Go to Cascadia Scorecard.

Seattle, WA – According to new research by Seattle-based Sightline Institute, the Northwest is making only slow progress on key trends that shape our prosperity and environmental health. The region especially lags behind world leaders when it comes to energy efficiency and curbing sprawl, and is stalled on economic security for middle- and low-income northwesterners.

“The Pacific Northwest has a ways to go before we can claim to be a leader in fostering sustainable, healthy communities,” said Clark Williams-Derry, Sightline’s research director and lead author of Sightline’s annual “Cascadia Scorecard” report.

To compile the 2007 Cascadia Scorecard, Sightline researchers collected data on seven long-term trends, ranging from energy to wildlife, and from health to economy. They assessed progress the region has made in each trend and how the Northwest—which includes British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington—compares with world leaders for each indicator.

The Scorecard, Williams-Derry said, is an alternative to misleading but influential indicators such as the Dow Jones industrial average and GDP. “Unless we know how we stand on the trends that truly affect northwesterners’ lives, we can’t make good decisions,” he said.

Northwest policymakers cited the report as a unique and useful decision-making tool.

“Measuring our real progress helps us make decisions that affect our long-term quality of life,” said Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. “Washington made important strides this session toward improving Scorecard trends in the future. New policies such as the emissions standards bill and the Rainy Day fund will serve as real solutions to curb climate change and bolster our economic security.”

“The Cascadia Scorecard is an invaluable tool that helps us track the progress we’re making in the Pacific Northwest to address critical issues like climate change,” said US Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. “It also highlights the need to adopt long-term solutions, such as better community design, reducing energy use, and strengthening local economies.”

This year’s Cascadia Scorecard found the region stalled in several important areas, but uncovered some surprisingly positive trends as well. Highlights include:

  • Energy use remains stuck in high gear. Counting both highway fuels and electricity in homes and businesses, northwesterners consume the energy-equivalent of 14.5 gallons of gasoline a week, per person—more than double the rate of energy-efficient nations such as Germany. But while diesel and electricity use are on the rise, the good news is the Northwest states have cut back per-person gasoline use to the lowest level since the late 1960s, on average. British Columbians use one-third less energy, per person, than residents of the Northwest states, and Idaho has made the biggest recent cutbacks in gasoline use.
  • Economy security is still out of reach for many northwesterners. Despite sharp increases in the Dow Jones industrial average and rapid growth in the region’s total economic output over the past 15 years, median household income for northwesterners has largely stagnated.
  • Measure 37 in Oregon is chipping away at the state’s leadership in protecting farmland and open spaces. In the Portland metro region alone, claimants have filed more than 2,000 residential applications for Measure 37 waivers. Together, these claims could add nearly 14,000 housing units and 36,000 new residents, mostly on the urban fringe outside of agreed-upon growth boundaries.
  • The Northwest has made slow overall progress, with the region’s performance boosted by steady increases in lifespan, lower teen birthrates, and some success at curbing sprawl. Also, just in the past year, BC, Oregon, and Washington have adopted ambitious policies to jumpstart energy efficiency and decrease our contribution to climate change, a key threat to long-term health.

“The Northwest has made important strides on climate action,” said Sightline’s Williams-Derry. “And our cutbacks in gasoline use show that ordinary northwesterners can make a difference.”

The region’s citizens, Williams-Derry said, should also pay close attention to critical upcoming decisions that will steer the Northwest’s quality of life—for better or worse—for decades to come. These include a fall vote in Oregon on reforming Measure 37 and road-building proposals in Vancouver, BC, and Washington’s Puget Sound region.

“Northwesterners are committed to leadership in climate solutions, healthy communities, and economic security,” he said. “We have the opportunity and the know-how to put that commitment into practice.”

For details on how Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia stack up in this year’s “Cascadia Scorecard,” please visit scorecard.sightline.org

June 12, 2007