have its first statewide program to reduce pesticide contamination in our waterways. Pilot pesticide stewardship programs have reduced unsafe levels of pesticides found in streams by more than 90%.

The 2013 Legislative Session marked the first time that OCN developed a set of common budget goals, which allowed legislators to see where all 44 organizations thought crucial dollars should be spent. It’s good to know that when the conservation community comes together with consensus budget priorities, legislators listen.


About OLCV

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters is a non-partisan organization with a simple mission: to pass laws that protect Oregon's environmental legacy, elect pro-environment candidates to office, and hold all of our elected officials accountable.

For more information about OLCV, visit our website at olcv.org.

About the Scorecard

For more than 40 years, OLCV has protected Oregon's natural legacy. An essential part of our work is holding our elected officials accountable. The OLCV Environmental Scorecard is not only one of our most important accountability tools, but also a tradition. The first scorecard was published in 1973.

By sharing how each member of the Legislature voted on the most critical conservation bills, we help Oregonians understand whether legislators listened to their constituents, or if they listened to special interest groups instead. It also serves as a summary of environmental bills and includes special recognition of the legislative champions.