News from Rep. Marty Wilde
We have some good news this week. The federal government back at work and our Coast Guard members are getting paid again. Hopefully, by the time you receive this, they will have received their backpay as well. I understand that Congress will be attempting to address the impact on workers from shutdowns, but I don’t think that we will wait. We’re working on a bill to help federal workers pay their bills during any future shutdowns. This should be bipartisan in the end. We have two bill drafts that take different approaches, but share the same goal.
In the Energy and Environment Committee, we’re taking a lifecycle approach to environmental regulation. That means considering the full impact of materials in our environment, from soda straws to hazardous waste. Too often, the business model of some companies is to profit off of someone else’s responsibility for disposing of waste. Household hazardous waste is the classic example – you pay for the disposal, both in time in going to a disposal site and in money from the costs of such disposal, or from the damage to the environment caused by people who do not dispose of them properly. Paint is a great example of how we can do it right. Currently, we require paint companies to belong to stewardship organizations that arrange for the proper disposal and recycling of paint. We would like to extend that model to other hazardous waste.
I served on a number of local board and commissions before running for state office. That experience helped me see the importance of allowing cities and counties the leeway to find their own solutions to the problems they face. Unfortunately, folks in the Capitol are often too fond of centralizing decision making for the whole state. We call this local preemption, and it has negative impacts across a range of topics, from allowing guns in schools, to prohibiting higher minimum wages, to severe limits on the ways cities and counties can raise revenue to fund the services that their people want. Compounding matters, the Legislature does not operate full time, meaning that, even though city and county councils do work year-round, they can’t solve some problems until we address them in Salem. Of course, some issues have to have a floor or ceiling set at the state level, but we should not arbitrarily restrict cities and counties. The relationship between the state and localities should be collaborative. The same is true of federal and state authorities. We rely on the federal government not to preempt reasonable state regulation.
Environmental protection and federal preemption intersect when it comes to regulating the safety of oil trains. Under federal law, we have a very limited ability in Salem to protect the environment from contamination from oil spills, as happened in Mosier last year. We were quite fortunate in Mosier, as they had just completed an exercise on such a response. We’re working on legislation that will continue and improve planning and include response exercises, but we are hampered by federal laws preventing us from directly taxing the oil companies involved to support our activities. Nevertheless, I think we’ll have some legislation making substantial progress this session.
Thursday, we saw the first draft of the Clean Energy Jobs or Cap and Invest Bill. This is one of the four major issues we’re working on this session. The premise is simple – we cannot continue to emit unlimited amounts of carbon dioxide and drive the world closer to catastrophe, so we should cap the amount of carbon we emit and slowly reduce it over time. Energy and transportation are two of the major contributors of carbon dioxide. We have actually made terrific progress in the energy sector toward decarbonization. Most public power companies have very little carbon, and only one private company still has over 50% of their power from coal. Power companies will receive an exemption until 2030, when they will be carbon-free or close to it. I will continue to push them to decarbonize as fast as possible. In the transportation sector, we are reaching the point where electric vehicles are getting to be comparable in price to gasoline powered vehicles. However, it will take a decade to reach the point where most vehicles sold are electric vehicles. We will also offset the modest increase in costs through investments in green energy and transportation projects that will reduce fuel consumption.
How do you build a road that reduces carbon pollution? Well, we’ve got a great example in Creswell. With the closer of the Foster Farms Plant and Bald Knob Mill, 83% of working age residents now commute to jobs. With Cap and Invest funds, we can build the roads necessary to reopen the Bald Knob site, allowing a business to expand and employ more people closer to where they live. I’m working with Creswell to get Bald Knob working for them again.
I had a great town hall in Harrisburg last night. Thank you to Mayor Bobby Duncan and City Manager Brian Latta for making it possible! I heard about the need to keep the burdens of state regulation on small cities reasonable, thenimportance of mental health supports, and how much our schools need greater support from Salem.
We’re working on listening sessions in Brownsville and Coburg in March and Marcola in April. If you’d like me to come to your community for an event, please give me a call!