Full House: 'Coal-Free Oregon' Generates Momentum
On June 23, more than 400 clean energy activists turned out at a public hearing before the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) on the future of Portland General Electric's Boardman Plant, the state's only coal-fired power plant.
Activists jammed the main hearing room, above, and an overflow room, below.
"The turnout overwhelmed PUC staff and prompted remarks from Portland Mayor Sam Adams, below, about the sea of 'Coal-Free Oregon' t-shirts," says Portland-based Sierra Club organizer Cesia Kearns, who estimated that about three-quarters of the citizens in attendance were Sierra Clubbers or supporters of the Club's Oregon Beyond Coal campaign.
Mayor Adams spoke at a pre-hearing press conference organized by Kearns, above at right, and fellow Sierra Club organizer Robin Everett.
Says Oregon Chapter Director Brian Pasko: "When the Mayor arrived, he wasn't expecting to come into such a packed room of people wearing yellow-and-black Sierra Club t-shirts. He turned to me and asked, 'Who are all these people?' It was pretty cool to say, 'Well, Mr. Mayor, these are all Sierra Club volunteers!'"
"This was a critical time to make an impression on the PUC and we delivered," says Kearns. "The testimony was incredibly spirited and covered every possible angle. The PUC commissioners even asked for the hearing room to be extended two hours past their reserved time to allow everyone to finish their comments."
A broad coalition of citizens' groups joined the Sierra Club in asking the PUC not to invest more in Boardman, and to shutter the plant well before PGE's target date of 2020. Among those giving testimony were representatives from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Interfaith Power & Light, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, as well as numerous state and local environmental organizations.
At the hearing, Mayor Adams remarked that moving off coal as soon as possible at Boardman squares with Portland's green goals and social justice values. A sign-on letter from state legislators was circulated at the hearing, asking the PUC to take Portland General Electric's plan to operate Boardman until 2040 off the table and explore closure dates as early as 2014.
Also testifying were students representing ten Oregon college campuses (and more than 107,000 students) that have passed coal-free resolutions. Several small business owners spoke and presented the PUC commissioners a petition from 40 Portland businesses, asking PGE to close Boardman before 2020. The commissioners were also presented with 3,000 written comments asking for Boardman's early closure.
The Sierra Club promoted the hearing and recruited volunteers to testify with mailings, email alerts, phone banks reaching 1,000 members, and a 40-minute radio spot. Volunteers distributed flyers and put up posters at events around Portland, spoke at community meetings, and met with other organizations and leaders to spread the word. Four Sierra Clubbers also penned an editorial in the Oregonian, the state's largest newspaper, the week before the hearing.
All hearing photos by Brian Pasko.
Kearns gives a special shout-out to:
- Kyle Halloran, "our amazing intern who worked with volunteers to acquire small-business-owner testimony and the business petition"
- Oregon Beyond Coal Steering Committee members/volunteers: Betty Kaplan, Roger Cole, Nick Engelfried, Beth Melville, Scott Chapman, Maria Fleischman, Christine Lewis, and Bill Purcell, as well as all the other amazing Sierra Club volunteers who were hard at work to turn out our members and make the hearing night go smoothly.
- Campus organizers Jenny Bedell-Stiles and Nick Engelfried and student leaders "for galvanizing youth leadership to participate in the hearing"
- Aubrey Baldwin and Allison LaPlante, "our amazing attorneys providing guidance, review of materials, and support at the hearing"
- Seattle-based Sierra Club organizer Kathleen Ridihalgh, for coming down to the hearing and providing last-minute support
- Sierra Club Associate Press Secretary David Graham-Caso, for media guidance
- Oregon Chapter organizer Ivan Maluski, for putting together the state legislator sign-on letter to the PUC
- Chapter Director Brian Pasko for his photos and support at the hearing
- Reno-based Sierra Club organizer Emily Rodenbaugh for her extra support in the final stretch. [Note: Rodenbaugh's last day with the Sierra Club was June 30. She left having accomplished the three main goals she set out to achieve when she became a Sierra Club organizer two years ago—stopping the three new coal plants proposed in Nevada. Congratulations, Emily!]
Learn how you can get involved with the Oregon Beyond Coal campaign.