Oregon lawmakers introduce heat relief bills | Government and politics
KELCIE GREGA Oregon Capital Office
Two bills that advocates say will save lives during the next heat wave were introduced in the Oregon House and Senate earlier this month with support from lawmakers, health professionals and environmental justice and housing advocates.
Sen. Kayse Jama, D-Portland, and Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, introduced two sister bills intended to provide Oregonians with better access to cooling during times of extreme heat.
Last summer’s triple-digit temperatures turned out to be one of the deadliest natural disasters on record in Oregon’s history. At least 96 people died during the heat wave in late June, when temperatures reached 116 degrees, according to data released by the Oregon Medical Examiner’s Office to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Most of those who died lived alone and had no access to air conditioning, the report said.
Emergency Heat Assistance for Tenants – Senate Bill 1536 – would remove barriers for tenants trying to install portable air conditioners, and help landlords establish voluntary cooling shelters for tenants with funding and technical assistance.
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“As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to carefully analyze how people are affected by extreme heat and take action to protect those who are least likely to survive,” said Jama, the project’s sponsor. law and Democrat of Portland.
Air conditioning units are not commonplace in Oregon apartments due to its historically mild climate. While last summer’s “heat dome” was unprecedented, climate scientists say 2021 was just a warning for what was to come.
There is language in Oregon law stating what landlords are required to do to keep a property “livable”, but there is no reference to keeping housing “cool”. Landlords are even allowed to prohibit tenants from installing their own portable air conditioning units.
While SB 1536 does not categorically prohibit landlords from prohibiting tenants from installing “portable cooling devices,” it does lift some restrictions on cooling devices and make it harder for landlords to terminate the tenancy. a tenant due to violations around a portable cooling device.
The bill would also allocate $15 million to the Oregon Department of Energy to incentivize homeowners to improve electrical, mechanical and other structural barriers that inhibit cooling in multi-family households.
An additional $2 million would go to the Oregon Department of Social Services to be distributed to local and tribal governments to help them establish extreme weather shelters like cooling and warming centers.
The bill is scheduled for a working session at the Senate Housing and Development Committee at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Another bill, HB 4058, would focus on short-term emergency air conditioning deployment, as well as establishing a heat pump deployment program through the US Department of Energy. Oregon.
The bill, sponsored by Ashland Democrat Marsh, would allocate $5 million to the Oregon Health Authority to deploy emergency air conditioning and air filtration to supplement existing fire work of forest.
An additional $10 million would go to the Oregon Department of Energy for efficient incentives for heat and cooling pumps that would prioritize low-income communities and environmental justice, especially rural communities that use bulk fuels such as wood, kerosene, and propane, or electrical resistance heating used. mainly in mobile and manufactured homes.
Heat pumps can cool and heat homes at a much lower carbon cost than air conditioners and furnaces by transferring heat from one location to another, Oriana Magenera, energy, climate and transportation program manager at Verde, a non-profit organization based in Portland. Magenera is currently working with lawmakers on heat relief bills.
“It’s a very efficient way to heat and cool spaces,” Magenera said. “That’s the best possible technology, that’s what we’re focused on incentivizing in these bills.”
Ashley Audycki is a Coos Bay-based organizer for Rogue Climate, a climate justice organization that has installed more than 250 low-cost heat and cooling pumps for low-income and rural households in southern Oregon and La South side.
“Even on the coast, where temperatures are often moderate, the extreme heat this summer has affected many people, especially those without home cooling,” Audycki said.
HB 4058 was scheduled for a working session at the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Monday.
Although there have been attempts in previous legislative sessions to get more heat relief policy, Magenera says the urgency brought on by last year’s heatwave puts the issue more in the spotlight. people’s minds.
“I think the severity of the heat dome last summer and the fact that it happened on the last day of the legislative session are really important factors in giving momentum to this particular policy,” said- she declared.