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About Baker City herald. (Baker City, Or.) 1990-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 20, 2020)
BAKER CITY HERALD — 5A
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2020
Carbon bill on
hold for now
■ Pause follows complaints issued
by Republicans in the House
By Dirk VanderHart
Oregon Public Broadcasting
S. John Collins / Baker City Herald fi le photo-2015
The Cornet-Windy Ridge fi re burns south of Baker City in August 2015.
Wildfire bills moving forward, but
budget could douse momentum
■ One bill would allocate $25 million to thin forests, but the other bill, which would
overhaul the state’s fire mitigation and suppression system, lacks a funding source
SALEM — Two bills being
considered by Oregon lawmak-
ers this session are expected to
be the one-two punch the state
needs to considerably reduce
the impact of wildfi re on its
landscape and residents.
In recent years, the on-
slaught of smoke from major
wildfi res has choked many
parts of the state through
the summer months. Fires
threaten homes where forests
meet urban sprawl, and
timber owners are losing pre-
cious resources for renewable
building material and wood
Wildfi re is one of the pre-
eminent threats to Oregon’s
way of life in a multitude of
ways, but the state is hoping
this year it can make head-
way in minimizing its effects
through an approach that
takes both the short term and
future into account.
The fi rst is a bill — Senate
Bill 1514 — creating 15 proj-
ects to be led by the state For-
estry Department that would
clear trees, underbrush and
other forest material consid-
ered to be “fuel” for wildfi re.
The projects would take place
in locations across the state
determined by the depart-
ment within the 5.2 million
acres identifi ed as high-risk
areas by the Governor’s
Council on Wildfi re Response.
The projects would be funded
by a $25 million allocation
laid out within the bill.
The second bill — Senate
“I don’t want something that dies at the end of the
session stuck in Ways and Means.”
—Sen. Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass
Bill 1536 — would overhaul
the state’s approach to fi re
mitigation and suppression,
and help communities adapt
to smoke and fi re.
It includes a lengthy list of
new policies and regulations
service districts, or expand and
adjust current ones, as well as
providing fi nancial help.
What about the cost?
It’s unclear just how much
SB 1536 bill would cost or
where that money would
• Assessing wildfi re risk for
come from. A fi scal impact
utilities and having them cre-
statement found the proposal
ate their own mitigation plans. needs further work by the
• Bolstering fi re insurance
Legislature’s budget com-
and setting standards that
mittee, but the Governor’s
encourage homeowners near Wildfi re Council estimated
forests to harden their homes the cost at approximately $4
against fi re.
billion over the next 20 years,
• Creating new positions
or about $200 million a year.
within the state Offi ce of
It’s a robust approach to
Emergency Management to
many aspects of the conver-
administer new mitigation and sation the Governor’s Council
and legislators continue to
• Mitigating the health
have around reducing the
effects of smoke by helping
impact of wildfi re. But a
homeowners in smoke-prone party-line vote in the Senate
areas retrofi t their homes with Wildfi re Committee last
fi ltration systems.
week to send both bills into
• Establishing minimum
the budget committee indi-
standards of defensible space cates Republicans might not
have the appetite to tackle the
• Setting a goal to annually
entire plan now.
treat 300,000 acres of forest
The bill has a lot of moving
and remove fuels to prevent
pieces, and the version passed
fi res from growing too large.
by the committee includes
• Developing Oregon’s for-
everything but one provision
on land use. House Bill 4054,
• Requiring the State Fire
sponsored by Rep. David
Marshall and State Forester
Brock Smith, R-Port Orford,
to help local jurisdictions,
creates an advisory commit-
landowners, businesses and
tee within the Department
individuals create new wildfi re of Land Conservation and
Development to review land
use policies related to wildfi re.
Sen. Herman Baertschiger
Jr., R-Grants Pass, commit-
tee vice chair and Senate
Republican leader, failed in his
attempts to amend the bill to
drop several sections.
Baertschiger said he’s con-
cerned the bill does too much
at once and needs more dis-
cussion on certain policy and
funding aspects. He pointed
out that he’s not attempting
to derail the effort but to be
realistic about what’s feasible,
especially at the budget com-
“Ways and Means has
already told me there’s not a
lot of money, so I want some-
thing we can get through the
process,” he said. “I don’t want
something that dies at the end
of the session stuck in Ways
and Means. That’s my bottom
Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ash-
land, is more optimistic.
“We’re talking about signifi -
cant dollars, and of course, the
wildfi re council’s even talking
about a lot more money over
time, but I think all this work
we’ve been doing makes for
a pretty strategic launch,” he
said. “The question is how
much agreement is there that
this is a tier-one emergency.”
