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Oregon Needs Climate Action Now

Guest Column by Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05):

Oregonians saw millions of acres of our forests go up in smoke in 2020. In my district, the Beachie Creek Fire engulfed 193,500 acres, destroying farms and homes families had lived in for decades. The skies were thick with black smoke for weeks.

That was the worst summer I had ever seen—until last year. Most of us will never forget the devastating heat waves that struck across our state, killing nearly a hundred Oregonians after temperatures topped 116 degrees, the highest we have ever recorded. Fires also raged for weeks, producing more smoke. We lost more loved ones, and homes and livelihoods were destroyed.

Oregonians are feeling these real costs and consequences of climate change every day. From 2010 to 2020, our state experienced 12 extreme weather events, costing us $5 billion in damages. This proves we must act and finally address this growing threat.

Wildfire mitigation has long been a priority for me. For instance, my legislation, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, helped the Forest Service and power companies streamline the process to remove hazardous trees to boost the electricity grid’s reliability and help reduce the threat of wildfires. I also worked with Senator Wyden to allow responsible fuels thinning and facilitate prescribed burns, and to increase the funding for wildfire response. And most recently, I led the charge in Congress to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which makes important strides in tackling the climate crisis. This bipartisan law makes historic investments in transportation, water and broadband. It also makes significant investments in climate-caused catastrophic wildfire management and the largest-ever contribution toward energy transmission and electric vehicle development. This is the biggest investment in the nation’s future in decades, and it will create millions of good-paying, family-wage jobs.

Climate action is vital to preventing extreme weather events and mitigating their effects. This is one of the core reasons I supported the Build Back Better Act, which is the largest effort to combat climate change in American history. It invests $555 billion in renewable and clean energy initiatives, including electric vehicle expansion, building new clean energy transmission and creating more energy-efficient homes and businesses, which will save the average family $500 a year on their energy bills. Unfortunately, the Build Back Better package is stalled in the Senate over disagreements on individual pieces, but I remain confident we can find a solution that builds off the powerful foundation the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law lays out. Together, we can make America a global clean energy leader, cut pollution fueling the climate crisis and avoid a growing disaster, all while boosting our economy, creating jobs and putting real money back in Oregonians’ pockets.

Congress must come together to deliver a transformational climate bill in addition to the historic infrastructure investments we’ve already enacted to protect our environment and our economy. I am committed to being a leader in this fight because the future of Oregon and our planet depends on it.

Read the guest column online at The Bulletin.