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Wheeler, Bailey stake out positions before important environmental debate

Hours before an important debate before major environmental organizations, the leading candidates for Portland mayor announced new environmental-related proposals Thursday afternoon.

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler said that if elected mayor, he would facilitate a process to plan for a transition toward a renewable energy future for the city.

Wheeler said that discussions will proceed with the collaborative efforts of labor, environmental and social justice advocates, communities of color, the renewable energy industry, utilities, and the broader business community. They will focus on how best to transition to renewable sources of energy in the electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation sectors.

“Portland's government has focused mainly on what we are against in terms of fossil fuels. I also want to lead a discussion that focuses on what we are for,” said Wheeler. “I cannot overstate the massive opportunity here — we’re talking tens of thousands of middle-class jobs that will be created from the transition toward an economy based on more renewable energy, with opportunities in clean tech manufacturing, clean tech research and development, sustainable transportation, green building, and renewable energy infrastructure.”

According to the announcement, to further advance the city's climate action goals, Wheeler supports increasing sustainability requirements on government buildings, utilizing the city’s new green bonding authority to finance environmentally friendly projects, reconfiguring the city’s vehicle fleet to achieve zero emissions, building out the city's alternative fuel infrastructure, increasing equitable public transit and bicycle infrastructure, incentives to attract clean industries to Portland, and advocating for carbon pricing at the statewide and multi-state level.

The announcement followed Mutnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey release on Wednesday of a multi-point plan for fighting climate change. It was an expansion of the environmental proposals he included in the plan he released when he announced for mayor in January.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Bailey announced he supported the creation of a metro-wide authority air regulatory authority. The announcement followed the revelation that glass manufacturing companies may have released heavy metals into the air that posed health risk.

Among other things, Bailey called for Portland, Metro, Multnomah County, Clackamas County, and Washington County to create a local, multi-jurisdictional program to develop and fund a "robust plan" to prevent further potential catastrophic air toxic emissions and fully inform the public.

“As Mayor, I will bring together representatives from cities and counties in the Metro area, along with stakeholders from neighborhoods, environmental organizations, businesses and local leaders to devise an actionable plan that’s enforceable and transparent.”

In the meantime, Bailey says local government should work with the State to better fund the State Department of Environmental Quality and enact stronger monitoring and enforcement standards.

The Thursday evening debate at Benson High School is sponsored by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club and the Oregon Environmental Council, 1000 Friends of Oregon, 350 PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Coalition of Communities of Color, Columbia Riverkeeper, Let's Talk Climate, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Urban Greenspaces Institute, and Willamette Riverkeeper.

A previous Portland Tribune story can be read at portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/296040-173463-bailey-releases-expanded-climate-change-plan-before-important-environmental-debate.