May 5, 2021

The Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution April 15 that will prohibit the use of fossil fuels in new and remodeled Multnomah County buildings. The resolution was brought forward by the Multnomah County Office of Sustainability at the direction of Chair Deborah Kafoury, after County residents petitioned the County to take the step in anticipation of new library construction. 

“This morning’s resolution put forward by our Office of Sustainability is based on a simple principle: The best way to reduce carbon emissions is to stop using fossil fuels.” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. 

In November of 2020, voters approved a library construction bond that will pay for the building of a new flagship library in East Multnomah County, along with major renovations of other library locations and construction of a new logistics center. Climate Solutions, an Oregon non-profit dedicated to accelerating actions to protect the climate, launched a petition to ensure that those new library buildings be built without dedicated fossil fuel infrastructure like natural gas connections for heating. 

“Our kids will inherit the decisions we collectively make today about their future,” stated Meredith Connolly, Oregon State Director for Climate Solutions. “One of those decisions that has a long-lasting legacy is our buildings, which on average last half a century. We must build smarter and future-proof public buildings starting now. We must draw the line on embedding fossil fuels into the buildings where our families and our community gathers.”

The Board embraced that vision, and with the resolution directs the County to update the LEED Gold High Performance Green building policy to ban the use of fossil fuels in most cases. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the widely used building rating system. 

“Policy is critical because it conveys the County’s values, and it provides clear guidance to the project management team, including hired designers, engineers and contractors,” said Dan Zalkow, Multnomah County Facilities and Property Management Director. “When building a new building, or doing a major renovation, using electricity rather than gas for space and water heating is generally feasible and cost-effective, although it may cost a bit more upfront.”

In addition to buildings, the resolution also directs the Office of Sustainability, in partnership with the Department of County Assets, to develop an electric vehicle strategy for the County fleet and vehicles. Senior Sustainability Policy Analyst, Tim Lynch, told the Board, “after offsetting electricity emissions with green energy purchases, fossil gas and transportation fuels are the first and second largest sources of carbon emissions respectively from County operations.”

With the Board's adoption of the resolution, staff will begin work on updating the green building policy, and developing an electric vehicle strategy for the County.