Saturday, June 20, 2015

Legislative Update - Clean Fuels and the Sine Die Scamper

In the paper this morning is a piece touting a "clean fuels" program. The writer is from Vancouver, BC, and curiously doesn't mention their carbon tax.

But he is also "president of the Western Canada Biodiesel Association" and hardly a neutral observer.

Over at the Oregon Economics Blog last month, Willamette Professor and economist Fred Thompson says,
[T]he efficacy of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program depends upon the aggressive deployment of biomass on the assumption that the use of biofuels is carbon-neutral, that plants pull CO2 back from the air when they grow, offsetting the carbon emitted from burning them as fuel, which is all true. But diverting a cornfield or a forest to produce energy means not using it to do something else, like make food or store carbon. Consequently, using biomass to produce energy could change land uses, food supply and ecosystems without actually affecting climate change....

Unfortunately, the scoring used by DEQ (which they wanted to change but were prevented from doing so) ignores the ecological opportunity cost of alternative fuels.

It is also the case that the local producers supporting this program are almost entirely in the biofuels/biomass business. Moreover, they strongly opposed the DEQ’s rescoring to better account for ecological opportunity costs. Consequently, most of the purported gains from the Clean Fuels Program come from substituting biofuels for fossil fuels. Scoring of electricity is equally biased since it ignores the fact that, at the margin, electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels. None of the other options available are currently competitive with gasoline/diesel fuel, which is a pity.

IMHO, Oregon, like BC, needs a carbon tax...
There are plenty of reasons to be wary of the Clean Fuels program!

Meanwhile, the Oregonian is reporting that they learned Thursday night
that eight lawmakers — named the Gang of Eight by Brown — had reached a tentative deal to swap Oregon's new clean fuels law for new carbon-reducing measures. The lawmakers, four Democrats and four Republicans, also agreed to raise the state's gasoline tax by 4 cents, to 34 cents a gallon, over two years to generate an estimated $200 million a year for transportation projects....

Environmental groups that pushed hardest for the clean fuels program railed anew at the threat of repeal, despite estimates showing the new carbon reduction measures would be slightly more effective. They worried that, unlike the existing plan, the new one would shift some of the burden to taxpayers.
And we don't have any idea on the project list the $200 million a year might fund. Would it be roadway expansion in the guise of "congestion relief"? Or would it devote meaningful funding to building out alternatives to drive-alone trips, to maintenance of existing roads and bridges, and to seismic retrofits of existing bridges.

It's hard to feel good about any of this.

The recitation of bills is also a bit tedious, and it hardly seems like any interesting legislation will emerge this session.

Specific bike things:
  • HB 3255 Originally requiring additional reflective clothing at night, but now with two sets of proposed amendments for a rear light instead of just a reflector at night. Looks dead.
Other Bike-relevant and transportation bills:
  • HB 2283 (remains a null speed bump bill for gutting-n-stuffing)
  • HB 2621 for expanded photo speed enforcement pilot project in Portland. It had a hearing last week, but it may be struggling.
  • HB 2736, gutted and stuffed - and would establish a Task Force on Vision Zero. Looks pretty dead.
  • SB 463 would permit darker tints in car windows with "letter from doctor." It passed both House and Senate. I still wonder if your eyesight is this compromised, maybe you shouldn't be driving?
  • HB 2002 The Portland BTA came out with a important observation about traffic stops, racial profiling, and vision zero. We need more enforcement for actually dangerous or unlawful behavior, and less "stop and frisk" for potential or phantom or trivial lawbreaking.
  • HB 2281 Former speed bump bill. On road usage charges passed the House and is in the Senate with a "do pass" recommendation.
  • HB 2274 Changes name of "Connect Oregon Fund." Maybe it's waiting on the transportation package - it's active with a Public Hearing and Work Session scheduled for next week.
  • HB 5040 ODOT Biennial Budget. Lots of hearings - maybe this will be one of the vessels filled by the "transportation package"?
This is a great illustration of modest density increase!
(Image: Daniel Parolek, Opticos Design,
via BikePortland)
This has a name! It's a "Bungalow Court"
This one is on the 1200 block of Chemeketa,
and you will spot a few others around town
A few land use things of note:
  • SB 565 - Tax credit for rehab of historic properties. Probably dead.
  • HB 2293, formerly one of the speed bump bills, has been gutted and stuffed: now it would "expand scope of long-range transportation plan. Requires [Oregon Transportation] commission to review and update plan at least once every six years." Looks dead.
  • HB 2564 on inclusionary zoning. Passed the House, has a "do pass" recommendation in the Senate, but got sent back to committee. Hmm... Last week's Willamette Week had an interesting piece on apartments and rent and observed "In the roughly 500 cities that have tried inclusionary zoning, the policy has proven to be a powerful but complicated tool. Set the rules too lenient and developers wiggle out of building affordable units. Make it too strict and they don’t build at all." The Mercury has a counter. Both are worth reading. BikePortland has a piece on the "missing middle" in our debates about density.
  • HB 2633 on improving planning for disasters. Got a major watering down in amendments, from "adopting administrative rules" to "providing guidance." It's in committee now. Hearing last week.
  • SB 5502 concerning North State Hospital Campus. The "Enterprise Asset Management" line item went from $8.3 million for that project to $100 million for a whole lot more, and from the bill alone it is not possible to say what is envisioned. SCV has some thoughts from two weeks ago on it, but things might have changed since then. It's hard to say where things stand right at this moment.
Carbon taxes had looked like they were going nowhere, but three of them were scheduled and kept alive in April. One seemed to be alive, but that may not be true any more.
  • HB 3470: Requires Environmental Quality Commission to adopt by rule statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits for years 2020 and 2050 and to adopt interim statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits consistent with 2050 limit every five years.​ Early this month my notes say this has a work session scheduled, but now I do not see any evidence of one. Maybe it was cancelled. This bill may be dead now.
At this point it seems like legislative movement will be the result of horse-trading and backroom deals, and bills may appear suddenly like magic from the void. The "transportation package" exemplifies this. The next update may not happen until after the dust has settled and sine die invoked. It's hard to imagine that there will be anything very meaningful for people who bike or people who worry about carbon. "Business as usual" seems to be the dominant note.

