On Feb. 19, members of South’s climate club, Earth Guardians 350 (EG350), traveled to Salem to lobby for the Clean Energy Jobs bill, encouraging representatives and senators to have a floor vote on the bill. They were accompanied by constituents of the Oregon Youth Legislative Initiative (OYLI) from all over Oregon, drawing 25 youth lobbyists in total.
The Oregon Youth Legislative Initiative is a program created by EG350 in 2017 that connects students from each legislative district in Oregon to their legislators. The program’s purpose is to give students the opportunity to advocate for their legislator’s support on climate protection and legislation in Oregon.
At the state capital, the students met representatives and senators, including Senate President Peter Courtney, the senate majority leader, Ginny Burdick, chairmen of the environmental committee and district 23 representative, Michael Dembrow, senator from Southern Oregon (district 13) Alan DeBoer, South Eugene (district 4) representative Floyd Prozanski, and Springfield representative (district 6) Lee Beyer.
While students felt support from democratic politicians, they began to speculate that the divide between political parties is more prevalent than the drive to vote the Clean Energy Jobs bill onto the house floor.
“I think the bill is going to get stopped in committee,” junior and EG350 member Laura Fullerton said. “The democratic senators are worried about whether or not it would pass. They want to maintain relationships between the two parties, and right now it seems like they value that more than the bill.”
EG350 members found it hard to even schedule meetings with republican politicians.
“It is really discouraging to see that there are no republican senators who support this bill,” Orsinger said. “Talking to some of those republican senators who are climate change deniers, and feeling like they don’t support you and aren’t looking out for your future is really frustrating.”
The Clean Energy Jobs bill would limit climate pollution and invest in clean energy solutions that create jobs and supports lower CO2 consumption. It is a cap and invest bill, meaning it would cap the level at which Oregon businesses can pollute, lowering the cap each year. The bill would put a tax on the biggest polluters in Oregon, the proceeds of which would be reinvested into creating renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power. The biggest polluters would be taxed $16 per ton, generating hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Senators and representatives are asking for the bill to be put off until next year, when a longer legislative session will be held, as they are currently in a special (and shorter) session.
“We want the bill to be voted on now, because even if it were passed today it wouldn’t be implemented until 2021 and they [the house] have already tried to pass the bill for the past four years,” junior and EG350 leader, Ian Curtis said.
The EG350 members who attended cited the power of the youth as the most encouraging part of the day.
“I was very inspired by all the youth who came,” junior and EG350 co-leader Serena Orsinger said. “We had students all the way from Ashland, Grants Pass, Sweethome. I was especially impressed with the rural students, two of which whose parents were climate deniers. One of the students didn’t even tell his parents they were coming, because they wouldn’t have let him go. Despite that they were the stars of the show, and went to all the representative meetings, even stopping in at one republican’s office, who wouldn’t allow a meeting to be arranged, demanding a conversation.”
The lobby day was not only informative for the representatives and senators, but also for the students. Some students were able to sit it on a floor session and learn more about their state government.