No New or Expanded Bulk Fossil Fuel Infrastructure: XRPDX Testimonies to City Council

On June 30, several XRPDX members, along with our allies in Breach Collective, Oregon PSR and others, testified via zoom to the City Council (minus Commissioner Hardesty) on the need to approve and implement the long-delayed Portland Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments (FFTZA), as previously described here.

Here is a compilation of our oral testimony, which followed a slideshow presentation by Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staffer Tom Armstrong on the CEI Hub and some troubling possible exceptions for biofuel storage in the CEI Hub. Today, July 7, 2022, is the final day for the Council to receive written testimony (XRPDX members also have sent theirs in), and then they will make a decision. We will continue to track these FFTZAs as part of our Act Now on Climate Emergency (ANCE) campaign.


Margaret Butler’s testimony:

Thank you, Mayor and Commissioners for allowing me to testify.  I’m Margaret Butler, with Extinction Rebellion. 

I have 3 things to say:  

1.    I’m grateful to the City Council in 2016 for taking this on and to you all for revising these amendments based on the understanding that we have to move away from fossil fuels. Every year things get more dire, both in terms of our short timeline for emissions reductions, and as we face the possibility of a subduction zone quake. Last summer’s County and City report on what would happen in the event of the projected magnitude 9 earthquake underscored those concerns. We need to do more, but the zoning amendments were and are an important tool in moving off fossil fuels and towards a more sustainable future.  Please do not weaken the amendments because of industry pressure.

2.    Second, the biofuel exemption is concerning to me. There are many problems with biofuels, including serious questions about how to measure biofuel impact on climate mitigation as biofuels move into the marketplace.

3.    Third, I’m a lifelong Portlander who spent 40 years in the labor movement, half of that as a founder and lead staff for Portland Jobs with Justice. The last few years before I left in 2013, JwJ activists were bringing proposals to support stopping oil trains and to keep fossil fuels in the ground. I knew they were right but felt constrained by the opposition of parts of the labor movement who were concerned about jobs. I regret that I couldn’t act more boldly then. I can’t go back, but I can act boldly now. I encourage you to also act boldly now. Time is short. We need to think about the workers, who would be at ground zero in the event of a catastrophic earthquake, and we need to move quickly to transform our economy, including a just transition for fossil fuel workers. 

The actions we take in the next handful of years are critical. Thank you.


Michael Fairhurst’s testimony:

Hello City Councilmembers.

My name is Mike Fairhurst, and I am a member of Extinction Rebellion PDX.

I am proud of my city, the beautiful city of Portland, for creating zoning amendments to declare the end of new fossil fuel infrastructure. I am here today to tell the city to stand firm on this landmark policy. The corporate interests that are fighting this proposal are behind on the science, and want to lock Portland into a future that will deliver destruction and climate chaos. I ask each council member today to stand up to these dangerous corporate interests, and vote instead for the public interest. That means no new fossil fuel infrastructure, full stop.

We also must have a hard conversation about Not-So-Renewable fuels. The truth about Not-So-Renewable fuels is that their emissions are highly complicated. Their carbon footprint depends on everything from changes in soil carbon content over time to their impact on supply chains globally. The biggest risk with biofuels is indirect land use change (ILUC). Switching to biofuel production in one place can result in large greenhouse gas emissions many miles away, for instance, in clearcutting local or foreign carbon sequestering forests to grow new crops. In the worst case, biofuels are no more an improvement than “clean” coal, yet we trust the worst climate villains such as Zenith to build biodiesel capacity next to their tar sands storage tanks and declare it renewable.

It is urgent that the City issue a moratorium on new biofuel infrastructure until the City has thoroughly studied and held public testimony and developed a thorough renewable fuel standards model. The end goal must be electrification, and biofuels do not help us get there.

For the continuity of the human race, and in the name of future generations, I am here to demand: No more fossil fuel infrastructure. And no more not-so-renewable fuel infrastructure.


Lynn Handlin Spitaleri’s testimony:

Hi, my name is Lynn Handlin, I live and work in outer SE Portland.

I am happy you will be passing the Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments to ban new or expanded bulk fossil fuel infrastructure. Somehow I thought this was a done deal some years ago but I am glad it is finally actually happening, in spite of the Portland Business Alliance, and other forces focused only on profits, not caring about the health of the community, the City or indeed the planet.

Do not let these amendments be weakened, do not cave to the Portland Business Alliance and company. Do not allow PBA’s amendments to pass. Do not fall for the bait and switch that “renewable fuels or biodiesel” present. Currently businesses in the CEI Hub are not required to reveal how they are using their storage tanks, and increasing storage capacity for biodiesel could easily lead to more fossil fuels. In 2021 Zenith transported as much or more crude oil as ever, in addition to biodiesel. Zenith has a proven track record of lying to the City and DEQ about their operations; no reason they would stop now.

Also, biodiesel and renewable fuels go boom and spew flames and fumes when the quake hits and the facilities fail. These fuels do not necessarily have a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels, they can in fact be worse.

We as a City must transition away from fossil fuels and renewable/biofuels. Electrification, reducing use through better building codes, and transforming our transportation systems expanding public transit, pedestrian and bike options are the way to go. We can’t burn our way out of this problem.

With today’s appalling Supreme Court decision [West Virginia v. EPA – Ed.] essentially gutting the federal government’s power to do anything about climate, this is more important than ever. It’s up to you, you are our last chance.

We owe it to the Portland community to minimize the extreme seismic risk the CEI Hub poses and the toxic fumes that are being emitted now. We owe it to everyone’s children, grandchildren and all those we share this planet with to do everything possible to put the brakes on climate change. These amendments, with the addition of putting a hold on bio/renewable fuels are an important step in the right direction.

Thanks for listening to the community and passing these amendments.


Janet Weil’s testimony:

Thank you, Mayor and Commissioners, for this opportunity. I’m Janet Weil, with Extinction Rebellion.

In 2016, the City Council passed an historic ordinance to halt new and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure. The need for the City of Portland to respond to the climate crisis, AND to the risk of a catastrophic earthquake impacting the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub, has become even more urgent. This week we are holding events to remember the 96 Oregonians who died in the Heat Dome of 2021. We need Climate Action NOW, and we need a just transition to a clean energy economy. I have to point out that just blocking expansion of fossil fuel does NOT protect Portland or the region from oil train derailments and fires from Zenith oil trains.

In addition, we oppose any infrastructure expansion for so-called “renewable” or biofuels until further study has been done, and with requirements for reporting to DEQ. These fuels can also explode and burn, and whether they are low-carbon depends on many variables, including the feedstocks for the fuels and the carbon intensity of their production. I am very unhappy to hear from Tom Armstrong about the carve-outs for these unproven fuels. Why was public comment not allowed on these amendments?

Stopping the growth of fossil fuel infrastructure is well-supported by Portlanders.

For public health and safety, the protection of our beautiful, vulnerable riverine ecosystem and Forest Park, and the beginning of the end to dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure in our city, we in Extinction Rebellion urge you to vote unanimously for these Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments.

Thank you.

[The artwork seen above by Patti Robrahn. Photo credit: Janet Weil.]


XRPDX Statement on WV v. EPA

City Climate Emergency Workplan: Talking Points