For all notes on the 2015 session, see here.


Stephanie Matlock Allen said...

Psst... That sweet bungalow court is owned by the folks in the big building next door, some of whom would love to have them razed for more parking.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I would sure hate to see the Bungalow Court razed! Have you ever been inside one? I was a few years ago. I do not know what the actual conditions is now, but back when I was inside the bungalow was perfect for a one or two person family. I would guess that they are about 500 sq feet. If you worked downtown or were retired they would be fantastic!

Salem is thinking about creating a code for 'tiny houses.' This development would be a perfect example of what these houes could add to a Salem neighborhood. Although the size of a modest apartment, they have the advantages of a house. Unfortunately there are a lot of issues to be considered if we were to embark on allowing small houses to be put on an existing lot that already has a large house, I think it is a project worth considering.

Tearing such a development as Bungelow Court would be a step backward that would be most unfortunatel.

Does anyone know where there are other courts? I would like to check them out and see what they can offer us by way of ideas that could be put into the new code.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Regarding SB5502, SCV is trying to find out what it all means too. We are not sure if the project was rolled into something else or if there is a whole new plan that emerged out of the worksession. When we know we will post it on our Facebook page.

We do know that there is some behind the scenes work going on, but no one is talking for now.

There is also a group of people that are trying to pull together and alternative plan for the area. Thinking is that even if the money for demolition is in the budget there may be hope if a good alternative is set forth that has some viability. As Yogi Berra would say, "It ain't over, 'til its over!"

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re: Bungalow Courts

There are two in the 700 block on Cottage St NE
One on the 1100 block of Church St. NE
Lesser examples on 13th and Nebraska NE, as well as McNary and Second St. NW

These are the ones that come immediately to mind. Perhaps readers will know of others.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Super briefly...details are filtering out on the proposed Federal transportation bill. It's called "the DRIVE act."

That's all you need to know.

But if you want more, here's the LAB with a preliminary take.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

More on the DRIVE act from the National Safe Routes to School folks, with additional information on several proposed amendments.

Also, word is there's a real transportation package at our Legislature with a 1pm public committee meeting tomorrow on Wednesday. It'll be a House Bill, apparently, but no number yet.

See the Oregonian for more.

Anonymous said...

And Salem would be left out of the transit component of the deal. Ouch. From the Oregonian article:

"The package also includes $80 million for public transportation — $71 million of which would go to TriMet — raised through a new tax on employee wages in mass transit districts where employers pay a payroll tax. Affected transit districts also include Wilsonville, Canby, Sandy and Lane."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

We have a bill!

Amendments to HB2281 (Here's the original HB 2281.)

There's no bicycle stuff, and no meaningful Salem-area projects in Region 2. So no bridge seismic retrofits, most significantly.

(Thanks for the transit note, Anon.)

Anonymous said...

Inclusionary zoning died -

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Two more bungalow court configurations:

1300 block of Saginaw St. S
1000 block of Howard St. SE - "Howard Court"