FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, February 2, 2022
Oregon Legislature discusses “Emergency Heat Relief” bills at Hearings on Wednesday.
The House Environment & Natural Resources and Senate Housing & Development Committees will host hearings on Wednesday, February 2 at 1:00 PM and 3:15PM to discuss bills expanding cooling access in response to the deadly heatwaves this summer.
[SALEM, OR] — A bipartisan group of legislators, health professionals, and energy, housing, and environmental justice advocates are urging the Oregon legislature to respond to the record-breaking heatwave where at least 96 Oregonians died and countless others suffered without access to life-saving cooling devices.
This Wednesday at 1:00PM (there will be a video livestream at this link), the House Environment & Natural Resources Committee will consider the Emergency Heat Relief bill (HB4058) to help protect Oregon families during extreme weather. A companion bill (SB1536) that addresses cooling access for renters will be heard at the Senate Committee on Housing & Development at 3:15PM today (livestream here.)
“Most people who died in last year’s heat dome had no access to life-saving cooling devices in their homes. The most vulnerable Oregonians were seniors, people with disabilities or underlying medical conditions, and those living in upper-level multifamily units or manufactured homes. With the climate crisis upon us, we can reasonably anticipate more extreme heat events in the future. This legislation is an attempt to respond to changes on the ground—and to save lives,” said Representative Pam Marsh (D-South Jackson County).
“We as lawmakers have a responsibility to carefully analyze how people are being impacted by extreme heat and take action to protect those who are least likely to survive, ” said Senator Kayse Jama (D-Portland).
Emergency Heat Relief for Communities (House Bill 4058) would expand access to emergency air conditioners, air filters, and energy-efficient heat and cooling pumps by:
- Allocating $5 million to the Oregon Health Authority for emergency air conditioner and air filtration deployment to complement existing wildfire work;
- $10 million to Oregon Department of Energy for efficient heat + cooling pump incentives prioritized to low-income and environmental justice communities, especially rural communities who utilize bulk fuels like wood, oil, and propane or the electric resistance heating that is found in many manufactured homes;
- Working to alleviate spikes in energy bills from technologies that keep families safe during heat waves, cold snaps, and bad air quality days.
Increasing access to energy efficient heating and cooling pumps will also benefit communities by reducing energy bills, creating jobs, and supporting the transition off bulk fuels, which can be expensive and have negative health impacts.
“Bulk fuels like wood, propane, and oil are common in rural and frontier communities in Oregon. 40% of families in Grant County and 37% in Harney County alone use wood as their only heating source. These are also two of the most energy burdened counties in the state. HB 4058 prioritizes communities like those in my district and ensures that they have access to heat + cooling pumps which are an efficient and affordable source of year-round comfort,” said Representative Mark Owens (R-Crane).
Meanwhile, Emergency Heat Relief for Renters (Senate Bill 1536) would remove barriers to renters who currently lack access to cooling and heating during extreme weather conditions by:
- Removing barriers for renters to install portable air conditioners,
- Helping landlords establish voluntary cooling centers for tenants through funding and technical assistance to expand access to places to stay cool,
- Requiring cooling in rentals that are new construction or in specific types of renovations,
- $15 million to Oregon Department of Energy for efficient heat + cooling pump incentives for landlords which includes support to help address the electrical, mechanical, and other structural barriers to increased cooling load in multifamily housing.
- $2 million to Oregon Department of Human Services to distribute for local and tribal governments to establish extreme weather shelters such as cooling centers, warming centers, and air shelters
“For years Community Alliance of Tenants members have advocated for the right to cooling. The recent heat wave, which disproportionately affected low-income renters, makes this issue not only one of comfort and dignity but also health. Many are surprised to hear that tenants do not have control over the temperature of their home because they do not have the right to add an air conditioner and the windows may not provide adequate ventilation. The upper stories retain more heat and tenants often do not have anywhere to go to find cooler temperatures,” said Kim McCarty, Executive Director of the Community Alliance of Tenants. “As we ready our state for the possibility of another devastating summer heat wave, legislators have a responsibility to act swiftly and provide Oregon renters with a right to cooling.”
“During the heatwave last summer many of my patients, regardless of what conditions brought them to the emergency room, had coexisting dehydration or heat exhaustion which complicated their treatment and increased their risk of poor outcomes, longer hospitalizations, and increased costs,” said Dr. Martin Donohoe, an Internal Medicine Physician in the Portland area and a member of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Access to cooling devices provided by these bills would have limited their heat exposure, greatly lessening their risk of short and long-term morbidity and mortality.”
“I’ve been a renter my whole life and spent the heat wave last summer huddled in front of an air conditioner that couldn’t keep up with the intense heat. Communities like the ones Verde serves need better access to technologies that both heat and cool whole rooms and homes efficiently. That’s why our heat + cooling pump program works to distribute these devices to low-income Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities, and HB 4058 will help other communities to do the same work across the state,” said Candace Avalos, Executive Director at Verde, an environmental justice nonprofit based in the Cully neighborhood of Northeast Portland.
“As the climate changes and Oregon experiences more extreme temperatures, it’s important that all Oregonians have access to energy efficient heating and cooling heat-pumps or emergency air conditioners until they can get heat pumps installed,” said Ashley Audycki, Coos Bay Organizer for Rogue Climate, a climate justice organization that has installed over 250 reduced-price heat and cooling pumps to low-income and rural households in Southern Oregon and the South Coast through its Energize programs. “Even on the coast, where temperatures are often moderate, the extreme heat this summer impacted many, especially those without home cooling.”
The Emergency Heat Relief bills have support from:
- State Senators Kayse Jama (D-Portland, Clackamas), Jeff Golden (D-Jackson County), and Deb Patterson (D-Salem)
- State Representatives Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland), David Gomberg (D-Central Coast), Mark Owens (R-Crane), Greg Smith (R-Heppner), Mark Meek (D-Oregon City), Ricki Ruiz (D-Gresham), Sheri Schouten (D-Beaverton), Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha), Rachel Prusak (D-West Linn), Dacia Grayber (D-Tigard), Zach Hudson (D-East Multnomah County), Khanh Pham (D-Portland), Lisa Reynolds (D-Portland), Maxine Dexter (D-Portland), Andrea Valderrama (D-Portland), and Marty Wilde (D-Lane & Linn Counties)
- Organizations including 2-1-1 Info, the Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Public Health Association, Oregon Nurses Association, Coalition of Communities of Color, Oregon Consumer Justice, Oregon Law Center, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board (CUB), and more.
You can learn more about these bills and their supporters at www.emergencyheatrelief.org.