Representative Vic Gilliam: Gov may veto bipartisan hydro-bill

By State Representative Vic Gilliam,

Since the legislature adjourned in June I’ve been watching and hoping for a bill to escape our Governor’s veto pen. It doesn’t look good. The Governor has put in his earplugs and given notice of intention to give my bill the ax. The bill is HB 2940 and it represents an extraordinary bipartisan effort to advance a new renewable technology called hydro-hubs even as it reaches out to the badly bruised timber industry by allowing bio-mass (utilizing forest debris for energy and reducing fire danger) into an exclusive green club that hands out tax credits for renewable sources of energy.

I’m a Republican which might give this Governor a good reason to veto HB 2940 but my part of the bill is the hydro-hubs and things are not what they seem. The Governor supports hydro-hubs and he was even the keynote speaker at the 1st conference of the NW Hydrogen Alliance who inspired this part of the bill. No, the Governor objects to the bio-mass part — that portion of the bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Edwards a Democrat who has worked in the timber industry and understands how a “green agenda” must meld with our current economy and the acute need for jobs.
So after months of tedious challenges, multiple public hearings in committees of the House and Senate, floor debate in both chambers and final passage — our Governor, the self proclaimed “Green Governor”, has tipped his hand about killing the bill. Why?

Two reasons: A powerful enviro-gang that represents the few, but bullies the many has a key to the Governor’s back door. They repeatedly raised their concerns in open hearings during the session and they lost. But despite the legislature’s action they have the Governor’s ear and he’s offered to use his selective veto power to protect their turf. This gang of green lives in an ivory tower far above the agony of Oregon’s record busting unemployment that devastates every sector of our state. Green lobbyists have convinced the Governor that the singular path to a green economy is thru their turf and the only technologies worthy of assistance are ones they choose. But going green has huge potential for an array of existing energy sources, creative businesses and pioneering interests that reject the self serving limitations being pushed on the Governor.

This brings me to the 2nd reason: Our Governor. Ted Kulongowski is in the twilight of a notable career of public service. From the legislature to the Governorship with stints as Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice he’s filled impressive high level posts. He deserves respect. But he appears overwhelmed by a common gubernatorial longing — the desire for a “legacy”. By listening to enviro-extremists and adopting much of their world view he ignores a truth he knows too well — Oregon is hurting. Last year he announced that the way out of recession to prosperity is his exclusive green agenda. But his theory is unrealistic and the vetoing of HD 2940 represents a microcosm of flawed and narrow thinking.

If the Governor wants to be remembered for leading us out of economic disaster, he’ll have to stand with republicans, democrats, lumber jacks, hydrogen engineers, policy makers and Oregonians everywhere and work together. That’s what HB 2480 symbolizes and could actually begin to accomplish.

The Governor should re-consider his position on the bill and begin a legacy of which he can be proud.

Vic Gilliam,
Oregon State Representative
August 6, 2009