Ethics meets low carbon in Oregon Senate

Environmental legislation debated, passed in Senate

Inside the chamber of the Oregon Senate, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Inside the chamber of the Oregon Senate, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The ethics controversy enveloping Gov. John Kitzhaber and his fiancee Cylvia Hayes was on display in the Oregon Senate Tuesday in the debate over whether to extend the low carbon fuel standard for the state.

Democrats call this an important piece of environmental legislation while the GOP says it is tainted by the scandal surrounding Kitzhaber and Hayes.

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, Feb. 17, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, Feb. 17, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

State and federal investigators subpoenaed documents related to the bill. Hayes was an advisor to Kitzhaber on these same environmental issues while taking money from groups with an interest in the outcome.

The state DEQ is working on rules to force oil producers to reduce the amount of carbon their fuels send into the air or pay still penalites if they don’t.

A few Republicans pounced on the Kitzhaber-Hayes controversy during the floor debate.

“Don’t reward people who corrupt this state,” said Stayton Republican Sen. Fred Girard.

Sen. Lee Beyer, the bill’s chief sponsor, shot back. “I talked to nobody else about this. It’s mine and nobody else’s, and I resent the fact that we’re blaming it on somebody else.  Mr. President, This is good law!”

Sen. Fred Girard, R-Stayton, Feb. 17, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Sen. Fred Girard, R-Stayton, Feb. 17, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

Beyer, D-Springfield, told KOIN 6 News it deserves to be passed. “What if we do nothing? Nationally, we are already seeing climate change. We already are.”

He said the carbon fuel standard would encourage alternative fuels and reduce global warming. Opponents, though, say it wouldn’t do much more than raise the price of gasoline.

Sen. Alan Olsen, a Canby Republican, countered that “existing biofuel policies have been very costly, produce negligible reductions in fossil fuel use and increase, rather than decrease, greenhouse gas emissions.”

Senate Bill 324 passed the Democrat-controlled Senate 17-13. The bill now moves to the House.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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