Enviromentalists target new legislation

SALEM — Although the poor economy sidetracked some environmental bills this year, Oregon lawmakers can expect to be pressured again by conservationists to curb greenhouse gases, expand Oregon’s bottle deposit law and tighten rules over siting of destination resorts.

That vow came Tuesday from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters as it issued its 2009 environmental scorecard for the Oregon Legislature.

The league’s Jonathan Poisner said the 2009 session was a “pretty good one” for the environment, but that conservationists will continue to pursue key bills that died this year.

Chief among them, Poisner said, will be a renewed push for Oregon to participate in some form of a regional system to cap greenhouse gas emissions by utilities and industries.

“We cannot hide behind the notion that it’s Congress’s responsibility to resolve the climate crisis. It’s going to take international, federal, regional and state action,” he said.

Even though lawmakers mainly were focused on the recession and the state’s budget squeeze, the 2009 Legislature nonetheless produced some decent environmental legislation, he said.

That included bills to create a low-carbon fuel standard to reduce greenhouse gases from cars and trucks; set up fishing-free marine reserves off the Oregon coast; create new energy saving codes for homes and businesses; and ban destination resorts in the Metolius River Basin.

In its latest scorecard, the league said this year’s Legislature wasn’t as green as the 2007 session, when lawmakers approved a raft of bills to promote renewable energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Part of the reason for the change was that although there was some support from the minority Republicans for environmental legislation in 2007, this year GOP lawmakers “locked up and seemed to be playing a ’just say no’ strategy,’ “ Poisner said.

In response, House Republican caucus spokesman Nick Smith said some of the bills being pushed by environmentalists “didn’t reflect the economic realities facing Oregonians.”

“As long as we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, we will continue to assess every bill in terms of its effect on Oregon’s economy,” he said.

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