Natural Resources

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September 14, 2021 - Week 25


Budget/Revenue (Peggy Lynch & Team):

Oregon Economist Joshua Lehner in June 2020: While this recession is extremely severe – the deepest on record in Oregon with data going back to 1939 – it is expected to be shorter in duration than the Great Recession.” As a result, the Governor had state agencies reduce their 2019-21 budget approvals by 8%. Because this was the second year of the 2019-21 biennium, it was an effective 16% cut! (See 2020-21 forecasts here.) Hirings were frozen and other expenses cut. Most significantly, lottery revenues tanked as restaurants and other video lottery locations closed. “…our office is referring to it as the square root recovery where the initial bounce back is followed by a period of relative slow growth, which when charted resembles the mathematical symbol.” Although generally correct, no one expected the rebound to be so quick. The federal government provided significant funding which helped both individuals and businesses survive. Because of our tax code, the rich got richer and the poor poorer. And the rich had limited places to spend their money, allowing for incredible savings that are now being circulated in the economy.

The September 2020 Forecast commentary: The economy remains in a Great Recession-sized hole. However, given the nature of the cycle to date, diverging trends have emerged. In particular, lower-income households have borne the brunt of the recession. The combination of higher-income households being less impacted to date, and the large federal support means consumer spending and tax collections have held up much better than expected. …many workers on temporary layoffs are recalled”

The December 2020 Forecast was the basis for the Governor’s 2021-23 Recommended Budget (Natural Resources starts at page 159). The forecast commentary: “Oregon’s primary revenue sources are expected to grow by 5% during the 2021-23 budget period.” But, to maintain Current Service Levels, the state needs about 11% revenue growth due to salary and other cost of living/expense increases. The Governor’s budget, therefore, reflected the forecast with budget cuts. Even then the Governor focused on costs related to the Labor Day 2020 wildfires, wildfire costs on-going and racial inequities and injustice. The Legislature started the session by planning on a $1.7 billion revenue shortfall, but committed early on to assuring their final adopted budgets provided staffing to address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in all state agencies.

By March, the forecast was looking rosier. The vaccine was being distributed and jobs were returning. Revenue was looking so good that Oregon’s kicker law was forecast to “kick”. (The kicker occurs if actual state revenues exceed forecasted revenues by 2 % or more over the two-year budget cycle. The excess, including the 2 % trigger amount, is returned to taxpayers through a credit on their following year's tax return.) The legislature passed a number of budget rebalance bills in March, including HB 5042. Money was provided for housing/homeless, summer school money, beginning to implement Measure 110, environmental requests and for wildfire victims and their communities.

Then the May 2021 Forecast came out and celebrations were called for! (More than $1 billion additional revenue the next 3 biennia!) “Economic growth is surging as the pandemic wanes. Thanks to federal fiscal policy, consumers have higher incomes today than before COVID-19 hit. …The outlook for near-term economic growth is the strongest in decades, if not generations.” Additionally, the federal government passed yet another funding package, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Those funds helped fund vaccinations and other Covid expenses as well as providing money in Oregonians’ pockets with unemployment and relief funds. Monies were also provided (and will continue into 2023) to pay for both social and hard infrastructure. While hoping to assure that cuts won’t be needed in the next biennium, state agencies—in particular for this report our natural resource agencies—have seen in 2021 investments in both staff and programs while legislators were careful to consider future budget requirements so as not to create a roller coaster staffing effect. The League is considered a “stakeholder” for these agencies and is engaged in their work all year long.

The Governor proposes and the Legislature disposes. So below you will find links to the League’s testimony on natural resource agency budgets and the most exciting outcome ever! Statewide there were around 1,500 NEW positions authorized in the 2021-23 state budget. A potential bottleneck in hiring will be the state’s responsibility to help with individual agency hirings. Also, because of previous agency reductions and holding open vacancies due to that cuts request in 2020, those vacancies are likely to be the first filled.

The last of session bills included SB 5505, a bill that provides a list of General Obligation bond authorizations. SB 5534 is the Lottery Bonds authorizations bill. SB 5506 provides six-year expenditure limitation for capital construction projects. Projects in excess of $1.0 million for the acquisition of land and the acquisition, planning, constructing, altering, repairing, furnishing, and equipping of building and facilities are categorized as capital construction projects. In addition, SB 5506 extends the six-year expiration dates and expenditure limitations for specified projects as well as removes or modifies expenditure limitation amounts for specified projects approved in prior biennia. Here is the Budget Report for SB 5506.

The major budget bill of the session, HB 5006, provides $50 million for general use by the Emergency Board (when the legislature is not in session) and 10 Special Purpose Appropriations (SPAs) for them to “spend” if the need arises within the definition of the SPA. Of interest to natural resources is: State Response to Natural Disasters $150 million.

