At his town hall at Mountain View High School in Bend last week, Oregon Representative Greg Walden fielded questions from many passionate constituents. Here's a recap of the ones that pertained to the environment and climate change.
Audience: I am a student at Mountain View High School and I am concerned about the environment and climate change.
Greg Walden: The good news is that with the positive development of natural gas we've been able to ratchet down our CO2 emissions. We're using less coal power and that's all to improved infrastructure in distribution lines, power lines, if you will, and investments that are coming.
I believe it's (the climate) changing and is getting warmer—the question is what do we do about it. The question is how we deal with this as a country, and so there are smart things we can do that will continue to lower our emissions—more renewables, get a more effective energy grid, distributing (unintelligible), battery technology, battery-operated vehicles, reduce our fleet, solar, hydro, we just are working on in-stream hydro, advances in hydro, we just had hearings on that, geothermal, we have legislation on all those issues.
Audience: This is a very serious issue, what do we have without the environment?
GW: If you review the 2007 IPCC report from the United Nations, one of the other things they identify is smoke from wildfires, and so something we can do here to reduce emissions is better management of our federal forests.
Audience: Will you please speak to the importance of the Paris climate agreement and the U.S.' obligations under that agreement to our citizens and to citizens worldwide.
GW: As you know, that agreement stems from the agreements clear back to 1992, and it's a voluntary agreement for the countries involved. Now here's... I think we can do a lot of work to bring down emissions, and we have—again as I said earlier—by switching power, switching from coal to gas, that helps, by getting renewables, that helps, all that helps. Now, here's what I think we need to be aggressive on, is making sure that other countries, that today, like China, are putting on coal plant after coal plant, don't do that. I would push back on them so that... everything we save here will be exceeded by them over there.
Audience: I question why you have not only not stood up to the Trump Adminstration's anti-environmental rhetoric and actions, but actively supported and voted, as we mentioned, to repeal the Stream Protection Act—so I'd like to hear about that specifically—oppose protection of public lands such as the Owyhee Canyonlands, hinder the climate dam removal agreements, supporting a fossil fuel friend Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, and applauding Trump on continuing work on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
GW: So let's start with Oregon, and the Canyonlands, the Owyhee. There's seven layers of federal government protection on those lands today. There was an assembly, not quite this big, in French Glen, and the local people there who felt very strongly in opposition to that, because they felt these lands were being managed well today and most people would probably agree with that who had gone out there.
Keystone, I think makes sense. I'd rather have oil in the pipelines than on rail or on our highways... (unintelligible) We have a lot of pipelines already in America, it's how we move fuel products (unintelligible) I think it's safer than it is on rail cars, like the one that derailed near Mosier this year. And some of that oil perhaps would have been in that pipeline rather than on those rail cars.
Audience: I want to hear specifically about the Stream Protection Act and why you opposesd it.
GW: It would have put approximately 64 percent of coal out of reach in the U.S.... about 78,000 jobs. The way it was written, in some areas like North Dakota, and I've talked with the Congressman from North Dakota, if that would have been in place, you'd actually end up with worse recovery after mining than before. And so it didn't apply to work well state to state, it would cost jobs, I think we can come back and do something better.