Legislative Report - November Interim
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By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, and Team
Volunteers are still needed to cover important issues like Air Quality, Recycling and Toxics. The League needs your voices! Training provided.
The Ford Family Foundation’s 2023 "Oregon by the Numbers" provides data that may be helpful for all areas of state and local policy work.
HCR 38 (2023) sets the process for the February 2024 short session that runs Feb. 5 through March 10th. The legislative calendar is posted on the Oregon Legislature website. There were three days of legislative meetings Nov. 6-8 and one more set of interim days January 10-12.
On Oct. 11th, Governor Tina Kotek appointed Lisa Charpilloz Hanson, current Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) Executive Director, to lead the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). The Oregon Senate will take up her confirmation as permanent director in January. “Oregon faces complex natural resources challenges across our state that require data-driven, resilient solutions,” Governor Kotek said. “Lisa Charpilloz Hanson brings decades of experience working with natural resource communities to meet the needs of Oregonians across the state. I look forward to seeing her great work and leadership at the agency.” The League looks forward to working with Lisa in her new role while we will miss her excellent leadership at OWEB.
Having been Deputy Director at ODA, we are confident she knows the many responsibilities of ODA.
DEQ invites public input on proposed permanent rule amendments to chapter 340 of the Oregon Administrative Rules to increase Title V operating permit fees as authorized by HB 3229 which the League supported. The proposed fee increases are necessary for DEQ to provide essential services associated with Oregon’s Title V permitting program. DEQ will propose the rules to the EQC in January 2024. DEQ is seeking public comment on the proposed rule amendments. More information, including the draft rules, can be found on the Title V Fee Increase 2023 Rulemaking web page. DEQ will only consider comments on the proposed rule amendments that DEQ receives by 4 p.m., on Dec. 1, 2023.
By Peggy Lynch
Personal income taxpayers can determine the amount of their kicker using a “What’s My Kicker?” calculator available on Revenue Online. To use the calculator, taxpayers will need to enter their name, Social Security Number, and filing status for 2022 and 2023. Taxpayers may also hand-calculate the amount of their credit by multiplying their 2022 tax liability before any credits—line 22 on the 2022 Form OR-40—by 44.28%.
On Nov. 15, the House and Senate Revenue Committees heard the latest Revenue Forecast. The net General Fund and Lottery resources are up $790.3 million (2.3%) from the 2023 Close of Session estimate. A new bonding capacity report is due mid-January. The next revenue forecast is Feb. 7th and that will be the number used for 2024 budgeting. Here is the Legislative Revenue Office report and here are the Office of Economic Analysis slides. Those slides included information about Oregon’s population, employment and housing. One piece of good news was that the poverty rate for all Oregonians has decreased.
In Nov. 2023, only half of the school bond or levy measures passed. We still don’t have the statistics of other money measures since final results won’t be available until the end of November. Here is a good video on property taxes in Oregon.
Oregonlive provided an article on the status of PERS for 2025: “The Oregon Public Employees Retirement System ended last year with a $28 billion unfunded liability to meet its projected pension obligations. Cutting the deficit would require some combination of higher investment returns or raising the amount of money contributed by employers like schools, libraries and local governments.
Based on the financial picture at the end of 2022, Milliman told the board that it could expect average contribution rates for the system’s 900-plus employers to rise by 1.7% of payroll, pushing the average rate above 27 cents in every payroll dollar. That would be their highest levels ever and require an extra $1.3 billion in contributions from employers in the next two-year budget cycle – money that would otherwise be available to spend on public services.” This information is important as state agencies and others calculate their 2025 budget needs.
By Claudia Keith and Team
See the Climate Emergency section of this Legislative Report. There are overlaps with this Natural Resources Report. We encourage you to read both sections.
