2019 Environmental Scorecard for the Oregon Legislature



ON JUNE 20TH, 2019, 11 Senate Republicans — a super-minority of the 30 member Oregon Senate — fled the State of Oregon. They left that morning to stop the passage of HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, which they opposed.

In Oregon, our constitution requires 2/3rds of a Legislative Chamber’s membership be present and voting. In the Senate, that means 20 senators are required for a quorum to conduct business. By fleeing the state, Republicans didn’t just walk out on climate, they also walked out on democracy. OLCV immediately launched a ‘Wanted’ campaign to call them out and demand they return.

Elections matter, and the will of the majority matters. Voters elected 18 Democrats and 12 Republicans to the Oregon Senate for a reason. Republicans abandoned their responsibility and all pretense of democratic values, and instead demanded that the opposition of a small minority be more important than the will of the majority. They showed that they are willing to subvert our democratic institutions to gain the power they can’t win in elections.

Unfortunately, at least for now, it worked because…


OREGON’S LEADERS have been talking a good game on climate for a long time, but actions speak louder than words.

Everything was set for the 2019 Legislative Session: more than a decade of hearings, work groups, and proposed legislation; debates on climate throughout our elections and climate champions winning, decisively; and our elected leaders publicly stating 2019 was the year we would finally pass meaningful climate legislation.

Oregon and its ground-breaking climate policy was center-stage and the rest of the country — and the world — was watching. On June 17, 2019, after more than six hours of debate, the Oregon House voted 36-24 in favor, passing HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill.

On June 25th, less than a week after Senate Republicans fled to Idaho and beyond, Senate Democrats capitulated to them.

Our leaders failed us.

We asked our supporters in the Senate to stay strong — but too many of them didn’t, eventually voting to send the bill back to committee. They voted to kill HB 2020.

Whatever their party, our elected leaders failed us on climate. When faced with the challenge of governing and legislating in the face of those who deny science, who lie and deceive about climate policy impacts, and who would destroy our very democratic institutions to protect their monied interests, Oregon’s leaders flinched, letting us down, and revealing the value of their words.


WHILE IT IS HARD TO SEE PAST THE LAST WEEK OF SESSION and the great disappointment felt by OLCV and our members, there were some positive developments in 2019. The Oregon Conservation Network had two Priorities for a Healthy Oregon pass, both after several years of hard work: ditching dirty diesel and planning for oil spills, along with forward progress on campaign finance reform.

According to the EPA, as many as 460 premature deaths per year are caused by Oregon’s diesel pollution. Kids are particularly at risk of developing long-lasting reactions. In the Portland metro area, where so many kids live near freeways, the problem is especially pronounced. It’s been a public health crisis for years now, with impacts that fall disproportionately on people of color and low income communities. HB 2007, which passed with bipartisan support, begins the process of ditching dirty diesel in the three Metro area counties and sets forward planning for more ways to ditch dirty diesel around the state.

In 2016, Oregon was rattled by the derailing of an oil train in Mosier. It felt lucky to learn that there was only a fire, and that local residents and our beloved Columbia River were mostly safe. We might not get so lucky next time and with more and more oil trains every day, it was time to act. That’s why advocates and legislators worked to ensure that the rail industry is both prepared and accountable for spills in the future with HB 2209.

Reforming Oregon’s broken campaign finance system has been a legislative issue for decades. This session, an Oregonian series “Polluted by Money” burst on the scene to show how our lack of campaign donation limits has our state lagging behind neighbors when it comes to protecting the environment. That’s why OLCV has long supported campaign finance reform. While more legislation is expected in 2020, a ballot measure amending the Oregon Constitution to allow for limits is headed your way. We urge you to vote yes.


THROUGHOUT THE 2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION, and throughout the nine days when Senate Republicans fled the Capitol and the state, OLCV members never stopped speaking out to support environmental priorities. Our members sent almost 30,000 emails to elected officials urging them to act on climate, clean up dirty diesel, improve protections for our air and water, and more.

More than anything, this session was defined by the thousands of volunteers from across the state who showed up in unprecedented numbers with contagious enthusiasm and unrivaled dedication to urge passage of our top priority: the Clean Energy Jobs bill. Over 700 people attended the coalition’s Clean Energy Jobs lobby day. That’s more than ever before. But we didn’t stop there.

Working with coalition partners, OLCV supported a youth lobby day for Clean Energy Jobs and an Oregon Conservation Network lobby day. And when the Joint Carbon Reduction Committee took the Clean Energy Jobs bill on the road, hundreds of OLCV members showed up in regions across the state to testify in support. Then, in the final weeks of session, when Clean Energy Jobs was on the line and Senate Republicans stopped at nothing to kill it, volunteers showed up day after day. They filled the Senate gallery. They lined the Senate hallways. They rallied on the Capitol steps. OLCV is honored to stand with all these incredible volunteers, especially the young climate activists, who refuse to give up. They are the reason we will pass climate action in 2020.


STUDY AFTER STUDY has confirmed the worst: certain pesticides are especially harmful to pollinator and public health. Around the world, governments have acted to reduce or even eliminate the use of some of these chemicals. Yet, here in the U.S. and Oregon, little has been done despite years of hearings and work groups.

This year, legislation was introduced to address these concerns. The bills were considered dead on arrival. Why? Oregon could have joined other states in removing neonicotinoids, linked with the dramatic drop in bee populations around the world, from our store shelves. We could have protected farmworkers from chlorpyrifos, which federal courts have told the EPA to ban because of proven health impacts. We could have limited aerial spraying on federal forests and improved our notification system for aerial spraying to protect neighbors and ensure clean drinking water downstream. Instead, legislators did nothing. Again.


YEAR AFTER YEAR, environmental groups join health justice groups to call for better policies in forests and on farms in Oregon. Year after year, including this one, we are unable to move past talk and into action. Clean water, wildlife habitat, and human health are all at risk. Why is Oregon stuck in the past?

The Oregonian reporter Rob Davis asked just this question after moving to Oregon in 2013 to cover environmental issues. Our reputation is green, but he found that we were falling behind our neighbors in the West — even Idaho. In an award-winning series called “Polluted by Money,” Davis laid out his hypothesis. Oregon’s lack of campaign donation limits has created a dynamic in which legislators are beholden to corporate interests. Whether it’s because they take polluter money or because they fear it being spent against them, our elected officials hesitate to cross campaign contributors. And, Davis posits, that dynamic especially effects environmental policy.

OLCV and our partner groups see evidence of this dynamic every day, at the Capitol and around meeting tables across the state. It’s why we were excited to see strong support for campaign finance reform during the last legislative session, which included a referral to the ballot in 2020 amending the Oregon Constitution to allow for donation limits.

Protecting the public interest is our bottom line. It’s time to allow legislators to act on their values, without concern for retribution from the timber and pesticide lobbies. We know that if we can change the system, people and planet will benefit.


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.