The entire list of ARPA federal funds is also a part of HB 5006. See the entire list here. Representatives were allowed to provide a list for up to $2 million and Senators $4 million for projects in their districts. Due to the short timeline to select these projects, the Legislative Fiscal Office will be reviewing and checking with the federal government to assure the projects meet federal requirements for spending these monies. If not, legislators will be allowed to provide another project. Oregonians and local communities large and small will benefit from these allocations for years to come.

Here are the Aug. 25th Revenue Forecast slides from our state economists and the Legislative Revenue Office Forecast. You can listen to the presentation to the Senate and House Revenue Committees. It’s incredible news! Almost $700 million MORE than the May forecast; $1.9 billion “kicker” credits for April 2022; Almost 14% of our annual budget in our two savings accounts! Also, currently a 9.7% projected funding increase for 2023-25. About 70% of jobs have been regained and a full recovery is likely sometime next year. All this without counting on federal legislation (both traditional infrastructure and social infrastructure) likely to pass by the end of the year. Although we still have unemployment and an uneven recovery, it IS a recovery—faster than ever before. The unemployment benefits and recovery $1,400 and now the child tax credits being sent as checks are keeping people afloat. You can be sure the League will continue to follow both revenue and spending that the legislature will deal with in the future.

Agriculture (Peggy Lynch, Marge Easley, Jamie Carleton, Shirley Weathers and the Climate Team)

In January, the League was again invited to present our 2021 Priorities to the Board of Agriculture. See League testimony on SB 5502, the agency’s budget bill, where we focused on water quality, pesticide issues, addressing climate change and public health and safety. We highlighted our in-depth 2000 study on farmworkers, using that study to also testify in support of HB 2358, overtime pay for farmworkers. “We believe in the public benefit from the agricultural bounty produced by Oregon’s farmers and farmworkers, and that the state has a role in supporting the sound and fair relationship between farmers and the agricultural workforce, with the goal of economic and social justice for both parties.” Their budget was increased by 6.5%--General Funds increase of 20.3%! Many of the programs supported by LWVOR were approved for funding. On Aug. 27th, ODA provided a briefing on their legislatively adopted budget. 61% of the agency revenue depends on fees. As part of the League’s water advocacy, we were pleased that HB 5006 provided $883,374 for staff and contract dollars to focus on small watersheds and $500,000 as one-time funding for groundwater management areas (GWMAs) work. While this budget is positive, they also noted that the new laboratory complex in Wilsonville will need some General Fund infusion in 2023. This facility allows for cross-training and the ability to respond to crises such as a tsunami, cyanotoxin outbreaks and other emergencies.

See LWVOR testimony in support of SB 583, Moratorium on Industrial Dairies. The bill received only a courtesy hearing and did not pass.

Breaking News: The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food to better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers. In a final rule released Aug. 18th, the EPA is revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establish an amount of a pesticide that is allowed on food. In addition, the agency will move to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances. The League has worked to stop usage of this pesticide for years so we are celebrating this decision. For more information on this issue, see our new Pesticides and other Biocides study.

[Aside, LWVOR President, Becky Gladstone: League members, read the September newsletter for study consensus meetings. Help to form our new advocacy position!]

Air Quality (Susan Mates)

The League followed a number of DEQ actions. In 2021, the DEQ and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) collaborated on a rulemaking process to align the Cleaner Air Oregon program with the 2003 Oregon Air Toxics program. Another program we have followed is the Basic and General Air Contaminant Discharge Permits (ACDP).

We have also followed DEQ’s Regional Haze Program and Vehicle Inspection Program. The League supported HB 2007 (2019) focusing on reducing diesel emissions and continued to follow rulemaking and agency implementation as well as distributing the VW Mitigation Trust Funds. The Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) adopted rules to establish a new diesel retrofit compliance program as part of HB 2007 work. DEQ is asking for public comment on their Regional Haze 2021 Regional Implementation Plan. See the rulemaking web page at: 2018-2028 State Implementation Plan.

The Zero-Emission Vehicle program focuses on supporting adoption of electric vehicles, including an increased focus on medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

HB 2814A addressed dangerous diesel hotspots that are not covered by HB 2007, 2019’s“Clean Diesel” bill. The League provided testimony in support. Although the bill did not pass, there was money in HB 5006 to work on this issue. We also provided testimony in support of HB 2674 that would have provided resources for a Clean Diesel Fund. It did not pass either.

Smoke related to our continuing wildfires and allowing prescribed burns to help reduce fire fuels was a focus. HB 2571 passed and requires a study of liability for prescribed fires. A report is due no later than July 1, 2022. SB 762, the omnibus wildfire bill, includes monies and direction related to increased burns and smoke management. Small smoke particles stay in our lungs and do long-term damage. DEQ continues to focus on reducing the use of wood stoves for heating, even the use of wood in fireplaces.

