Candidates for Oregon Legislature discuss views on environmental challenges

MEDFORD, Ore. — Monday night, candidates for the Oregon legislatures and Jackson County Commissioner Position met at the Medford Library fora an open forum.

The forum was put on by Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, SOCAN, for legislatures to talk about their positions on environmental issues and discuss with the public.

Not all legislatures were there. Senate District three opponents Republican Jessica Gomez and Democrat Jeff Golden were part of the forum. House district five representative Pam March and House District six Michelle Blum Atkinson was there.

Each contestant was asked a series of questions from SOCAN and the audience. The topics included climate change, forest management and toxic chemical use.

Question: The 2019 legislative session will likely be considering a proposal to address climate change with a bill that caps statewide emissions and supports sequestration efforts. What positions will you bring to the discussions of such a proposal and why?

Rep. Jessica Gomez:

“I think you’re referring to the clean energy jobs bill and this is the area where Jeff, my opponent, and I really differ. I have two issues with this bill, number one, it implements a really complex capitrade system. Right now I don’t have a lot of confidence that this state can actually manage that structure. We tried in some ways to do something similar with the business energy tax credit, it was an absolute disaster in fact, we have a lot of fraud and some people went to jail over this. The other thing I feel like is an issue here is that if we’re really looking at using carbon emissions, which is what I would love to do, I don’t think that this bill really gets there. We’re talking about generating 750 million dollars per year and we don’t know how the money is actually going to be spent. I think we need to start investing in water recollection and water conservation. I love the WISE project,
that’s a great use of funds, also getting into our forest and doing proper forest management and I don’t see that this bill gets us there.”

Dem. Jeff Golden:

“I don’t know of any responsibility more serious that we have than reducing green house gasses as quickly and dramatically as we possibly can. I do think that a rational society that has politics less dominated by corporations would have started pricing carbon emissions about 20 years ago, about the time Exxon was sending internal memos describing climate change and
exactly what it would bring about, but we haven’t had the political will to do that. I really have difficulty hearing the position that we need to be studying this more or refining the system more. It is complex and it is challenging to do, the alternative is a lot worse. We’re following in the path of California that has figured out carbon markets, not perfectly, it’s something that’s never been done before, there are problems here, but were not starting from scratch. Oregon’s a small state, it’s true it can now be part of the western front that California, Washington, and British Columbia to take one
the national leadership that Washington D.C. refuses to. We have to do this, it’s very true we have some tough questions to answer. What hasn’t been filled in, how big will the loop holes be for administers, exactly how will the money be spent. It’s true that isn’t figured out and how will economically challenged people be protected from the energy transition cause that’s who
usually gets hammered when there’s a big transition. We can do this, other states are generating clean energy jobs, there’s no other choice than to dramatically support this bill in my view.”

Question: What components of your federal and state parties environmental policies do you support? Which do you oppose? How would you show your agreement or disagreement?

Michelle Blum Atkinson:

“Oregon’s democratic platform leads off saying, ‘we know environmental protection is a cost effective and essential for our survival’. We all know this is a real critical issue, this is life and death issue of protecting our environment. I believe in scientific peer based study of this problem, in order to have a solution we need to be scientific. I support an equitable
transition away from fossil fuel, so this needs to be something that doesn’t effect low income people the most. This could be something that actually helps low income people to build up and have more. Nationally, I support senator Jeff Merkley’s goal of 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050, although sooner would be better. I oppose our countries withdraw from the Paris agreement. What it means is that states like Oregon need to be more proactive in defending our environment. I do not support the Jordan Cove pipeline and this is something that not everyone in my party opposes but, I think its too risky.”

Pam Marsh:

“This is actually the time that I get to thank all of you, because the reason we have this great democratic party platform that Jeff referred to is because there’s members of you that are willing to track up and sit in meetings and spend weekends really fighting for a platform that is powerful and speaks to these issues, so thank you to all of you for doing that. I support
everything in the platform, I would note that the only issue I think that is not specifically called out is that issue of Jordan Cove and we have some conflict in our party across the state. I am firmly against Jordan Cove, have been since before I ran for office and that’s an issue that we have to continue to talk about to really make it clear what the costs of Jordan Cove are,
from both an emissions point of view, a landowners point of view and from an equity point of view. Where I do disagree I want to say, we have all these wonderful words, we have a party that’s pretty good but where I do disagree is the sense of urgency I have around these issues. We’ve been talking about climate legislation for ten years and I would say climate has gotten up to
all my colleagues top five issues, but the problem is it can’t be number five or number four or number three, to get passed it has to be number one or number two, because that’s how much time and attention we have for big efforts like climate legislation.”

There will be another forum for the Jackson County Commissioner candidates on October 15.

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