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No Environmental Progressive

Wyden aligns with dirty biomass incineration

Seen as a progressive and a civil libertarian, Sen. Ron Wyden has become the “Golden Boy” of the Democrats and risen to a position of great power within the Senate.

As the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee — think taxes — Wyden is the most powerful Senate member outside of Majority Leader. To illustrate the importance, he has raised $1.7 million in campaign funds so far during this election cycle, a record for him, and did this during a non-campaign year.

Before this, Wyden was chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. As a general rule, this is a position that both political parties confer to Western members of Congress whose states have large tracts of public lands — lands that are used for resource extraction of all types — providing policy and legislative direction for our nation.

Wyden’s increasing political importance has not gone unnoticed in his home state of Oregon — particularly by corporations hoping benefit on his influence. A recent Citizens United-like unseemly campaign stop captured via YouTube video illustrates the political danger he now faces. 

Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish company that bases its North American operations in Portland, is the largest “renewable” energy firm in the world. Primarily wind, the company also produces the dirtiest form of electricity in the world — biomass incineration. 

Company media says the senator was at Iberdrola’s headquarters to give a “town hall” for their employees. You see Wyden around the corporate table with company officials, and later a gentleman from Spain suggests they are very lucky to have Wyden as their senator to talk about subsidies to “level the playing field” with fossil based fuels.

It is important to note that Wyden promotes a return to pre-Northwest Forest Plan employment levels under the guise of “healthy forests” and fire management. He promotes logging our National Forests and other public lands so that companies like Iberdrola can incinerate them in unsustainable, polluting energy generation schemes both here in Oregon and around the globe. 

Iberdrola is very active in the state of Oregon. Biomass facilities are to be located in Klamath Falls and Lakeview, former timber mill towns with high unemployment and Clean Air Act violations of particulate matter 2.5, a deadly form of pollution with particles so tiny they can lodge deep into the lungs, enter the bloodstream, and contaminate organs, leading to lung disease, cancer, and other ailments. 

These communities are the poster children for the unintended consequences of policy positions that both Wyden and Iberdrola promote. Ironically, these two areas also have some of the nation’s best sustainable energy resources in the form wind, geothermal and solar.

As Oregonians impacted by the policies Wyden support concerning energy development and federal lands conservation, we, too, would like to talk with him about the same policy subject — subsidies relating to sustainable energy development and public lands management in Oregon and the nation. 

Although our pockets are shallow, we hope Wyden will level the playing field and open his schedule to meet with every-day, working-class constituents like us.