By Christine Moffitt/Peggy Lynch
The Coos County LWV sponsored an informational program at the Egyptian Theatre on estuaries as part of their educational programs as they approach opportunities to update the Estuary Management Plan (AM-22-005) for the Coos Bay Estuary. The program is available on their YouTube channel. There have been many meetings with regional DLCD staff, county and city planners regarding the estuary management plan. LWV Coos members provided information to planners and they plan to provide testimony for the final hearings.
Oregon State University received a grant to study attitudes on offshore wind. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) received comments related to proposed ocean energy sites offshore from Brookings and Coos Bay, even extending the public comment period as requested by the tribes. Information is available on the BOEM Oregon state activities page.
Rep. David Gomberg attended the State of the Coast event held Nov. 4 in Newport that provided an educational opportunity on several research updates: Oregon State University - State of the Coast 2023 - YouTube. The morning session recording has an update by Karina Nelson at 1:14 in the video on offshore wind.
Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI)
By Peggy Lynch
The League continues to follow the Grassy Mountain Gold Project in Malheur County, using a streamlined permitting process. On Oct. 4, the multi-agency Technical Review Team approved the Grassy Mountain Consolidated Permit Application as complete! There is still at least another year of process before the project begins—a long time since the first application back in 2012. There have been ownership changes and a number of incomplete applications, making this process longer than it might otherwise have been. Here is the latest on this project.
See page 2 of this DOGAMI newsletter for a report on the Grassy Mountain Gold Mine application. “This is the first consolidated mining permit application in Oregon.” The League will be seeking feedback from the state agencies and the applicant regarding how this process worked for each of them and for Oregon. We hope to hear from the general public as well related to their view of the process because, if perceived as successful, this consolidated permitting process may be used in the future for complicated projects that need multiple permits.
Dept. of State Lands (DSL)
By Peggy Lynch
Oregon’s Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Workgroup will meet Nov. 21st and Dec. 5th. An Oregon Capital Chronicle article explains the potential environmental damage and the need to create a long term plan with on-going financing. See DSL’s website for more information, including public engagement opportunities. The League has been engaged in funding for this project for many years.
Drinking Water Advisory Committee
By Sandra Bishop
The Drinking Water Advisory Committee (DWAC) met Oct 18 with approximately 25 people attending to discuss the process and expected procedures for public water systems to complete the federally required Lead Service Line Inventory. The object is for public water systems to identify and remove lead and downstream galvanized pipe. Training will be offered specific to what and how to report. How to prioritize disadvantaged districts was part of the discussion. EPA’s main objective is removal of lead service lines. In Oregon, most water systems do not currently have lead lines and many have never had lead service lines. (However, pipes in older houses may have lead—a personal expense to address.) It was pointed out that even for the larger systems, if there are no records, it is very difficult to show there was no lead. How do you provide documentation of something that doesn’t exist? The American Water Works Association (AWWA) Water Utility Council is meeting to discuss this.
Recruitment is underway for seven staff positions. Five new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) positions were approved by the 2023 Oregon Legislature. Four of them are waiting for Dept. of Administrative Services (DAS) to approve job descriptions and salary ranges. Positions to be filled include program, fiscal, and research analyst positions; a Natural Resource Specialist and a Regulatory Manager. This is partially driven by the need to track and account for federal funds.
The final PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) regulations will come out at the end of the year. The state will have up to two years to develop regulations after the rule is final.
Implications of this rule include possibly requiring treatment costing approximately $50 billion. At last determination there were 25 public water systems with measurable PFAS detected in Oregon; 20 exceed EPA proposed MCLs (maximum contaminant levels), and two exceed Oregon HALs (Health Advisory Levels of 30 ppt). One well continues to be used under public advisory notice. It was noted that two years is likely not enough time for the Oregon rulemaking process, after development of federal rules. It is expected to be the same for all states.
Cybersecurity was discussed. Following a lawsuit filed in several states, EPA withdrew a memo containing an interpretation of cybersecurity in sanitary surveys. Another concern raised was about OHA collecting data without a clear indication of what will be done with the data, as in the case of capacity assessments.
