An Open Letter to the Oregon Legislature

June 28, 2019

In the late 1990s the Federal Government threatened water rights to the Little Walla Walla River because Steelhead and Bull Trout were listed as a threaten species. I was a pastor in Milton-Freewater at the time. Those of us who understand the complexities of rural agriculture can imagine the chaos this threatened. Local irrigators, and our church, began to build a coalition which included the Tribes, various government agencies, diverse environmental groups and more. We found a solution and a way around the crisis. Cooperation was the key.

In 2008 I was asked by Gov. Kulongoski to sit as a faith community representative on his State Climate Change Integration Group. State agencies were there. Scientists from Oregon Universities were there. Individuals from the private sector participated, Weyerhauser, the Family Farm Alliance, Intel, the Climate Trust and Public Utilities. Did we all share a concern for Oregon forests? Of course! Did we want to move the state from coal burning energy sources to wind and solar? Yes, but to do so you have to run power lines through forest and grasslands. How were we going to do that? Conversation was key, and look at the Columbia basin today.

The Associated Press reports today that 11 Oregon lawmakers who fled the state to avoid the cooperation and conversation that we elected them to engage in are now claiming victory in the defeat of HB2020. “Our mission was to kill cap-and-trade,” Baertschiger said. “And that’s what we did.”

Good for you.

HB2020 would have had Oregon declare a state of emergency around climate concerns that desperately need attention. Its goal was to “dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050” through a cap and trade regime yet to be wholly defined. Those who are watching the science wholly understand the state of emergency we are, undeniable, in. A 2050 reduction goal is 20 years too late. We know this, but it would have been a start.

Is this a difficult issue? Absolutely! Is it going to cost us? All of us? Without a doubt. Is a Democratic super majority frustrating to Republicans? I get that. However, grinding needed conversation and action to a halt is anything but a victory.

Those of you in our state legislature have been given a trust by the people of Oregon. It’s a hard job. I respect that. It is likewise the job of faith communities like mine to support your work and speak up when you have failed. I am doing my job. Leaving the state to avoid doing yours is a catastrophic failure. My prayers for renewed integrity in office will continue.

Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke
Oregon Synod – ELCA
2800 N Vancouver Ave, Suite 101
Portland, OR 97227