Fastest Repeal in the West

By Nick Abraham of Portland, Oregon. Nick is the editor and lead contributor of Oil Check Northwest, a local research-focused energy and politics watchdog.

Last Friday was National Flip-Flop Day and Salem lawmakers are celebrating in unusual fashion. No, our representatives aren’t shifting to casual dress code, or taking advantage of this summer’s sunny weather. In an unprecedented turn, (that rings of John Kerry-esk fumbling), after passing one of the landmark bills of the session and having it signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, the Clean Fuels Program is under threat of repeal.

After a full day of searching through Oregon legal history I cannot find a bill passed, signed and subsequently repealed faster than if legislators axed this law. If BlueOregon readers can name one I’d love to know in the comments.

This program protects clean air in Oregon and has already resulted in companies expanding production and increasing investment. But now it’s been placed on the sacrificial altar, in a fool’s bargain for cooperation on a transportation package. This program would break the current monopoly the oil industry holds on Oregon drivers. Despite the fact that Oregon has exactly zero refineries, out-of-state oil interests spent millions on lobbying and elections, frivolous lawsuits and even filed 3 ballot initiatives in the last year to try and keep our state from joining California and British Columbia (and soon Washington) as a clean fuels economic region.

Their oil soaked message has apparently reached the halls of Salem. Leaked details from the latest green-washed transportation package show that whole sections appear to be torn out of the the pages of those same oil industry ballot initiatives filed against Clean Fuels. Some have called this an "EZ Pass" for oil companies and a toll road for taxpayers, leaving them the only pump in town.

The Clean Fuels Program went through 6 years of public and transparent hearings, rule-making and legislative debate. In contrast, this repeal was decided on behind closed doors with the “gang of 8” legislators and Governor Kate Brown. Opponents have found a way to twist arms by holding hostage transportation funding that businesses, drivers and environmentalists have spent over half a decade fine tuning.

Instead of a market-based solution for curbing climate changing pollution, the new package offers up millions of taxpayer funded projects that guarantee nothing. It's a cul-de-sac deal, a dead-end for taxpayers.

Legislators are sent to the capitol to negotiate and find solutions for our state. But this doesn’t obligate them to kowtow to their intractable colleagues for the sake of seeming reasonable. A group of 19 Representatives showed they have some foresight and gumption by signing a letter that said “no deal” to repealing the landmark Clean Fuels Program.

The saga over this bill is far from over. Negotiations have broken down and a new deal still needs to be reached. But Clean Fuels now represents more than its already important contents. Its a precedent. If our leaders bow to this kind of intimidation and hostage taking what legislation will be on the chopping block next? Health care? Education?

This isn’t how you run a state and our legislators need to know this kind of lose-lose negotiating isn’t fooling anyone.

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