Local legislators score on environment


Southern Oregon's legislative delegation earned high marks from one of the state's leading conservation groups today for their role in what has been called a "banner year" for passing legislation to protect the environment.

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters, which grades state lawmakers on their support of environment-related legislation on a scale of 0 to 100, gave state Rep. Peter Buckley a perfect score, the first for a Southern Oregon lawmaker since the group starting keeping score in 1973.

The Ashland Democrat was one of just four lawmakers this year to get a perfect score after having voted favorably on all of the 20 bills that were OLCV priorities considered by the full House.

"The people of Southern Oregon can count on Peter Buckley anytime there's a question whether or not to protect their clean air or water or to protect our family farms from development that he's at the forefront fighting for our values," said Mat Marr of Ashland, the OLCV's Jackson County organizer.

State Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, received a score of 88, according to the rankings released today.

"Bates and Buckley are really Southern Oregon's dynamic duo fighting in Salem to keep our air and water healthy and the farmland safe from reckless development," OLCV member Amy Amrhein of Ashland said in a statement.

Even with the 2007 legislature having passed more environmentally friendly bills than during 1991-2005 combined, Marr said there is still room for improvement, particularly among Republicans.

"What we're seeing is a return to the tradition of preserving something for the future," Marr said. "Legislators have finally realized what we've all known: that protecting the environment is a critical value to mainstream Oregonians, and it's not a liberal or conservative issue."

State Reps. George Gilman of Medford and Dennis Richardson of Central Point were among the lowest scoring local legislators, with scores of 25 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

"Unfortunately, George Gilman and Dennis Richardson didn't get the memo that the rest of the Southern Oregon delegation is working together to form a bipartisan coalition," Marr said, noting that the two lawmakers did improve from the 12 point rating they both received in 2005.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, received a 47 percent ranking this year, up from the 12 points he received from the group in 2005.

Most notable among the League's accomplishments was passage of Senate Bill 838, aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions by requiring power producers to generate more electricity using renewable resources. Under the new law, at least a quarter of all new electricity produced in the Beaver State must come from wind, ocean wave, biomass, solar and geothermal sources by 2025.

Marr credited Sen. Jason Atkinson of Central Point, vice chairman of the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, for championing the bill, which he said is one of the most important environmental bills passed in the last two decades.

"This will make Oregon a global leader in renewable energy and help rural economies all at the same time," Marr said, noting that Atkinson was the third highest scoring Senate Republican, with a 59.

covers the state Legislature for the Daily Tidings. He can be reached at csrizo@hotmail.com.

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