In this edition of The Way We Work, I interviewed Regna Merritt, the Healthy Climate Program Director at Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. Oregon PSR works to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival by striving to end the nuclear threat, advance environmental health, protect our climate, and promote peace.
“Crag is not only fun to work with, but is full of talent, tenacity, and a record of winning. Their expertise and experience as litigators has been a great benefit in fighting for a better future for our planet.” -Regna Merritt, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility has been at the forefront of climate action in Portland and across the state. Comprised of program staff, volunteer health professionals and advocates, Oregon PSR is working to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Regna Merritt, the Healthy Climate Program Director, has been co-leading the regional campaign to prevent coal export facilities on the West Coast. Of the six that have been proposed, four have been completely stopped. Regna said that “Crag was instrumental in helping us stop coal export facilities in Oregon.” Crag worked to halt the the project that would have brought coal from Montana to Boardman, Oregon, to be loaded on barges down the Columbia and shipped out at Port Westward:.
After collaborating with Crag on wilderness proposals while serving as the Executive Director of Oregon Wild, Regna came to Oregon PSR and was “thrilled to know Crag was fighting dangerous fossil fuel projects; they continue to be great partners.” In her new position, Regna initially focused on opposing coal export projects. As time went on, her work expanded to oil-by-rail export projects, and then to dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure overall. She appreciates how “Crag has been there to defend our communities and climate every step of the way.”
Crag is currently representing Oregon PSR and partners in defending the Portland Fossil Fuel Limitation, the first policy to prevent new bulk fossil fuel infrastructure in a United States city. The ordinance has been carefully watched by counties and municipalities across the country. Fossil fuel industry leaders took the policy seriously, opposing it at every turn. After they challenged the ordinance, Crag defended it at the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) and successfully argued before the Oregon Court of Appeals. “It was very exciting to see our lawyers in action; we love Crag and rely on them deeply to help us defend our communities.” She was glad the court affirmed the city’s right to protect the health and safety of the community.
“Crag is a lean machine with terrifically smart and dedicated attorneys. They have served the community in so many ways: protecting our health and environment throughout the Pacific Northwest. We always want them by our side.” -Regna Merritt, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Regna shared that the next steps toward the vision of a fossil-free future will be working with the Portland City Council to navigate the ordinance’s details and empowering other municipalities to enact similar ordinances. She also spoke of the importance of making existing facilities safer, as most of the state’s current fossil fuel infrastructure sits in a liquefaction zone vulnerable to earthquakes. She was proud that, on the same day the Trump Administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, the city and county set 100% renewable energy resolutions and policy to better serve low-income communities, communities of color, women, and minority-owned businesses. “With all of our values and laws at risk on the federal level, it’s more important than ever to be winning at the local level, bringing positive change and climate justice to the fore.”
Elliott Davis is a DukeEngage Intern at Crag for Summer 2018. He is a rising junior at Duke University majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. Elliott is interested in innovative legal and policy solutions to climate change, deforestation, and wildlife preservation.