Golden said he believes
there would be no question of
the emergency around wildfi re
and support for this bill had
2019 fi re season been as bad
as the two previous years.
Teen dies from flu complications
COOS BAY (AP) — A 16-year-old student
at a Coos Bay high school has died due to
complications of Infl uenza B, offi cials said.
Coos Bay Public Schools Superintendent
Bryan Trendell said in a statement that the
student at Marshfi eld High School had died
early Monday morning, The World reported.
Marshfi eld High School Principal Travis
Howard said he’s been in contact with an
infectious disease specialist who assured him
that the school was not in danger of further
infection or contamination.
The student was a football and baseball
player and was also in band, Howard said.
A room has been set up at the school for stu-
dents who might need counseling.
Bak er Visi on
1- 4 p.m.
ODOT managers retire after probe
SALEM (AP) — Two Oregon Department
of Transportation managers at the center of a
2017 whistleblower-retaliation scandal have
retired following a six-month internal investi-
gation into possible new policy violations.
David McKane, 60, and David Fifer, 63,
worked for ODOT’s Motor Carrier Trans-
portation Division, which regulates trucking
and operates weigh stations throughout the
BEST OF HAWAII
After 35 years, Dr. Sheryl Blankenship is retiring from Baker Vision
Clinic. As many of you know and appreciate, Dr. Blankenship has
spent her career serving patients with dedication, enthusiasm,
and care. We wish Dr. Blankenship all the best in her next great
adventure; she will be truly missed by patients, staff and all those
who she has worked alongside throughout her amazing career.
Baker Vision Clinic will be hosting an open house for patients
to stop by and show their appreciation for
Dr. Sheryl Blankenship’s many years of service.
state. Both were put on paid administrative
leave on Aug. 27, 2019. Neither returned or
will return to work, ODOT spokesman David
Fifer retired Feb. 1. McKane’s retirement
will be effective April 1, accounting for ac-
crued leave. Reached by phone on Monday,
McKane declined to comment to the States-
man Journal. Fifer didn’t respond to an email.
13 days, departs
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SALEM — Democrats are slowing forward
momentum of a signature bill to regulate Oregon’s
greenhouse gas emissions, after complaints that the
policy is being ramrodded through without adequate
“This is a response
Tina Kotek, D-Port-
to House Republican
land, told reporters on
leaders who are saying,
Monday that legisla-
‘We need to understand
tive leaders plan to
temporarily halt the
this bill better on behalf
progress of Senate
of our constituents.’ ”
Bill 1530, which
— House Speaker
would implement a
cap-and-trade system Tina Kotek, D-Portland
in the state.
A hearing set for Tuesday in the Senate budget
committee was canceled so the House can discuss the
issue more thoroughly.
Bowing to criticisms over a lack of process, Kotek
says a bill identical to SB 1530 would be introduced
in the House Rules Committee on Tuesday. That will
allow House members to consider the proposal in
depth — and listen to public testimony — in hearings
planned for Tuesday and Thursday.
SB 1530, meanwhile, would be on pause, Kotek
“Our suggestion to the Senate was not to progress
the bill until the House has had some opportunity to
(get) further information on our side,” she said. “This
is a response to House Republican leaders who are
saying, ‘We need to understand this bill better on
behalf of our constituents.’”
Senator Bill Hansell, R-Athena, wasn’t so sure that
the cancellation of Tuesday’s work session was meant
to satisfy the requests of House Republicans.
“I’ve heard they have more amendments to make,”
he said. “I think what’s happening is that the bill is
being amended to bring more businesses on board to
support it. On the other end, they’re losing environ-
mental groups that believe too much is being given
Tensions over the cap-and-trade proposal have
dominated this year’s fi ve-week legislative session.
On Feb. 13, for instance, Republicans went so far as to
walk out of one House committee in protest of Demo-
Though the fundamental structure of Oregon’s
proposed system has been debated and scrutinized for
years, GOP members in both chambers have repeat-
edly accused Democrats of abusing their authority by
forcing SB 1530 through the building.
Under the bill, emissions from the transportation,
manufacturing and utility sectors would be capped
and reduced over time. Companies within those
sectors would be required to obtain permits from
the state for each metric ton of carbon they emit in a
Democrats’ gesture around SB 1530 appears
unlikely to move Republicans, who have argued for
years that a cap-and-trade system will hike prices in
Oregon, hurting families and businesses. While the
House Republican Offi ce did not immediately have
comment on Kotek’s announcement, its members
have shown no signs of supporting the bill unless it
is submitted to voters for approval, something Kotek
and other Democrats have refused to consider.
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