Andrea Durbin Steps Down as Director of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

The former environmental advocate lasted a little less than three years on the job.

Andrea Durbin. (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) (SIDNEY SMITH)

Andrea Durbin, the director of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, announced this afternoon she will leave the job she took a little less than three years ago.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is time for me to focus on my family and being more present for my daughter during her last two years before she leaves for college,” Durbin said in a statement. “If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it is that life is too short. I’ve decided it is time to prioritize my family. I will be working closely with Commissioner Rubio and BPS leadership during this transition.”

Durbin, who came to the city after 13 years at the Oregon Environmental Council, where she served as executive director, struggled to make the transition from advocate to administrator.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Durbin’s bureau proposed a controversial new tax on smokestack emissions. Emails showed that she had shared policy details with environmental groups in advance but had given far less notice to the companies that would pay the tax.

The City of Portland Wants a New Carbon Tax. It Might Kill Bottle Recycling in Oregon to Get One

The policy proposal unleashed a firestorm of criticism from affected industries and business groups and put Durbin on shaky footing with her new boss, City Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who took office in 2021.

Rubio pulled the new tax proposal off the table and engaged in consultation with critics before floating a different, far less expensive taxing mechanism late last year.

That policy is still under development.

As BPS director, Durbin also had oversight of the Portland Clean Energy Fund, which gets its funding from a standalone tax but is housed in her bureau. Although a recent city audit criticized PCEF for a lack of metrics and accountability, Rubio said in a statement that she and Durbin have been contemplating a change for some time.

“Director Durbin and I began discussing her desire to make a shift a couple of months ago,” Rubio said. “I have no doubt that we will work together on these crucial issues in the future. Director Durbin has championed faster, more forceful action to address our climate crisis, and she has supported me in making the case for urgent, increased investment in our climate work.”

Durbin’s last day is April 6. BPS deputy director Donnie Oliveira will succeed her on an interim basis.

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