Governor pledges to safeguard Malheur County jobs, help boost local housing

Gov. Kate Brown speaks to a breakfast gathering Friday of the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she doesn’t intend a controversial environmental legislation to become law in a way that would damage Malheur County’s economy – a looming fear in the area.

Brown also said she doesn’t want land use laws to be an impediment to housing construction in the area.

The governor made the comments during appearances in Malheur County as part of an eastern Oregon swing.

Brown kicked off a busy day with a speech before the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce buffet breakfast at the Clarion Inn. She answered questions from the audience, toured a local onion warehouse, and then met with the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Region Board at Jolts and Juice in downtown Ontario.

Brown largely stuck to her agenda for Oregon that includes a focus on education, creating more housing and the environment.

“I am focused to continue tackling global climate change,” Brown said at the chamber buffet.

She also lauded the importance of vocational education and said small community colleges like Treasure Valley Community College are the “workhorses of our education system.”

Yet it was another issue, the proposed legislation to cut Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions, that lingered over her local visit.

House Bill 2020, the controversial proposal will create a new carbon emission standard for the state, has the support of influential Democratic lawmakers – including Brown.

The issue was certainly on the minds of residents. The first question from the audience at the chamber buffet focused on the proposal and the concept came up again at the border board session.

Brown said at the chamber session that “my goal in crafting this legislation is to do it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the economy we already have.”

When asked whether Brown would consider a waiver – or cut out – for eastern Oregon regarding the new standard, Brown said she would not support a “total carve out.”

Brown said there needs to be more communication about “how we level the playing field” with the proposal.

Later, at the border board meeting, Brown again was asked about the proposal and emphasized the emissions bill is a work in progress.

“The original language of the bill is not something I’d sign,” said Brown.

Brown said she wasn’t sure what was the best way forward on the proposal.

“Do we do a carve out? A slow implementation? Or an immediate implementation with resources behind it? I don’t know the answer,” said Brown.

After she visited Ontario, Brown traveled to Baker County to meet with officials from Ash Grove Cement.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

For the latest news, follow the Enterprise on Facebook and Twitter.

TRY A FREE SAMPLE – You can see for yourself the kind of local news reporting produced by the Malheur Enterprise with a news team focused exclusively on news that’s important to you. You can read us for free for 30 days. Signing up is easy and then you have 24/7 access to our reports. Sign up HERE. Or you can support some of the nation’s best journalism by subscribing to our digital news service for $5 a month, easy and automatic. Subscribe HERE.