Portland's climate activists are having a really good Wednesday.

Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz next week plan to introduce two resolutions that, if passed by City Council, would officially declare Portland's opposition to fossil fuels.

The wording of the resolutions is complicated, but places the city in official opposition to all projects "that would increase the amount of crude oil being transported by rail" or expand "infrastructure whose primary purpose is transporting or storing fossil fuels in or through Portland or adjacent waterways."

Bob Sallinger, conservation director for Portland Audubon, calls the resolutions "flat-out historic."

"This is new territory and it's incredibly exciting that the city is moving this way," he says. "With the Climate Action Plan in place, and the opposition to Pembina, there's just been an explosion of activity in the Pacific Northwest. We're being targeted for many projects and this is a critical step in starting to say no to supporting fossil fuels."


The city cannot legally ban fossil fuels from being shipped in or out via road, rail, or water, thanks to interstate commerce laws, but it can set local policy that bans or severely limits the storage and transport of fossil fuels based on health and safety threats or environmental considerations. For example, Pembina Pipeline Corporation was working with the city and the Port of Portland on a huge project that would have allowed the company to develop a propane storage and shipping facility at Terminal 6. The only thing standing in the way was an environmental overlay zoning policy put in place to protect the sensitive riparian areas along the Willamette River. To put it simply, Pembina could have shipped the propane here, but it isn't allowed to pipe it onto ships for transport overseas.

Nick Caleb, who co-authored a memorandum presented to the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Hales' office suggesting the city adopt "substantive policy" opposing fossil fuel infrastructure, says that, if passed, these policies would be the strongest of any major city in the US.

Sallinger agrees and says passing these resolutions would be the first major step in crafting future policies.

"It's going to take a lot of work because this is new territory," Sallinger says. "For a major city, with a major port, this is a very comprehensive approach to fossil fuel policy creation."

The commissioners are scheduled to take up the issue at 2:30 pm on November 4.