First year funding for Lead Service Line Replacement has declined because there were no projects. Second year funding is available. Water systems can ask for partial funding. Outreach is ongoing for this. Funding will not be received before inventories are completed. There are small, disadvantaged under-served systems with compliance problems; many are priority non-compliers (PNCs). These are systems out of compliance for longer than six months. A total of 800 very small systems often lack financial and technical assistance.
There is some good news. The Warm Springs Tribe has been awarded a small grant and EPA has approved larger funding for work on their water system. The Annual Drinking Water Protection Report is on DEQ’s webpage. Oregon Water Enhancement Board (OWEB) is gearing up for grants for land purchase to protect land permanently to enhance drinking water protection. Public water systems over 3,300 must address potential contamination sources in Emergency Response Plans. It was pointed out that drinking water protection areas often have mental and physical co-benefits such as walking trails, wetlands, and other beneficial uses.
The next DWAC meeting is January 17th.
Elliott State Research Forest (ESRF)
By Peggy Lynch
A Nov 14 bombshell announcement from DSL Director Vicki Walker! “Yesterday, Oregon State University President Jayathi Y. Murthy informed the State Land Board and the Department of State Lands that OSU is no longer in a position to participate in management of the Elliott State Research Forest. The Elliott remains a public forest under DSL’s oversight, and the State Land Board has provided clear desire and direction for the creation of the Elliott State Research Forest.”
The League has been engaged in the Elliott since well before 2016 when we provided this Op Ed to Oregon newspapers. In 2020, we supported the OSU proposal with concerns around governance and finance. In Feb of 2022, we supported SB 1546 that created the new Elliott State Research Forest Authority—a new state agency to begin January 1, 2024, that established a mission, governance and management policies for the agency with deadlines for accomplishing the various tasks in the bill. This bill addressed our concerns around governance, but the fiscal issues have not been addressed, the issue that has caused OSU to back away: their research proposal required an increase in harvest beyond what the public had assumed. Until the issue around finance is addressed, the forest continues to be in jeopardy. The legislature gave the "new" agency $4.1 million as a budget for the next 18 months and will need to go through the budget process for the 2025-27 session. A prospective Board was appointed, many of whom had been part of an advisory committee for years prior, and will meet again on Dec. 4th to discuss these new developments. (Paul Beck and Dr. Jennifer Allen resigned in October.) Oregonians need to thank this dedicated group as they work to make the Elliott a great place where it will “continue to contribute to conservation, recreation, education, indigenous culture, and local economies as a research forest.” Visit DSL's Elliott webpage to learn more. Meeting videos are posted to the DSL YouTube channel and meeting notes are posted to DSL's Elliott website. Work is continuing on eventual adoption of a Habitat Conservation Plan and a Forest Management Plan for the forest.
We hope Oregonians helped shape the future of Oregon’s forests by participating in an Oregon’s Kitchen Table survey. Look for a story with results of the survey in an upcoming report.
Per Oregon Capital Chronicle: “The federal researchers found “unequivocally” that forested land provides the cleanest, most stable water supply of any land type.” The League was pleased to see this quote resembling one in our 2009 Water in Oregon- Not a Drop to Waste Study.
Fire Season has come to an end: Year to date, there have been 975 fires on ODF-protected lands resulting in 17,968 acres burned. Three ODF Type 1 Incident Management Teams (IMT) were deployed this season: one to the Golden Fire in the Klamath-Lake District, and two to the Tyee Ridge Complex in the Douglas Forest Protective Association district. Statewide to date, regardless of jurisdiction, there have been 1,909 fires that have burned 190,507 acres. ODF protects about 16 million acres of private, county, state and federal forest and grazing lands in Oregon. Forty-nine homes and 78 structures burned around the state. It was the third-highest number since 2015. So far, state and federal agencies have spent $484 million on the 2023 wildfires, and that number is likely to increase as fire teams submit their final bills. It's the third-most expensive season since 2015 and by far the most expensive per acre season in the same period.
