Drazan and Kotek Spar Over Climate as Record-Breaking Temperatures Fuel October Fires in the Northwest

Johnson, meantime, calls for a review of “biased state agency heads.”

Christine Drazan and Tiny Kotek don’t agree on much, but climate policy might be the issue that divides them the most.

At WW’s endorsement interview this week, when temperatures were unseasonably high, a question about climate brought frosty responses from the two gubernatorial candidates.

Drazan, a Republican, has said that she would scrap Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders on climate on day one of her term, if elected. At our interview, Drazan said she would suspend Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, which aims to curb emissions from cars and trucks, because it is helping to drive up prices at the pump.

“Temporarily suspending it, not getting rid of it,” Drazan said. “The original legislation allowed for that.”

That position constituted a change for Drazan, said Kotek, the Democratic Party nominee.

“That is a really nuanced approach now, because at the debate you said you’d get rid of the low carbon fuel standard,” Kotek said.

“I said ‘suspend,’” Drazan countered.

Because climate change is a global phenomenon, and Oregon is a small state, the best climate remedies would be federal ones, Drazan said. Asked, then, if she supported the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which provided tax breaks for buying electric cars and heat pumps, and for putting solar panels on roofs, Drazan said she did not.

“That is a federal attempt that’s all about increasing revenues for the government,” Drazan said.

Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson said Oregon’s clean energy policies were raising costs for businesses and that they all should be reviewed, including the Clean Fuels Program.

“I would want to review how the low-carbon fuel standard has been embedded in administrative rule,” Johnson said. “I think that while Kate Brown has had her head turned and is not watching the agencies, an awful lot of liberties have been taken by biased state agency heads to build all sorts of strictures into administrative rule.”

The Oregon Clean Fuels Program has been in place since 2016. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has said it has prevented more than 7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by displacing 1.5 billion gallons of fossil fuels, replacing them with fuels made from grain and other lower-carbon renewable sources, like used cooking oil.

The policy may benefit Johnson’s old Senate district. A company called Next Renewable Fuels is trying to build the largest renewable diesel plant in the U.S. at Port Westward, near Clatskanie. Johnson has said that she supports the project, which is expected to cost $2.5 billion and shower $700 million in wages on union workers during construction.

“I hear from Rep. Drazan and Sen. Johnson that they believe in climate change, but they have no proposals,” Kotek said. ”I think both of you will say anything to get elected on this issue.”

Outside, meantime, Portland has experienced a record seven days over 80 degrees so far in October, according to meteorologist Jeff Forgeron at KPTV, and more 80-degree days are on the way through the weekend.

Yesterday, DEQ reiterated an earlier air quality advisory that goes through Friday. “Wildfires burning in the region, combined with forecasted conditions, will cause air quality to reach unhealthy levels at times,” DEQ said.