A wrap up of the 2021 legislative session in Oregon

This year's legislative session has come to a close. Here is an update on some of the amazing progress that was made this year, and some unfinished business for the future. 

Every year, Environment Oregon, equipped with our legislative agenda and the support of our tens of thousands of members, goes to Salem to advocate in the legislature for a cleaner, greener future for Oregon. This year was unlike any session before it, with all meetings, committee hearings and floor debates happening virtually, and the state grappling with multiple unprecedented challenges.  

This year’s legislative session ended on Saturday, so I wanted to share with you some of the amazing progress that was made this year, and some unfinished business that we plan on pushing in the future. 

Big wins for the environment

100% Clean Energy for All (House Bill 2021
House Bill 2021 commits electricity providers to deliver 100 percent clean power to Oregon customers by 2040. This bill will make Oregon the eighth state to adopt a commitment for 100% clean electricity and is the fastest timeline adopted by a state to date. It also includes a first-in-the-country ban on all new or expanded fossil fuel power plants in the state. It’s a huge step forward for Oregon in the transition to a clean energy future.

Destination: Zero Carbon (House Bill 2165)
House Bill 2165 helps the shift to zero emission vehicles by making it more affordable and convenient for Oregonians to purchase electric vehicles. Transportation is Oregon’s number one source of global warming pollution, with greenhouse emissions from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles surpassing every other source. Getting more Oregonians into electric vehicles is critical for tackling climate change and ensuring that Oregonians have clean air to breathe, and this bill will help Oregon meet those goals.

The Cleanest Energy: Efficiency & Conservation (House Bill 2062 and House Bill 2842)
The legislature passed two bills to increase energy efficiency this session. Energy efficiency is essential for protecting our health, our wallets and our planet. House Bill 2062 strengthens Oregon’s appliance efficiency standards, and though not the most sexy policy, embracing efficient appliances is an incredibly simple and cost-effective way for Oregon to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our utility bills. In addition, the legislature passed House Bill 2842, which will make investments in energy efficiency upgrades in low income and environmental justice communities and help Oregonians use less energy, reduce their energy bills and be safer and healthier in their own homes. 

The Recycling Modernization Act (Senate Bill 582)
This bill will make some much needed improvements to our recycling system to make it work better for Oregon and ensure better environmental outcomes. It sets up a “shared responsibility” system in which producers of packaging, paper products and food serviceware will start bearing some of the costs of the waste management system. For decades, we’ve all had to pay the costs associated with plastic pollution: The cost of disposing of it; the public health costs of pollution from plastic trash in our incinerators and landfills; and the incalculable cost that plastics are inflicting on our environment. Yet somehow, producers of wasteful single-use plastic products have avoided paying up. Senate Bill 582 begins to change that. It’s not everything we want, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Unfinished business

A lot of progress was made in the 2021 legislative session, but unfortunately not all of our priority bills made it past the finish line. We went into this session with an ambitious agenda for reducing plastic pollution, but unfortunately legislators decided to kick the “plastic pollution reduction can” down the road to future sessions. The Right to Repair bill that we supported didn’t pass out of committee after a huge lobbying push by big tech firms, and a bill that would help create a rulemaking process to mitigate diesel pollution from construction equipment and other off-road sources stalled out in the budget committee. We look forward to pushing these and other important issues forward in future sessions. 

Finally, thank you to everyone who wrote or called your legislators and made your voice heard on these issues. Thank you to the legislators who stood up for the environment during a stressful virtual session. Thank you to our coalition partners for working with us, inspiring us and for your steadfast dedication. And thank you to Environment Oregon members and supporters who were with us every step of the way. We look forward to continuing to work together for a cleaner, greener future for Oregon. 

Header image by Myredcoug from Pixabay 


Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.

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