Tuesday, Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Oregon's 76th State Legislative Assembly's 2011 term. Although many consider Oregon a fairly "green" state which values environmentally-sustainable policies, the 30-30 split between Democrats and Republicans making up the House could mean that many environmental bills will not become law in a climate filled with tensions under significant economic duress. On the other hand, it can also be argued that focusing on the environment and responsible living is an issue which crosses partisan lines when we think of the public good and what is best for Oregon. Some of the environmental bills already proposed that could significantly affect Oregonians include:
Senate Bill 536
This bill "prohibits use of single-use checkout bags except in certain cases" and "allows the Department of Environmental Quality to impose civil penalty." This bill would mean a significant decrease in the amount of plastic bags wasted. Many Oregonians already bring their own reusable bags when they shop, but a majority of people either forget to bring them or just find it easier to use the plastic bags that are handed to them in the checkout lines. Passing this bill has the possibility of transforming permanently the single-use checkout bag to a remnant of the past.
House Bill 2960
This bill has the potential of creating a host of new jobs in the weatherization industry in schools that serve kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as providing grants and loans to fund weatherization. Weatherization refers to weather-proofing buildings — or in this case, schools — in order to make them more energy-efficient by reducing energy consumption. Not only would this put more green jobs on the market, but it would also help schools to reduce costs by operating more sustainably on a day-to-day basis.
House Bill 2736
This bill would authorize the State Board of Forestry to "acquire, designate or exchange state forestlands, Common School Forest Lands and Elliott State Forest Lands to create natural resource conservation areas" and would establish a "process for designation of natural resource conservation areas." This means that the state could protect natural resources like clean water, wildlife and carbon sequestration. This would create a push in the right direction for legally protecting the extensive natural resources that call Oregon home.
Although many critics do not give Oregon's legislature much credit, these bills have the potential to greatly benefit Oregon in a variety of ways. Not only are they advantageous for Oregon's economy by protecting its resources for the future and creating new jobs in the growing green market, they can also make Oregon one of the leaders in sustainable practices which will benefit communities across diverse regions, demographics and constituencies. It has yet to be seen if Oregon is up to the challenge.