For more information, see the Wildfire section of this report below.
Land Use & Housing
By Peggy Lynch
The League continues to engage with the Governor’s Office and legislators as we work to address needed housing for all Oregonians. We first need to address the underproduction of housing from past years—with a majority of housing unit needs for Oregonians whose income is 80% or lower AMI (average median income). The League will continue to focus on policies that address this need. While Natural Resources works on the land use side where infrastructure is needed to provide buildable lots, our Housing Team will be working on funding and housing policies for those Oregonians.
DLCD provided information on Goal 10 and the UGB process to Senate Housing on Nov. 6th.
The Governor’s Housing Production Advisory Council continues to meet and will deliver a final report to the Governor in December (or January!). The League has always supported our statewide land use planning program with local implementation. We are seeing that local element eroded by some of the recommendations. See the LWVOR testimony website where the plethora of our testimony is posted. Subscribe for notices of HPAC meetings. We continue to work with partners, with the Governor’s Office and legislators, as we expect bills in the 2024 session that we may want to support or oppose.
The Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) is seeking volunteers to serve as a member of the state’s Citizen Involvement Advisory Committee (CIAC). CIAC members are appointed by LCDC to provide advice on community engagement in land use planning. The current CIAC recruitment is for one member representing Oregon's first Congressional District, which covers Clatsop, Columbia, Washington, and Yamhill Counties and portions of SW Portland in Multnomah County. Applications are due by 9am November 22, 2023. They are also providing an information session on the CIAC on Dec. 8th via zoom.
See also the Housing Report in the Social Policy section of this Legislative Report.
By Shirley Weathers
The Energy Facilities Siting Commission (EFSC) held the required public hearing on proposed rules revisions for OAR 345-050 relating to radioactive waste on October 19, 2023. LWVOR submitted comments dated October 23, 2023. EFSC will consider the rules and public comment at its November 17, 2023 meeting. Of interest is that ODOE staff noted in their Background and Summary Statement to the Commission that LWVOR submitted the only written comment on the proposed rules. They outlined a central concern and recommendation to the Commission as it takes action. Additional materials can be found on the ODOE website (scroll down to Radioactive Waste Materials).
The LWVOR Advocacy Committee and Board of Directors thank Shirley Weathers for her many hours of work on this and other important issues. We will miss her and wish her all the best as she leaves Oregon and will, we are sure, engage in League at her new home.
The White House held a comprehensive highly informative webinar to talk about the national landscape for repair legislation in late October. Watch here. In Oregon, in the 2024 short session, Sen. Sollman is bringing back the Right to Repair concept, focusing on consumer electronic equipment like cell phones and laptops, and household appliances. The League supported the 2023 Right to Repair bill, SB 542, which did not pass.
The fourth Recycling Modernization Act Rulemaking Advisory Committee meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 31st, 2024. The Zoom meeting registration link has now been posted to the Recycling 2024 webpage: Register via Zoom. To learn more about this rulemaking and the advisory committee, view the rulemaking web page: Recycling Updates 2024.
The Regional Solutions Team ( November 14th report) is working hard across the state. Great news is the infrastructure work both listed and being worked on across the state. With increased infrastructure, we may see more housing.
By Peggy Lynch
The League continues to be concerned about our fellow Oregonians in Morrow and Umatilla counties where well water may be unsafe for drinking. Because many homes are for agriculture workers who speak other than English and whose culture causes wariness of government, Oregon’s Oregon Health Authority needs to find better ways to reach out according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle: The nitrate pollution stems in part from agricultural fertilizers and animal manure used on nearby farms. Nitrate-laced water is unsafe to drink above 10 milligrams per liter, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and can cause serious health effects if consumed over long periods. Update Oct. 31st: DEQ and Port of Morrow settle permit violations”… $1,933,721 to support safe drinking water efforts in the area, including water testing, treatment, and delivery, and pay a $483,430 civil penalty to the state treasury.” KGW’s "The Story" did a series on this important public health issue the week of Nov. 13.
