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Oregon League of Conservation Voters (April 15, 2011)

You all have been busy while I was away –

Since I was last in office, you have had a truly productive eight years – organizing, educating, and sometimes scratching and clawing to protect Oregon’s land, air and water for future generations. 

You’ve created Oregon’s first marine reserves and brought attention to our long neglected ocean environment.

You’ve protected well over 100,000 acres of new wilderness areas from Mount Hood to Soda Mountain in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.

You’ve started a “locavore” revolution that has us rethinking what we eat, where it’s from, how it’s grown and who’s growing it.

And you’ve set aside old feuds in helping craft the historic Klamath Restoration Agreement.

To the delight of an old river rat like me you have succeeded in designating more than 80 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers.

On energy issues, you have been instrumental in creating a landmark set of energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy policies, including a Renewable Portfolio Standard, a Renewable Fuels Standard, a Low Carbon Fuel Standard and expanded energy incentives that have helped make Oregon a clean energy leader.

Finally, I applaud your hard fought campaign to shorten the life of Oregon’s only coal plant – a great achievement in itself, but also a model for other western states looking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel energy.

That’s quite a legacy.  Oregon is a better, healthier and more sustainable place due to your efforts, and it is also better positioned to be more competitive in the global marketplace of the 21st century.

I also want to thank you for your important role in my election – you may have noticed it was a squeaker – OLCV and the environmental community knocked on countless doors, made countless phone calls and turned out thousands of voters.  I could not have done it without you.  And I won’t forget it.

But we all know – that’s not enough.

I need your help again.  Ahead of us lies an unprecedented set of challenges which threaten our future prosperity: an unemployment rate that hovers stubbornly at 10 percent; a growing discrepancy between state revenues and the cost of public services; and a disturbing pattern of disinvestment within our general fund.

During tough economic times, there is a temptation to blame government regulation and look for apparent quick fixes.  Some view a recession as an opportunity to advance legislation that they could not find support for during better times. One common target is our land use system.

I recently wrote to legislative leaders in both chambers about our efforts to promote job creation in regionally significant industrial areas.  I made it crystal clear I will guard against attacks on the core elements of our state and local land use program.

I will not support “end runs” around existing processes to expand urban growth boundaries.

I will not support legislative entitlements for specific development projects.

And I will not support changes that would disenfranchise citizens from participating in local or state reviews of proposed development.

Given the economic crisis, perhaps it is also not surprising that some elected officials would suddenly suffer a kind of collective amnesia about the environmental crisis of our time – Climate Change.

In fact, it seems we took a wrong turn and got lost on the way to Copenhagen.

But I submit to you we are fooling ourselves if we think we can wait to address climate change until the Dow Jones Industrial average hits 15,000 or the unemployment rate drops to five percent or someone waves a magic wand over our economic indicators. 

That’s the worse kind of short-sighted thinking – old thinking.

Just last month I saw the latest disheartening (but hardly surprising) evidence that climate change is already having an impact in the Northwest.  Our lodgepole pine trees are moving north.  Their range is shrinking here and they could disappear this century, according to Oregon State University.

That we are fundamentally altering ecosystems is a finding not based on debatable modeling, but a cold, hard fact based on data and observation, and one that has grave implications for plant and animal species -- including us.

I do not support roll-backs to our hard fought gains on clean energy and I will veto attempts to water down the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and other carbon-reduction strategies that hold the best promise for limiting the impacts of climate change.

I’m convinced we have an opportunity to use the economic crisis to rethink our assumptions and rebuild an economy that is truly sustainable -- factoring in nature’s limits -- just like any other input into a business model.

At the City Club last month I said that reaching for the possible requires an act of faith.  It is not unlike the “ropes” game in Outdoor School.  You are placed on a post 10 feet above the ground and holding onto a rope.  You are supposed to move to another post some distance away which also has a rope dangling over it.  In order to move from the “old” post to the “new” post you have to lean out and – for a moment – let go of the rope you have in your hand in order to reach the rope over the “new post.”

Letting go of the old rope and reaching for the new is critically important in redesigning how we deliver public services like education and health care – and it’s equally important in rethinking our approach to job creation and economic development.

Getting Oregonians back to work is my top priority – but the strategies I’m employing and the investments I’m calling for the legislature to make, are based on the premise that Oregon should lead the way to a thriving economy that is reducing carbon and reducing waste while increasing human productivity and creativity.

We’ve begun work on a 10-year Energy Plan for Oregon -- the only way we can hope to make critical decisions as a state with forethought about the investment and infrastructure needed to transform our economy; the only way for communities -- both urban and rural -- to help shape their own future and the best way to discuss the trade-offs of our energy choices and how to accommodate change while preserving what is most special about our state.

An economy of innovation is within our reach -- one that leads the way in advanced manufacturing and designing products that use less energy; one that rewards efficiency rather than excess.  It’s also an economy that values the local -- Oregon companies supplying Oregon companies. 

Like the solar array I recently flipped the switch on at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario that included panels made by Solar World in Hillsboro and electronics from PV Powered in Bend.

We will thrive by exporting our knowledge, technology and success –

With family-owned businesses like Lektro, Inc. in Warrenton.  Lektro employs more than 50 workers manufacturing electric vehicles including “tugs,” which are used across the globe to tow commercial aircraft without the exhaust that adds to urban air quality problems.

I need your help ensuring our Cool Schools initiative passes the legislature.  Energy audits already have begun at 500 Oregon schools as the first step toward efficiency and weatherization retrofits to begin this summer.  We’re creating jobs across the state, saving school districts money on inefficient heating and lighting and building better learning environments free of asbestos, leaking roofs and mold.

We’re also working to create a preference for efficient biomass boilers for those schools -- replacing aging fossil fuel-based heating systems with a homegrown solution that also provides jobs for rural Oregonians.

The creative financing options we are developing to make this happen can be scaled up for use across commercial and industrial markets … it’s a big idea transformed into getting on-the-ground results.

Those schools that go through the retrofits will be given a flag to fly on their campus, a symbol of their commitment to innovative thinking and conservation.  And I happen to have an early production flag with me tonight. And I understand there might be a chance for one of you to take this home tonight.

I also need your help delivering health care reform.   Because my agenda is not just concerned with driving down health care costs and improving the delivery of care.  It’s about improving the health of Oregonians by focusing on prevention – and that means limiting exposure to toxic chemicals that are harmful to our health and the environment.

I applaud Senator Dingfelder, Senator Atkinson, the other bill sponsors and many of you in this room for your leadership on Senate Bill 695, and I urge the legislature to ban bisphenol A from children’s food and beverage containers.  The science is clear.  It is simply time to act.

This is not only a public health issue, it is an environmental justice issue as well.  All families, no matter their income level, should have the same access to safe products for their families. And without legislation like this, there is no way for consumers to be sure that any product is truly BPA-free.

I am optimistic we’ll add to the Oregon’s legacy this legislative session.  

We should not underestimate the magnitude of our challenges; nor should we question our ability to successfully meet them. Oregonians are a great and resilient people.  We have faced difficult times before, and we’ll do it again.

Our past successes – our deep commitment and sense of purpose – and our continued, tireless fight for Oregon is the best indication that we will weather this challenge without losing our sense of community, without losing our commitment to one another, and that we will emerge stronger and more united than where we began.

We’ve already reached out for the new rope, and with your help we’ll succeed in letting go of the old one.


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