Will Lee Beyer, Chris Edwards, and Ginny Burdick Stand Up for Democratic Values Next Week?

Nick Engelfried

"LNG companies are seeking first and foremost to make a profit, and should have to work hard to prove their proposals are justified."

Update: it now looks like the vote on the anti-LNG amendment to HB 2700 will probably be put off at least another week. Hopefully that gives committee members even more time to think about the reasons why LNG is a bad deal for Oregon.

Ok, Democratic state senators: Oregon’s small landowners and green businesses need you. Next week the Senate Business, Transportation, and Economic Development Committee will vote on a bill amendment that would prevent fast-tracking of permits for destructive liquefied natural gas pipelines. When that happens, the three Democrats on the committee (Ginny Burdick, Chris Edwards, and Committee Chair Lee Beyer) will have a chance to show Oregonians they’re prepared to stand up to giant energy companies that want to make our state a throughway for LNG.

The amendment in question applies to House Bill 2700, a bill passed by the House which is now making its way through the Senate. HB 2700 would make it easier for infrastructure projects like sidewalks and waterlines to obtain permits they need to move forward—arguably a worthy goal that helps municipalities. However as currently written the bill also streamlines permitting for giant energy infrastructure like LNG pipelines. That’s a problem, and sometime next week the Business, Transportation, and Economic Development Committee will have a chance to fix it.

Why should LNG pipelines be treated differently from smaller local infrastructure? For one thing, a major gas pipeline has a much bigger negative impact on local economies than these smaller projects. I mean, when was the last time you heard about a small farmer being put out of business by a sidewalk? As I’ve written before, LNG pipelines will hurt Oregon agriculture and our natural resources while displacing clean energy. It just makes sense that a project this big should have to jump through more hoops than the sidewalk your local government wants to build.

Secondly, LNG companies aren’t public works projects like a municipal sidewalk. The Oregon LNG pipeline in northern Oregon, the Pacific Connector pipeline off of Coos Bay, and other pieces of proposed LNG infrastructure are pushed by giant energy corporations, in some cases come from out of state. These companies are seeking first and foremost to make a profit, and should have to work hard to prove their proposals are justified. That’s why an amendment to HB 2700 that excludes LNG-related pipelines makes good sense.

Fast-tracking LNG goes against Oregon progressive values—but conservative Republicans have also opposed the idea, on the grounds that landowner property rights are under threat. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason Atkinson, the relevant committee’s Republican vice-chair, decided to support excluding LNG from HB 2700. Though I don’t know Atkinson’s specific position on this bill, his prior stances on energy and the fact that his district is impacted by an LNG pipeline make me suspect he can’t be a big fan of LNG. If all three committee Democrats vote in favor of an amendment, and are joined by at least one Republican, they could stop a well-meaning piece of legislation from being used to fast-track LNG.

If this happens it will be a victory for Oregon landowners, the clean energy economy, and progressive values. This is a clear case where lawmakers can side with the little people over large fossil fuel corporations, sending a signal to their constituents that they really do care. Here’s hoping Lee Beyer, Chris Edwards, and Ginny Burdick are ready to do the right thing.

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    Yeah you know... the premise of this, including the headline rubs me as the wrong way to conduct business. You don't get to single handedly decide that legislators are unDemocratic if they don't vote your way on one piece of legislation. I don't know a lot about the other two but Ginny Burdick has been nothing short of a Liberal Lion in the Oregon Senate. Your entire approach here would almost make me want to find a way to vote against your desire on this topic despite my general agreement with you. There's a way to do things. This ain't it.

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      Oh, come on. Nick has the right to his own opinion - he's written an opinion piece. You are not compelled to agree or acknowledge that he speaks for you. If we came here for nothing but praise for Democratic politicians, we could read their campaign literature instead.

      As to Senator Burdick, she has righteously shilled for private utilities in the past, "liberal lion" or not.

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        Burdick may be a "liberal lion", but not when it comes to private utilities. She is currently trying to remove language Oregon statute that bars private utilities from charging fees to pay for taxes that the utilities are not paying, and opposes language that would ensure that her employer, PGE, would have to pay its fair share of Oregon taxes.

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      Sounds familiar. "If you don't agree with what I think makes a Democrat, then you must be unDemocratic." Way to grow the party!

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    Sure he has the right. I also have the right to disagree in any fashion I choose, right?

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      Not by suggesting Nick does not have that right, you don't. Suggesting his approach is unwise business, sure. Praising Burdick, sure. But he gets to decide for himself, which he did.

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      Jesse, I re-read this to see where Nick Englefried's concerns moved from the specific to the general, and I just don't find that -- except, arguably, in the headline.

      No doubt each of these three will "stand up for Democratic values" many times next week -- maybe even throughout the week.

      But there are likely to be times, next week or last month or by the June 30 sine die, when their votes didn't / don't / won't reflect YOUR personal Democratic values.

      So maybe the headline should have been specific to HB 2700.

      But I think you are taking offense a tad too easily here:

      LNG is a sour deal on every level, and HB 2700 is a very bad bill.

      Salem is brutal this year, and a lot of bad bills have Democratic sponsorship; this is one of the worst.

      It is the only bill actively promoting fossil fuels, and so you can make a good case that it is the most anti-climate bill in this session. That's outrageous.

      It's been identified as one of the top six "pro-business" priorities by Associated Oregon Industries, with a dangerously-deceptive sales pitch.

      It ought to be defeated, and at a minimum, it needs to be amended to exclude LNG pipelines. Nick does a beautiful job of detailing that, throughout his series on this bill. Nothing rude in that.

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    I think you're reading to far into my comment. Of course he has the right. Of course, of course of course. Never said he didn't.


    Well said. I still don't like Nick's tact


    Hope the initial comment wasn't to harshly worded.


    Revisit point A. I actually agree with Nick's policy objective.

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    Clarification accepted, and sorry for the impersonal approach. Due to some disagreement between my computer and the facebook verification system, I do not know the identity of commenters. All I get are little white silhouettes

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    I'm loving the discussion here about framing of this issue - and must say I feel flattered to see such weight granted to the title of my modest blog post. I do want to point out that nowhere in my post did I accuse any of the three Democrats I mention of betraying their party's values - or for that matter of doing anything wrong at all. I just explained what I hope they will do when the vote to amend HB 2700 comes up. Should I have mentioned the bill name in the headline? Maybe, but I think for a blog post title it's a little long already.

    I have confidence each of the three Democrats I mentioned has stood up for their party's values many, many times - and it's great to hear about others' experiences working with them in the Senate. I hope these three legislators will hold true to what their party stands for yet again when the vote to amend HB 2700 comes up. So far I don't see why they wouldn't: as I pointed out before, amending HB 2700 just makes sense.

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    It would seem to me that under progressive leadership this bill would have been burried long ago... so I think Nick is right on-

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    OK, I'm probably just ignorant, but here's what I don't get. We already have roads carved through all these mountains; highways that go from just about anyplace to anyplace. Why on earth do we need to carve out another chunk of land for some gas pipeline? I suppose it can cut some corners by making a straight line, but I think there should be no new right-of-ways; just add a few feet along side an existing one if we need a new pathway.

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