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Legislative Update: Plastic Pollution Falls Short, EJ & Ocean Protection Bills Still Alive

If anything, it's been a rough legislative year for hearing and advancing Surfrider's key issues. With the pandemic creating major economic and social havoc on a number of sectors of Oregon's workforce and impacting various segments of our population disproportionately, our ocean and environmental issues have been hard to make priority in Salem. Nonetheless, Surfrider worked this legislative session with our partners to introduce and support a number of pieces of legislation, a few that are still alive and hopefully moving soon. With Oregon's latest "stunning budget forecast" providing some greater certainty for the Ways and Means Subcommittees, Surfrider and our partners are hopeful that some of our bills will make it across the finish line this year and the backlog of policy bills will begin to be heard. While none of our plastic pollution priority bills moved this session, we did have a great hearing in the House on those issues this week, more on that here.

Charlie Plybon, lower right corner, provides testimony for the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. Navigating the ropes of public policy engagement through a virtual legislative session has been challenging, but our network has been digitally "showing up"!

Legislation Status 

Bills Still Alive:
HB 2603 - Undersea Cable Bill  - Currently in Ways and Means Committee awaiting a hearing. Background/details on original campaign page here. The bill, which primarily was to focus on planning between our seafloor and under our beaches, has been amended by the industry to no longer include this important nexus of planning, a concern but we still think the bill has merit.
HB 3114 Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Bill - Currently in Ways and Means awaiting a hearing. This is from our 2020 Ocean Climate Action campaign and it's moving this session! Persistence pays off - the bill addresses monitoring and mitigation of major climate induced ocean health stressors. Learn more on our campaign page.
SB 582 Modernizing Recycling - this is the "Modernizing Oregon's Recycling" bill. We are not supporting, but not opposing this bill either. It's a good bill for the recycling industry, a very limited start but a start on bringing producers into some level of responsibility, but it is limited (see our Full Producer Responsibility info below)
HB 2488 / SCR 17 Climate, Social Justice and Equity - These are climate equity and social environmental justice bills that Surfrider is supporting through a coalition led by Beyond Toxics and the NAACP. HB 2488 addresses public engagement in land use / statewide planning goals (Goal 1) through a stronger climate and equity lens and is currently awaiting a hearing in Ways and Means. SCR 17, which establishes an environmental justice framework for Oregon, has passed the Senate, cleared the House Energy and Environment Committee and is headed to the House floor soon.

Dead Bills:

HB 2592 - Full Extended Producer Responsibility - died early as we's been our progressive line on SB 582 (above). The shared responsibility model of SB 582 is a good start, but by not including collection costs in this model legislation, it puts 2/3 of the cost burden on consumers and only brings producers about 1/3 into responsibility. HB 2592 would have included the costs of collection and also established reduction targets for priority plastic products.
HB 2365 - Comprehensive Foodware - died early as we expected...we're hoping to get this conversation started but knew that this would be too much for this legislative session. We did get to cover this extensively in an informational hearing this May in the House Energy and Environment Committee.
HB 2617 - Polystyrene Ban - died early. Despite repeated false starts and a number of what can best be described as empty promises, this bill also failed to see the light of day. I expect the legislature will be compelled to act in the interim session, potentially even including this within a more comprehensive policy like that of HB 2365.

HB 2811 - Ban on Chemical Recycling - died early. With this false solution harming the environment and frontline communities, it was important for us to make a clear position that this was not the answer to our plastic pollution crisis.

HB 2672 - Oregon Beach Fund -died early. We first introduced this bill as a way to support beach management through tourism dollars 3 years ago for the 50th Anniversary of the Beach Bill. It's been popular enough to return each year, but has not made it past deadlines the past 2 years.