OWRD anticipates releasing a draft of the updated Integrated Water Resources Strategy for public review and comment in early January. For more information about this process, please visit the IWRS page.
OWRD is considering new Groundwater Rules because “many of Oregon’s 20 groundwater basins are being sucked dry faster than water can naturally be replaced, according to the agency,” per a November Oregon Capital Chronicle (OCC) article. The League is watching this work closely and looks forward to the Water Resources Commission adoption of this first set of updated rules which can then lead to updated Critical Groundwater designations as the data determines it necessary. Meanwhile, many Oregonians are experiencing dry household wells.
In another OCC article, the League was pleased to see a quote similar to one in our 2009 Water Study: “The federal researchers found “unequivocally” that forested land provides the cleanest, most stable water supply of any land type.”
The League again asked Congress to expand the Smith River National Recreation Area.
We all need to pay attention to the potential for harmful algal blooms. “When in doubt, stay out.” Visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767 to learn if advisories have been issued or lifted for specific water bodies.
League members may want to check the U. S. Drought Monitor Map, updated every Thursday. Governor Kotek has signed drought declarations under ORS 536 for the counties of Crook, Jefferson, Grant, Deschutes, Wasco, Harney, Sherman, Lake, Jackson, Gilliam, Douglas and Lincoln counties. On Nov. 7th, the Governor declared a drought in Morrow County through Executive Order 23-25 and directed state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to the region. The forecasted El Nino weather pattern may mean a reduced snowpack this winter in the north while we may see a greater snowpack in southern Oregon.
By Carolyn Mayers
The League observed a number of informational meetings and updates relating to wildfire, on November 6 and 7, covering a variety of topics. The common thread through all the meetings was funding, or lack thereof, and the potential consequences of that reality.
Investments in wildfire suppression resulting from SB 762 - the sweeping 2021 wildfire legislation, had a significant impact on the effectiveness of response during the 2023 wildfire season. The recent sizable funding reductions threaten to reverse much of the progress made. “Landscape Resiliency” was also a major theme, with a repeated message that suppression is becoming increasingly difficult with increases in fire behavior unpredictability and the buildup of fuels.
Western Oregon was a new focus since there were a number of what would be considered “unusual” numbers of wildfires there due to a dry lightning event and other factors. Details and links to additional information may be found below.
The Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire met first on November 6. Mike Shaw, Chief of Fire Protection for Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), provided a 2023 wildfire season review:
Lauded the ODF wildfire personnel fire suppression efforts.
Highlighted the role the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s (OFSM) department played, especially in early response and limiting structure losses.
Pointed out “suppression isn’t going to be the answer,” stressing the need to manage the heavy load of fire fuels in forests as a critical part of long-term wildfire mitigation strategy.
Expressed the “efficient” (not in a good way) nature of dry lightning storms in northwestern Oregon as a unique feature of this fire season, with the reasonable expectation of it repeating in the future. Yet, in spite of nearly 500 fires started by the lightning event, total acreage burned across Oregon was held to 15% of the 10-year average in spite of a near-average number of fires, with significantly higher cost per acre. Most wildfires this season were human-caused.
Next up were Derrick Wheeler, ODF Legislative Coordinator, and Brandon Pursinger, Legislative Affairs Manager for Natural Resources Policy for the Association of Oregon Counties, who gave a detailed update on the Wildfire Hazard Map and the process undertaken to ensure that public input is appropriately considered as required by SB 80, the 2023 wildfire legislation. Meetings were held with County officials throughout the State, and the process continues until the ultimate release of the new map sometime in 2024.
