Beyer, Burdick, Edwards, and a Bunch of Other Democrats Fail to Stand Up for Progressive Values on HB 2700

Nick Engelfried

I’ll admit I’m having a hard time fathoming the Oregon legislature right now. Why, during today’s economic times, would you support a bill that puts jobs in some of Oregon’s most important rural industries on the line? Why, when offered a chance to amend said bill to remove the most harmful parts, would you decide not to take it?

In the last two weeks the Oregon Senate has done both these things, first declining to amend a bill that may streamline projects destructive to the farming, fishing, and timber industries, then passing the bill on the floor. The legislation in question is House Bill 2700. Though ostensibly intended to ease permitting for local infrastructure, it would also streamline destructive projects like liquefied natural gas pipelines. Some even refer to the legislation as the “LNG Fast-Track Bill.”

While I’d like to blame the bill’s passage on industry-friendly Republicans, the unfortunate truth is prominent Senate Democrats were equally important in the process. Neither support nor opposition to HB 2700 was drawn along party lines. According to Oregonlive.com’s bill tracker, HB 2700 passed the Senate yesterday 20-9, with both “yes” and “no” votes split almost evenly between parties. When the bill passed the House in March, support was only slightly more skewed toward Republicans.

Perhaps even more important, the bill was considered by the Senate Business, Transportation, and Economic Development Committee before it went to the floor. In an earlier blog post I argued the three Democrats on the committee—Chris Edwards, Ginny Burdick, and Committee Chair Lee Beyer—should seize this chance to amend HB 2700 so as to exclude LNG projects. Not only did they decline to do this; all three joined eight of their Democratic colleagues in voting for the bill on the floor.

In doing this (sorry, there’s no point pretending) I believe they betrayed some of the finest values of their party. If you’re wondering why, you can read my reasoning here and here.

(More after the jump)

Interestingly, according to the Forest Grove News-Times, Beyer has said he isn’t concerned about the bill’s impact on LNG because he doesn’t think LNG will succeed in Oregon anyway. He may well be right about this, but that doesn’t really excuse supporting LNG fast-track legislation. If you’re so certain LNG is dead anyway, why not send a message to voters by amending a bill that could speed up permitting for such projects?

In the end I believe Beyer probably is correct: we will not see any LNG projects in Oregon, because the political momentum to stop them is so strong. A remarkable coalition of environmentalists, farmers, foresters, and others have kept LNG at bay in Oregon for years, and have already defeated at least one LNG proposal. These people aren’t going to give up just because the legislature passes a lousy fast-track bill, and plenty of avenues remain for stopping LNG.

I remain confident opponents of LNG will ultimately be successful in keeping a destructive industry that would undermine Oregon’s green leadership out of the state. When the last out-of-state LNG company packs up and leaves, it will be a victory for progressive values in Oregon. But progressive activists won’t have much reason to thank Beyer, Burdick, Edwards, and other key Democrats who helped pass HB 2700.

Comments

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    Transparency statement: over the last few years I’ve volunteered with several groups involved in fighting LNG pipelines. All opinions expressed in this post, including my harsh assessment of the performance of some Democrats, are mine and mine alone.

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    They aren't just your opinions, Nick. Did you check their re-election coffers? I find that has the answers most of the time. Much of that money will go to Mandate Media that runs this site, though, and it takes google ads, more corporate cash. No prohibition on corporate cash going to Dems though. Sad, really. Only Ben Cannon as far as I know has pledged no corporate or union boss money (plenary votes of unions to donate would be fine though). Maybe it is time to start looking at third parties that do make such principled stands.

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    The passage of this bill is a big disappointment.

    LNG's backers admit LNG emits 30% more global warming pollution than domestic gas. We really can't afford to be dilly-dallying on the climate issue.

    If Governor Kitzhaber wants to take a relatively easy step to fight the climate crisis and reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels, he should veto the bill. It could come back without the LNG component.

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    i spoke with staff of one Democrat who voted for it. his argument: instead of having to condemn land before beginning the process of doing road planning (needed in his district) this lets the planning process, between ODOT/county and property owners, before having to go to the condemnation process. his staffer adamantely denied the bill was "an LNG bill".

    just sharing the diversity of opinion on this bill, not all of which is based on selling out to the LNG industry. (me: i oppose the bill & anything that gives LNG a chance to gain a foothold.)

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      Ya, it's great for any business that wants to condemn property. However, this bill and its predecessors were motivated by the desire to site new gas pipelines linked to LNG terminals. It is not surprising that said staffer "adamantly denied."

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    Follow the money. Look at the record: past and present employment and issue positions. The votes on HB2700 were no surprise.

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