Calling Progressive Representatives: Please Defeat HB 2700

Nick Engelfried

This Wednesday members of the Oregon House of Representatives have a choice. They will be voting on HB 2700, also known as the “LNG Fast-Track Bill.” As I’ve written previously, this legislation would streamline the permitting process for when large companies want to build projects like liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines on somebody else’s land. Provisions of this bill run contrary to the values of conservatives and progressives alike, and Democratic legislators should oppose it on Wednesday.

Many see the fight over HB 2700 as a land rights issue—which it certainly is. Much of the discussion around the bill has focused on why conservatives should oppose it: HB 2700 threatens the fundamental conservative value of respect for landowners’ control of their property. Yet this bill as currently written should be equally repugnant to Democrats. A vote for HB 2700 would be inconsistent with progressive values of environmental stewardship, support for Oregon’s small businesses, and protection of the “little people” from giant out-of-state corporations.

First let’s take HB 2700’s impact on Oregon’s environment and the green economy. The bill would erode regulations now in place that protect wetlands and other natural areas. Meanwhile proposed LNG projects in the state threaten critical salmon habitat, old-growth ecosystems, and Mount Hood National Forest. Perhaps most important of all, LNG is a high-carbon fossil fuel with a carbon footprint comparable to coal. Importing LNG would set back the clock on Oregon’s clean energy economy, and HB 2700 would facilitate that process.

Next consider how HB 2700 would affect jobs and rural economies. By transecting some of Oregon’s best farmland, proposed LNG pipelines are slated to render large sections of farms unusable—and some tracts of farmland will never be fit for the kinds of crops they are growing today. This could devastate rural economies. As Governor Kitzhaber has said, fifteen jobs in Coos Bay have an impact on the local economy similar to 500 jobs in Portland. Well guess what: Coos Bay is one of the areas threatened by an LNG pipeline, and a lot more than fifteen nearby farming jobs are at risk.

Finally, by easing the rules for giant infrastructure proposals like LNG pipelines as well as smaller projects like city sidewalks, HB 2700 transfers power from the “little people” to big corporations. If the legislation is passed at all, it should be amended so as to exclude the biggest and most destructive proposals—like LNG pipelines. This could be done by changing the language to exclude linear projects or those proposed by out-of-state corporations. If those critical amendments can’t be made, progressives shouldn’t support HB 2700 at all.

I truly believe HB 2700 runs contrary to the best values of both Oregon’s political parties, and that legislators from each side of the aisle can put their party’s best foot forward by voting the bill down. HB 2700 will be up for a vote Wednesday in the Oregon House. I hope progressive legislators are ready to do the right thing.

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    Fantastic. Well said Nick.

    As of this morning Proponents of the LNG fast-track bill were forced to cancel a vote on HB 2700, likely because it did not have enough votes to pass. Strong Democrats and Republicans opposed the bill. The bill was referred back to the Business and Labor Committee.

    This battle is far from over. The Business and Labor Committee will likely amend the bill and seek another vote soon. I hope supporters of property rights and those seeking to protect Oregon will stay engaged and continue to work to defeat this bill.

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