OSFM Chief Mariana Ruiz-Temple spoke briefly about how it is important to continue to build on the “framework” that SB 762 laid out for Community Risk Reduction. She described how her department has rolled out an educational campaign and is conducting Defensible Space assessments around Oregone. OFSM has launched a Defensible Space website. Enter your home address for a multitude of resources to help make your home more resilient in the face of increasing wildfire risk, including the ability to schedule a home assessment. She closed by saying it will take decades of public education work to make a dent in overall risk reduction.
Doug Grafe, the Governor’s Wildfire and Military Advisor, followed with a bleak overview of the state of wildfire programs’ funding, current vs. previous. He also emphasized, “We cannot suppress our way out of this.”, while stressing the importance of community preparedness (which lost 90% of its funding), landscape resiliency and fuels reduction.
Dylan Kruse, Vice President of Sustainable Northwest, also covered funding and long-term strategy in his presentation, pointing out that while California provides $1.3 billion in wildfire programs funding, and Washington, $118 million, Oregon only spends $42 million, which is not nearly enough to sustain any progress made, let alone make further progress. He emphasized the need for “sufficient, consistent funding”.
Members of the Governor’s Wildfire Programs Advisory Council (WPAC) were next with outgoing Chair Mark Bennettlisting what he saw as priorities, among them public health-related investment to help deal with smoke events: Fire Adapted Communities/Firewise programs to enhance community preparedness, wildfire recovery and several other items. He was followed by Dave Hunnicutt, incoming WPAC Chair, who expressed extreme disappointment in the funding situation, and how reducing funding for defensible space/community preparedness is the opposite of what needs to be done, since defensible space can reduce risk to a home by as much as 80%. Mary Kyle McCurdy, incoming Vice-Chair, closed by pointing out that much of SB 762 funding was one-time funding. She also revealed that a new WPAC focus will be on much-needed and previously largely overlooked evacuation and emergency response planning as part of regional transportation planning. See the Council’s Annual Report.
Later on November 6, the House Climate and Energy heard a presentation by Doug Grafe and Senator Elizabeth Steiner that outlined the Wildfire Funding Workgroup work. This group was formed to look for solutions to the overly complex current funding structure for landowner fire protection assessment rates, and the offsets to them that lost $15 million in funding in the last session. Sen. Steiner said these partnerships are a cornerstone of “our highly functioning response”, and not funding the offsets risks “dismantling the system if the protection district charges don’t get funding.” She relayed they were making excellent progress in spite of widely differing views among participants because they share the common goal of fixing the system and getting it funded.
November 7, OSFM Chief Ruiz-Temple presented a 2023 Wildfire & Conflagration update to the Senate Veterans, Emergency Management, Federal and World Affairs, pointing to the OSFM Biennial Wildfire Report for additional information. Regarding the dry lightning storms, she stated, “…one of the most alarming indicators is more fires on the west side”, and that “these communities are not prepared.” She repeated her concern from October informational meetings, for the decrease in volunteerism among firefighters and that there was a need to assist local fire departments with capacity. She also repeated the sentiments of Mike Shaw, ODF, saying, “Wildfires are outpacing our capacity to suppress.”, and we need to focus on prevention. She closed by urging the Committee to provide funding for investment in communities and resilient landscapes, and that those investments would save billions of dollars over the long run.
Finally, Chief Ruiz-Temple presented another wildfire update to House Emergency Management, General Government and Veterans. Much of the content was largely a repeat of the previous presentation, including another commentary on the dangers of the new reality of fires in western Oregon. She emphasized “These communities don’t have the tools that other communities have.”, and they are “…not used to living with wildfire. See her presentation.
California has passed a law requiring a 5-foot defensive space around homes in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), effective 2025. There are currently potentially fewer than 100,000 tax lots that may be considered in Oregon’s WUI. Oregon is focusing on helping Oregonians address defensible space on their properties with no current requirements.
What is your passion related to Natural Resources? You can help. Volunteers are needed. The short 2024 legislative session is Feb. 5-March 10. Natural Resource Agency Boards and Commissions meet regularly year-round and need monitoring. If any area of natural resources interests you, please contact Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Training will be offered.