Arlington Radioactive Waste (Shirley Weathers)

The League began following the discovery of illegal dumping from 2016-2019 of almost 1,300 tons of radioactive waste from the fracking fields of North Dakota at the hazardous landfill in Arlington (Gilliam County) during the 2020 Legislative Session. The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) issued a Notice of Violation to landfill owners Chemical Waste Management, but also sought legislation during the 2020 session to strengthen and modernize decades-old statutes prohibiting such waste. Fracking operations all over the country produce massive quantities of this harmful waste ongoing; it is not federally regulated. The 2020 bill died when the session ended abruptly, so after spending the interim before the 2021 Session updating all rules they could (OAR 435.029, Notice of Violation, Civil Penalties, Revocation or Suspension), ODOE obtained support of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources for SB 246, Radioactive Waste Disposal Definitions and Enforcement. The bill passed nearly unanimously in both Chambers. The League participated on the Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC) over the past year and supported SB 246. We have volunteered to participate in rulemaking for OAR 345.050, Defining Radioactive Wastes to implement the bill. The Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) approved beginning that rulemaking on August 27 and LWVOR will again be a RAC member. They will meet approximately 6 times between Sept. and February.

Climate(Claudia Keith and Team)

See Climate Report in a separate section of this Legislative Report. However, there are overlaps with this Natural Resources Report. We encourage you to read both sections.

Coalitions (Natural Resources and Climate Team including Robin Tokmakian)

The Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) is a coalition of 30+ organizations throughout the state who together work to pass pro-conservation priorities and attempt to stop legislation that may undermine conservation values. The League was a founding member of this group and we continue to work with others when they meet LWVOR positions. The past few sessions our Climate Team has worked with other groups focusing on climate legislation. Robin Tokmakian is the League’s representative to the Northwest Energy Coalition (NWEC), which has members from Idaho, Montana and Washington as well as Oregon. The group originally focused on policies related to the Columbia River, but now also focuses on climate change policies. Other League members are parts of other groups related to the League’s broad interests.

Coastal Issues (Christine Moffitt and Peggy Lynch)

The League followed HB 2603 Enrolled, a bill that addresses issues around undersea cable installations. The bill was precipitated by an incident with Facebook’s drilling accident in Tierra del Mar. The bill was amended and passed.

The League supported SB 126, a bill that statutorily increased the boundary of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, an incredibly special place for research, educational opportunities and for recreation, the first such US reserve. The bill passed and the State Land Board will receive a report on the Reserve at its October meeting, which will become an annual event, cementing the status of the Reserve as a Land Board asset for future generations.

The League was pleased to see HB 3114 pass. It provides $4 million to the Oregon Ocean Science Trust (OOST) and others focusing on ocean acidification and climate change effects on Oregon’s ocean. We advocated for funding as we also supported OOST establishment a number of years ago and this session reached out to legislators to support this substantial funding request.

An on-going issue is continuing Rocky Habitat Management Strategy work and consideration of amendments to Goal 18 related to continued requests for adding riprap to private property along the ocean. There may be changes to the Goal to protect Hwy 101 as we see increased king tides and storms damaging the road. We are less supportive of changes to the Goal to allow indiscriminate installation of riprap that may affect a neighbor’s property or destabilize our public beaches. Oregon’s marine reserves will be up for review in the next few years.

Oregon State University got permission for their wave energy testing facility. See the Climate Team’s LWVOR support for HB 3375, for work on floating offshore ocean wind energy.

Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (Natural Resource and Climate Teams)

The League supported SB 246, a bill that would replace the current Environmental Justice Task Force with a new Council within DEQ. This was one of the few bills/programs not approved this session; however, the Governor got approval for an on-going Racial Justice Council and the Environmental Justice Task Force will continue under the Governor’s office.

The League provided testimony on SB 5516/5517, the budget bills for this agency, including support for SB 246. SB 5517 authorized additional staffing and increased fees for the Vehicle Inspection Program in the Metro and Medford areas. Here is the July 22nd staff report to the Environmental Quality Commission on the agency’s budget and other bills for 2021. Oregon’s DEQ is responsible for administering the federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, for Land Quality and has a major role in implementing policy around reducing greenhouse gasses.

The League was pleased to see passage of HB 3372, a bill that authorizes DEQ to require an applicant for a permit or license to provide DEQ with information reasonably sufficient for DEQ to evaluate the applicant’s history of compliance with environmental quality laws during the 10-year period prior to the application date and consider that information when approving permits. See LWVOR testimony in support.

The League submitted testimony in favor of HB 3269 that would have required a study of DEQ’s Emergency Response Program. We were disappointed that the bill did not pass and no new money was provided for this critical public safety program.

Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) (Peggy Lynch)

One of the early budget discussions this session was around DOGAMI. For a number of years DOGAMI has had fiscal problems, in part due to the lack of General Fund investment and the need for staff to find grants to fund their work. In 2019 the League recommended that the Mineral Land Reclamation and Regulation (MLRR) division be moved to DEQ since much of their work is also linked to water permitting issues and they might get access to a new e-permitting program which would be of benefit to permittees. We also recommended that the Geological Survey and Services (GS&S) division be placed in the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) since much of their work relates to natural hazards and other land use issues. In our recommendation, we assumed that the scientists in both divisions would be kept with DEQ and DLCD. When the Governor’s budget was released, she did recommend this structural change but also recommended significant DOGAMI staff cuts. When the public heard of this reduction, they rallied around the scientists and the agency. The W&Ms Co-Chairs also heard the concern. See League testimony in support of the agency’s scientists on Feb. 3rd. Instead of a one-year transition budget, HB 5010 was passed early in the session, continuing the agency and staff for another two years and expected into the future. It became clear as the session progressed that DOGAMI will need to help provide information related to the potential for landslides in our wildfire damaged areas and areas of flood damage around the state.

Dept. of State Lands (DSL) (Peggy Lynch)

The League provided testimony on SB 5539, the Dept. of State Lands budget bill, supporting continuing work on the Elliott State Forest, the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, on waterways and wetlands and the transfer of Oregon’s Trust Property Program to the State Treasury.

HB 3371 A was not included in the Dept. of State Lands budget presentation. It requires DSL to consider potential risks in entering into agreements for authorized use of submerged and submersible lands and allows the department to require risk mitigation or insurance. There was money allocated to the Oregon Business Development Dept. and some may help with this issue. Another issue that continues to need to be addressed is the abandoned vessels on Oregon’s waterways. We supported SB 859 that would have increased the Oregon State Marine Board’s Salvaged Subaccount by $1 million to fund this public health and safety work. That bill also did not pass.

It should be noted that Oregon is still awaiting 1,400 acres of lands due to the Common School Fund from the federal government since statehood. DSL continues to work with the Bureau of Land Management to obtain those lands. See the Land Use section for disposition of some of our recent land acquisitions in Central Oregon.

Elliott State Forest (Peggy Lynch)

On Dec. 8, 2020, the State Land Board moved to continue consideration of creation of an Elliott State Research Forest under Oregon State University. The previously established Advisory Committee continues today as a Habitat Conservation Plan and the Plan draft is now available. Public hearings and other outreach efforts have continued all year. The League has been engaged in decisions around the Elliott for a number of years, including providing testimony to the Land Board, and will continue into the future. Our focus has been on governance and fiscal issues and it seems those two items have caused a need for a course correction. This forest is an iconic natural resource for all of Oregon.

Breaking News: In an August 4th letter from DSL Director Walker and OSU College of Forestry Dean DeLuca to the Advisory Committee: “Both the Oregon Department of State Lands and Oregon State University remain fully committed to the State Land Board’s vision for an Elliott State Research Forest. But we agree, and it reflects individual conversations with State Land Board assistants, that we are more likely to achieve that vision with an alternative ownership and management model.” The next meeting of the Advisory Committee will be in Sept. Go to the webpage to sign up for notices.

Emergency Services (Peggy Lynch)

HB 2927 received multiple amendments and passed. This bill re-shapes Oregon’s emergency management structure by creating the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) as a separate department, creating a task force on whether or not the Office of the State Fire Marshal should be a department separate from the Oregon State Police, and making other changes to advisory bodies on emergency preparedness and response. Although the League did not provide testimony on the bill, we monitored each change, in part due to facts shared by Mike Harryman, the State Resilience Officer, in his After-Action Report, on the State Resilience page. “In Sept. 2020, over 1 million acres burned, 1/6th of all Oregonians were under evacuation orders, 9 people died and 4,026 residences were destroyed.”

OEM plays a critical role in engaging with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and with county emergency management groups. Their work includes help to address the many needs of our wildfire victims and local governments. FEMA is providing funds and some housing for dislocated fire victims and for cleanup of properties and removal of hazard trees. As we continue with wildfires, OEM will need to work with 2021 wildfire victims to help. The damage count due to the Bootleg fire as of Aug. 20th is that the fire destroyed 161 residences and 247 other structures. There is likely to be additional federal assistance needed as our fire season continues.

Energy (Shirley Weathers, Marylou Schnoes, Peggy Lynch and the Climate Team)

See League testimony on the Oregon Dept. of Energy (ODOE) budget (SB 5515), in particular in support of the small, but critical Nuclear Safety and Emergency Preparedness Division. Besides following the issue of radioactive waste, the League also has a member on the Hanford Cleanup Board (Marylou Schnoes). We also requested at least one staffer and resources for the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC) that is staffed by ODOE. We hope the 2022 legislature will address the very clear request from the Chair of OGWC for staffing and other resources.

Environmental Public Health at OHA (Natural Resources and Climate Team)

See League testimony in support of Policy Option Package 417 in the OHA budget (HB 5024). The original request was for $30 million but the legislature surprisingly approved $45 million for public health modernization work.

Fish and Wildlife (Peggy Lynch)

See League testimony on HB 5009, the budget bill for this agency. Among the exciting changes are a new Habitat Division and the fish biologists we’d advocated for the last two biennia are finally permanent positions. Here is a Power Point with clear explanations of both the budget and other ODFW bills approved by the legislature.

Forestry (Josie Koehne and James Cannon)

The big success of the session was the passage of the comprehensive wildfire bill, SB 762 as amended, funding it for a price tag of $195,206,826. The bill was negotiated through a long and complex process, thanks to the energy and persistence of Senator Golden. The bill provides for wildfire risk reduction, response and recovery that includes a statewide map of wildfire risk, and programs related to defensible space, prescribed fire (the Burn Manager Program), landscape resiliency and community emergency preparedness. A fiscal summary of all elements can be found here. Here is a great final bill press release. Rulemaking is in process to clarify SB 762 implementation. See the ODF website for more information and to be involved. The League is engaged in these activities and provided testimony to the Board of Forestry on Aug. 24th to support the ODF staff recommendation on the broad Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) definition (“That geographical area where structures and other human development meets or intermingles with wildland or vegetative fuels”) and that the Fiscal Impact Statement is “indeterminate” until there is more clarity as to exactly where the definition will be used and what properties or jurisdictions might be affected. The Board approved sending the definition to public hearings for final decision in October, but also clarified that they recognize they have the ability to revisit the definition should the implementation in future rulemaking not be narrowed to focus on those areas of greatest concern and greatest need for treatment and other regulation. The WUI RAC will meet again Sept. 7 to address the criteria and definitions related to this recommendation so the definition has an “Oregon” face. Public hearings on this proposed WUI definition will be held on Sept. 22 at 2:00pm, Sept. 23 at 7:00pm and Sept. 24 at 9:00am, all virtually by zoom before a hearings officer. The Board needs to adopt the rule sometime between Oct. 18-22. The proposed effective date of this rule will be Oct. 27. In the meantime, the Risk Mapping RAC will continue its work biweekly into June of 2022.

Many of the other forestry-related bills introduced in 2021 did not pass; however, including the Forest Products Harvest Tax (FPHT) bill that is usually approved every two years (HB 2070 this year). HB 5518, the Dept. of Forestry's budget, saw a large --26% increase-- with $100 million mostly coming from the General Fund and an increase of 21-23 above its current service level of 158 employees. See League testimony in support of this budget to return this agency to a staffing level where work can be done all year rather than stopping to address wildfires at least half of the year. Helpful was action by the January Emergency Board to provide monies to hire firefighters ahead of their budget passage as well as air assets and monies for fire resilience projects. It gave the agency a head start on what has become yet another too early, too long and too hot fire season.

Timber Tax bills that failed this session:

HB 2070 The original House Revenue-amended bill would have set rates for privilege taxes on forest products harvested on forestlands in Oregon for calendar years 2022 and 2023 and eliminated the role of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) Board in setting the tax rate dedicated to the purposes of the Institute. A Senate Finance and Revenue Committee-amended bill failed to restore OFRI funding and failed to pass out of House Revenue at the end of the session. Read the LWVOR testimony on various versions of this bill and bill background information. The FPHT revenues are distributed quarterly to fund:

  • The Department of Forestry for the Administration of Oregon's Forest Practices Act. Currently, the FPHT covers 40 % of the cost of administering this law. The state’s General Fund pays the other 60 %. The General Fund will fund this in full through 2023 since HB 2070 failed to pass.

  • Forestry research at Oregon State University. Oregon State University provides forestry research through the Oregon Forest Research Laboratory. The FPHT provides approximately 10 % of the lab’s research budget. This will also be funded with remaining revenues and the General Fund.

  • The Oregon Forestland Protection Fund serves as kind of an "insurance policy" for wildfires that can’t be handled by local fire districts alone. The FPHT traditionally provides 50 % of the budget for this fund capped at $1.5 million. The state’s General Fund pays the other 50 %.

  • The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) provides information on Oregon's forest practices and encourages sound forest management. The institute is 100 % funded by the FPHT. OFRI faced damaging allegations in the press in May and a Secretary of State audit in June-July largely supported the allegations that the tax-funded agency was mis-representing scientific information on carbon and promoting and lobbying for timber industry interests exclusively. The Oregon Conservation Network had HB 2357 as a Priority bill this session. The League did not engage but had hoped for some changes in OFRI to reflect both the press coverage and then the Secretary of State audit. Some of the bills listed in this report tried to defund OFRI because of this, but they failed and OFRI will be provided funding through 2023. The legislature may try to pass a new timber tax bill in the 2022 session so it is possible that some of these assumptions will change.

HB 2357 B would have reallocated privilege tax revenue to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) Fund in a more targeted manner, to a newly created Family Forestlands Subaccount, and Sound Forestry Practices Subaccount. It would have added two voting members to the OFRI board of directors to provide a more balanced board perspective. OCN supported this bill as an environmental priority.

HB 2379 would have imposed a severance tax, at a rate of five % of the value of timber when harvested from forestland other than small tract forestlands. LWVOR supported several versions of this bill (see our testimony here), and helped modify the -7 amendment that never was introduced in House Revenue by the end of session. It was redrafted as HB 3410 and a work group is convening over the summer to work on the bill.

HB 2389 would have made taxes levied upon taxpayers for the privilege of harvesting merchantable forest products on forestlands permanent.

HB 2430 would have extended privilege taxes on merchantable forest products harvested on forestlands for the calendar year 2022.

HB 3160 would have raised revenue by adding a surcharge to fire insurance policies to create a new Oregon Wildfire Preparedness and Community Protection Fund. The League supported this bill, but there are issues related to applying surcharges to insurance policies. We are unsure if this concept will return in future sessions.

Other forestry-related policy bills that failed to pass:

SB 287, the Governor’s omnibus wildfire bill and SB 248, the Senate committee original omnibus bill, for which the League provided testimony. (See SB 762 which passed with the Governor’s support.)

SB 335 would have required the Oregon Department of Forestry to study and make recommendations to an interim committee of the Legislative Assembly regarding the composition of the Board of Forestry. See League comments on the -3 amendment.

SB 337 would have required the Oregon Department of Forestry to study and make recommendations to an interim committee regarding the efficacy of forest policy.

HB 2572 A would have directed the State Board of Forestry to establish by rule a Certified Burn Manager program and authorized establishment and imposition of fees for program participation. Funding for a Burn Manager program was provided in the big wildfire bill SB 762 and rulemaking has begun to stand up this program. See ODF’s SB 762 website.

HB 2663 would have appropriated funds to the Oregon Department of Forestry to carry out an integrated pest management program to combat Sudden Oak Death; however, monies were allocated to address this serious issue—not only for our forests but our nursery businesses.

HB 2722, an alternate omnibus wildfire bill which the League did not support.

HB 2727 would have directed the Oregon Business Development Department to establish a program to assist certain pulp mills and paper mills and employees of such mills, to transfer mill ownership to employees and to convert the mill to manufacturing personal protective equipment.

Board of Forestry Changes: The Board of Forestry had its first meeting on June 9 with newly approved board members, Karla Chambers of Corvallis, Ben Deumling of Rickreall and Chandra Ferrari of Salem. These new board members join the other three board members, Jim Kelly (Chair), Brenda McComb and Joe Justice. Most, if not all, of the new Board have expressed a strong desire to see the ODF act soon to address climate change as a top priority. (A penultimate draft has recently been distributed with an opportunity to learn more on Sept. 8.) A seventh board member is still needed to complete the Board. It is unclear if the Governor will nominate someone for Senate approval during the September legislative days.

Recruitment of a New State Forester: The Board of Forestry held a special meeting on May 20 to discuss criteria for selecting both an interim and permanent replacement for State Forester Peter Dougherty, who stepped down on May 25. The Board is in the process of actively recruiting nationally for a new State Forester to replace Acting State Forester, Nancy Hirsch, who was brought back from her 2018 retirement from ODF to fill in until a new State Forester is selected and approved. Among the qualifications needed are communication skills and ability to implement recommendations of the accounting firm, MGO, to put the agency’s fiscal situation in order as well as a serious review of both preparing Oregon for future wildfires and how we should fight them.

HCP and FMP: The Oregon Department of Forestry is working on a Western Oregon State Forests Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for State Forests (and the lands they manage) to protect the covered endangered species on their lands that must be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. In March, the draft HCP National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process began. If approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries, Oregon will get the required federal Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to keep Oregon in compliance with the law. The plan is under development and will be linked to a Companion Western Oregon State Forest Management Plan (FMP) that has not been updated since 2010. The department is seeking comments on the draft companion FMP by September 8, followed by an 8-month formal stakeholder review process ending in June 2022, with a final draft expected to be approved by the Board of Forestry in February of 2023.

In a separate process, an HCP for private forests is under negotiation by 25 timber and conservation groups under an agreement signed in February of 2020, through a Memo of Understanding (now known as the Private Forest Accord). It was signed by 12 members of the Oregon timber industry and 13 members of conservation communities. In December 2020, they appointed experienced mediator Peter Koehler, Jr., to facilitate the dialogue that began in early 2021. Their charge is to develop a final plan so that interim legislation implementing the agreements reached will be enacted on or before the February 2022 Legislative session. The implementing legislation will include:

  • Elements that decrease the risk to listed species and the aquatic resources upon which they rely while increasing certainty and durability of forest practice laws and regulations going forward.

  • An adaptive management component that involves a rigorous look at the efficacy of existing and future forest practice regulation, and a science-driven process for analyzing the need for any changes.

  • Recognition of the potential for disproportionate impacts to small forest landowners and provision for alternative compliance paths and mitigation of financial impacts.

Included is a sunset for the proposed 2022 legislation if the federal services fail to issue a final record of decision approving the HCP by December 31, 2027, or the incidental take permit is otherwise revoked on appeal. As part of this work, the department is improving their public notification system (FERNS) related to forestry work including aerial spraying and improving their data on water points of diversion in Oregon.

New legislation during the 2021 session regarding improvements to the Forest Practices Act or other regulation was put on hold awaiting the outcome of the Private Forest Accord draft agreement, expected by November or December, 2021. We expect legislation in 2022 to implement the facilitated agreement.

Of particular importance to the League’s future forest policy advocacy is the adoption by concurrence at our May convention of the LWV Washington’s year 2000 Forestry positions. LWVWA adopted these positions after a four-year, 2-part study.

Governance (Peggy Lynch)

The League followed HB 2334, a bill that would have increased the burden on agency rulemaking by allowing an exemption from enforcing a rule if it has an economic impact on “small businesses”. Our natural resource agencies do extensive rulemaking. We were pleased the bill did not pass.

Land Use/Housing (Debbie Aiona, Nancy Donovan, Peggy Lynch and the Climate Team)

League members were engaged in rulemaking for HB 2001 and HB 2003 (2019). As members of the rulemaking committee, we provided testimony throughout the process, with adoption of HB 2003 rules in November of 2020 and HB 2001 rules in December of 2020 by the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). A part of HB 2003 was a pilot Regional Housing Needs Analysis (RHNA). The League has concerns about the “regions” currently designated and the lack of substantial data outside of Metro and Central Oregon. Budget Notes were included in HB 5006: Budget Note #4 and #8: OHCS and DLCD are to provide an initial legislative report no later than February 1, 2022 and a final legislative report no later than December 31, 2022 on efforts to develop a legislative proposal for incorporation of a Regional Housing Needs Analysis into future state and local planning processes.

As we see in 2020 census results, it is clear that our population increase has dramatically outpaced our new housing units. Currently we need two to four times as many new units as are being built today. 20% of those new units will need public subsidies to be affordable to families earning 50% or less of the median household income. An additional 17% will require public subsidies to be affordable to those earning 50-80% of median income. Our current land use planning system is not designed to address affordability so partnering with OHCS and the legislature to provide those subsidies will need to be a focus. See the LR Housing Report in another section.

See League testimony in opposition to HB 2655, a bill that would prohibit counties from allowing more than one-acre rural residential lands and in opposition to HB 2778¸ a bill that would have amended HB 3012 (2017) to consider homes built in 1974 and before as “historic”. Both bills died.

The League participated in a Work Group for a number of years to allow, with sideboards, accessory dwelling units in rural residentially zoned lands. SB 391 was amended and passed with League support. However, we actively opposed SB 16, a bill that will allow up to 100 homes on 200 acres in the Eastern Oregon Border area in Malheur County. Our opposition extended to a request that the Governor veto the bill; however, we were unsuccessful and the bill is now law.

The issue of Systems Development Charges (SDCs) and who should pay for infrastructure needs for new development and that cost burden on “affordable housing” was discussed during consideration of HB 3040. The League provided input to committee members and engaged with others. The bill passed, but was substantially amended to require OHSC to conduct a study with other agencies and local governments to provide a broad review of the history, purposes and calculations of SDCs. A preliminary report is due in Dec. 2021 with a final report due by June of 2022. SDCs became a greater revenue source when Oregonians passed property tax limitation measures in the 1990s reducing local government revenue.

HB 3318 circumvented the normal local land use process to allow a section of land near Bend, known as the Stevens Road Tract, now owned by Oregon’s Common School Fund, to be added to Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary under certain circumstances. The League worked on a similar bill in 2020. This bill increases requirements around affordable housing, transportation and public involvement. Included in the last-minute amendment was authorization for dog training to be allowed in barns similar to horses. The bill passed.

HB 2488 was filed that would have addressed climate justice, including consideration of a new Goal 20 on Climate. The bill was amended to narrow the focus on environmental justice around Goal 1. Here is a complete list of bills passed in 2021 that affect land use in Oregon.

The Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) budget (SB 5531) was heard on Feb. 15. The League provided verbal testimony in support. We also supported HB 2110, a bill that adjusts fees for appeals. Both bills passed that included the League’s requests.

The League supported the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) budget, SB 5530. As the session moved forward and housing and wildfire response needs became clear, DLCD ended the session with the largest budget in many years. Since the League is engaged in many of DLCD’s programs, we are pleased to see a recognition of the importance of this small agency. They convene the state’s Climate Change Adaptation among a broad group of state agencies and this work will be on-going. Another program the League supports, the Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rulemaking, is on-going.

Here is a press release covering both land use and housing successes this session. See also the Housing Report in LR other sections.

Parks (Peggy Lynch)

See League testimony on elements of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. (OPRD) budget, HB 5025. Our budget letter also mentioned HB 2125 and SB 29. The budget passed but the two policy bills did not. However, $50 million was allocated in HB 5006 for improvements in all State Parks.

SB 289 passed to recognize the need for ALL people to feel safe in Oregon’s public spaces, including our state parks. The League worked behind the scenes in support.

Recycling (Camille Freitag)

A new League volunteer took on the job of following the DEQ Recycling Modernization Program. The Governor introduced HB 2065, a bill to enact the work of a multi-year work group to modernize Oregon’s recycling program and require producer responsibilities for their products. HB 2065 did not receive a hearing. However, another bill was filed in the Senate and passed this session, SB 582, after significant amendments (many of them using language from the House bill). See League testimony on the amended SB 582. See the DEQ news release on this ground-breaking program. Other bills we followed did not pass: HB 2065, HB 2592, HB 2383 and SB 14. SB 581 also did not pass but its contents were mostly added to SB 582. There were bills related to mattress recycling, plastics, polystyrene and others that the League did not follow.

Toxics (Amelia Nestler)

The League continued to work to pass a Toxic Free Kids Program this session by providing testimony on HB 2495. But again, this session the bill did not pass. We will have yet another tool to address these issues. See our new Pesticides and other Biocides study. [Aside, thank you to Dr. Nestler for chairing the study! -- Becky Gladstone, LWVOR President.]

Water (Peggy Lynch, Amelia Nestler and Becky Powell)

SB 5545, the Water Resources Department’s budget bill was supported by the League. Here is a summary of budget and policy from the 2021 legislative session related to the Department’s activities. With projects authorized in HB 5006 and other end of session bills, the complete water package was over $530 million.

The Water Resources Department (WRD) also received Budget Note #9 in HB 5006: WRD is directed to use provided funding to contract with Oregon Consensus to convene a workgroup comprised of a balanced membership including, but not limited to, conservation groups, agricultural water users, municipal water users, environmental justice organizations, tribal interests and state agencies including WRD and ODFW to consider regional water management opportunities that build on the 100-Year Water Vision and further the goals of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy. This note reflects work requested in HB 2251 which did not pass. The League had concerns around regional water planning if Oregon counties were to be the lead, as HB 2251 assumed. This Budget Note and monies allocated provides opportunities for a broad discussion before any such regional program is adopted. Water in Oregon belongs to all of us.

The Speaker of the House created a Water Committee for the 2021 session. With the expanding drought all around Oregon and the damage done by the 2020 Labor Day Wildfires, the legislature ended the session investing over $530 million in water staffing, projects and programs. The League provided testimony on a number of water bills that passed: HB 2142, increasing water permit fees for the Water Resources Dept. (WRD), HB 2018 related to groundwater and the U.S. Geologic Service working with WRD (including 3 public outreach staff) to create a database for a statewide “water budget”—now using multiple data sources including a 30-meter grid set of climate, precipitation and other data, HB 3105 to provide funding for the 4 place-based planning efforts (this bill did not pass but the funding was included in HB 5006), HB 2143 related to hydroelectric permitting with a fee increase and helps to fund 3 agencies. The amended bill left DEQ with about a $400k shortfall in this area, covered in HB 5006. HB 3103 makes clear that the holder of a water rights certificate can change the type of use of the water. It applies across the state, not just to the Deschutes Basin. And it also appropriates nearly $500,000 to gather stakeholders together to talk about other water issues that also could use changes. HB 3293 requiring local community engagement plans for water projects and for which LWVOR supported also passed.

We expressed concern or opposition to other bills. HB 2241 would allow private contractors to process DEQ water quality permits (LWVOR testimony in opposition) and HB 2657, a bill that would have required 60-day processing of certain permits, LWVOR testimony in opposition. We were disappointed that a version of HB 2594 did not pass that would have provided more protection to drinking water streams and other sources. However, a Work Group has been formed by Rep. Anna Williams to find consensus in 2022 or 2023. HB 3166 was the water measurement bill for the session. A Work Group attempted to find a compromise between the need for good data and those concerned with the need to measure the water they are legally using, but will continue over the interim. The League worked behind the scenes in support of a solution.We have followed work on addressing harmful algal blooms. The January Emergency Board meeting provided some staffing and equipment monies, the March rebalance bill HB 5042 also provided funding and additional funding was provided at end of session although we were disappointed that a bill for which we provided