The 2011 session was a mixed bag of environmental successes and failures.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Legislature passed Governor Kitzhaber's "Cool Schools" initiative, which calls for renovating aging school buildings to improve their energy efficiency. This proposal is a win on two fronts: the retrofitted schools will save money and pollute less by consuming less energy, and the program will create jobs.
The Legislature also passed a landmark modernization of Oregon's Bottle Bill, expanding the number of containers that can be returned for a deposit and imposing recycling benchmarks for the state to achieve in the future.
On the other hand, a number of important environmental bills failed to become law. A bill to ban the chemical Bisphenol A from baby products sold in Oregon easily passed the Democrat-controlled Senate but did not reach the floor of the 30-30 House. Legislation banning single-use plastic bags failed to move.
I was frustrated by the failure to pass House Bill 3109, which I co-sponsored along with a bipartisan group of colleagues. HB 3109 would have pushed the development in Oregon of markets for ecosystem services (the technical term for the goods that we receive from our natural environment, such as clean air and water, fertile soil, flood control, climate regulation, and wildlife habitat). The purpose of such markets is to enable flexible, innovative solutions to environmental problems, so that the state does not always have to rely on traditional methods of regulation that are sometimes ineffective, inefficient, and burdensome. HB 3109 would have been a clear win not only for the environment but for property owners and businesses. It was supported by a broad coalition of environmental and business organizations. Unfortunately, the bill fell victim to ideological politics at the end of session.