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As Region Rejects Fossil-Fuel Infrastructure, Portland Goes a Step Further

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Portland City Council has voted to ban large fossil-fuel terminals from coming to the city. (Kevin Kelly/Flickr)
Portland City Council has voted to ban large fossil-fuel terminals from coming to the city. (Kevin Kelly/Flickr)
December 15, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Communities throughout the Northwest are rejecting fossil-fuel infrastructures, and on Wednesday, Portland went a step further by approving a new zoning rule banning large, fossil-fuel terminals from coming to the city.

Dan Serres, conservation director for Columbia Riverkeeper, said Northwest cities stand at the gate of Asian markets, but many have rejected large natural-gas and oil terminals typically used for exporting fossil fuels across the Pacific.

"What Portland is doing fits into a broader context throughout the region and it's really impressive to see City Council taking this step that really pushes the ball forward and sets an example that these other places can follow,” Serres said.

Portland City Council unanimously approved the measure. Critics are concerned the proposal could hurt fuel supplies for the state because Portland is Oregon's largest hub for fossil fuel. But supporters said the measure will help reduce the likelihood of potential disasters, such as the derailment of an oil train in Mosier in the summer of 2016.

Serres said cities in Oregon have begun to put in place innovative ways to reduce their reliability on fossil fuels. He said it’s likely that cities will play a larger role in fighting climate change in the wake of the presidential election. Many of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominations question whether climate change is a man-made phenomenon.

"The clearer sense that people had from that election is that the federal government will likely not be taking meaningful action to curb the worst impacts of climate change,” Serres said.

The ban only affects storage tanks with a capacity of 2 million gallons or more. Facilities can grow by 10 percent if they choose to replace storage tanks with seismically upgraded ones.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR