• "No" on Keystone XL pipeline, Ron stands up for Oregonians

    Senator Wyden has voted against every Keystone XL pipeline bill the Senate has considered. He knows building the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t about lowering gas prices in Oregon – it’s about padding the profits of foreign oil companies. At a time when the price of gasoline is at its lowest point in years, he opposes building a pipeline that could actually raise gas prices in parts of the U.S.

    In the midst of the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline last week, Ron stood up for taxpayers in Oregon and across the country when he led an effort to close an unfair tax loophole that gives millions of dollars to Canadian tar sands oil producers.

    Currently, all other producers transporting oil within the United States pay an 8 cent-per-barrel tax that goes into an oil spill cleanup fund called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Tar sands oil producers do not. This inexplicable loophole leaves U.S. taxpayers on the hook if that oil spills.

    While the Senate was considering the Keystone XL pipeline, another pipeline burst in Montana, spilling more than 50,400 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River on January 17. As Ron noted on the Senate floor, thousands of residents of nearby Glendive, Montana had their water cut off after officials found oil and elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene in their drinking water.

    Ron knows well the carcinogenic dangers of benzene,  having fought hard to get benzene out of Oregonians’ gasoline and drinking water and he promised to fight a Keystone XL pipeline that puts other communities’ water at risk.

    The cleanup from the Montana oil spill is being aided by money from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which serves as an immediate source of funding for oil spills. But by allowing tar sands oil producers to avoid paying this tax, the current loophole puts Canadian tar sands producers ahead of the health and safety of local communities.

    Ron offered an amendment to close that loophole, which secured 50 votes from both parties on Jan. 22. However, it was not enough to clear a 60-vote Senate procedural hurdle, so the loophole remains open.

    Ron vowed on the Senate floor to continue fighting until the egregious discrepancy is fixed.

    “I won’t let this issue go until the loophole is closed for good and tar sands producers are paying their fair share,” he said.

    Ron also offered an amendment demanding the Senate acknowledge that the public should get full value for the natural resources U.S. citizens collectively own. Currently, natural gas on federal lands is being wasted through flaring, venting or leaks from domestic oil production. The Department of the Interior is not doing all it can to ensure the U.S. taxpayer gets what they are owed, which could otherwise be used as valuable U.S.-produced energy.

    A recent Government Accountability Office report estimated about $23 million a year is lost in the domestic production of oil and gas on federal lands through leaked or flared natural gas. Unfortunately, Senate Republican leaders did not allow a vote on his amendment.

    Ron cosponsored another bipartisan amendment offered by Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Michael Bennet, D- Colo., which would have permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The amendment fell one vote short of passing by a vote of 59 to 39 on Jan. 29. The LWCF program helps ensure access to outdoor recreation areas by providing funding to protect public lands and matching state grants. Wyden and Burr led 39 of their colleagues in urging Senate leadership to find a permanent funding solution in November.

  • Fighting for opportunities in Oregon

    Senator Wyden held town halls over the weekend in Josephine, Klamath and Lincoln counties where constituents asked about local issues such as the agreement he helped to broker in the Klamath Basin and his work with the Newport Fishermen’s Wives and Oregon congressional delegation to keep the Coast Guard rescue helicopter in Newport.

    Ron had the honor of taking his neighbor, 100-year-old World War II hero Dario Raschio, to lunch at Otto’s -- a must-stop deli in their southeast Portland neighborhood. And on Martin Luther King Day Ron had the privilege of speaking at The Skanner’s annual breakfast in Portland about the need to fulfill Dr. King’s challenge by repairing our nation’s broken criminal justice system and providing equal opportunity for all children to a good education.

    “Stop allowing the size of a parent’s wallet and the color of a child’s skin to determine the quality of a child’s education,” he said at The Skanner breakfast.

    At the Josephine County and Klamath County town halls on Saturday, Ron spoke of the urgent need to pass his O&C Act, which will double harvests and provide a steady supply of trees from federal O&C lands that will mean more jobs and new certainty for the mills and timber companies that rely on federal forests. Owen Dwyer, an eighth grader from Cave Junction, also asked Ron to keep up the fight to preserve net neutrality.

    He also spoke about the water compromise in the Klamath Basin that he helped to work out among tribes, irrigators and conservationists -- a message he emphasized again that evening when he attended the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce’s 94th annual gala in Klamath Falls.

    At the Klamath County town hall, Ron also lauded the efforts by Kaye Cory in the wake of her husband Lyle’s death to ensure veterans like her husband always receive timely and adequate health care from the VA.

    Before Senator Wyden’s town hall in Lincoln County on Sunday, Ron toured the Coast Guard facility in Newport and then met with the Newport Fishermen’s Wives, an essential ally that helped Oregon’s congressional delegation keep the Newport facility open through 2015. The helicopter there is critical for the safety of Oregon fishermen.

    Ron stressed that the fight to stop the Coast Guard from closing the Newport facility last year will allow work throughout 2015 to develop a longer-term solution to keep the helicopter in Newport.

    “This is a life-or-death question,” he said, noting that Coast residents and visitors depend on the rescue helicopters to survive accidents in  the cold waters of the Pacific.

    Senator Wyden has held 718 town halls in fulfillment of his pledge to have annual meetings in each of the state’s 36 counties to hear what is on the minds of Oregonians.

  • Shining Light on the Dark Money Tainting our Elections

    You don’t have to be deeply immersed in politics to recognize the disturbing state of modern campaigns. There are lots of reasons for why this is the case, but one of the biggest—perhaps the biggest—happened five years ago today. That’s when the Supreme Court offered its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, ruling that corporations have the same rights as people to spend money and influence elections.

    That decision unleashed a torrent of special-interest money that has washed over and tainted campaigns at every level. Even worse, the amount of money—especially anonymous money—pulsing through our elections grows with each cycle. It will not stop until we take action to reform our campaign finance system. With Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, campaign finance laws that have held back this flood of money are now seriously eroded,  with elections becoming less democratic and more the province of the wealthy.

    For decades I have worked to force more disclosure and transparency in the way campaigns are financed. With the amount of money gushing into campaigns it’s only fair and right that voters at least know who’s writing the checks.

    There are other tools as well and that’s why today I am again joining  Sen. Tom Udall from New Mexico to cosponsor legislation that will provide a much-needed  safeguard against the influence of big money in US elections. We are calling for a  constitutional amendment  that would give Congress the power to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures. Democracy is threatened under a system where unlimited sums of money can be raised and spent by an anonymous few to support a candidate or derail a campaign.

    I do not take constitutional amendments lightly. But the effects of Citizens United have become clear in the past few years, making our democracy less fair through huge sums of anonymous money influencing elections.

    In the last Congress, I was proud to join with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, in sponsoring the bipartisan “Follow the Money Act,” which would require all entities that engage in election-related activity to report their significant donors. At the very least, voters should know where campaign money is coming from and where it’s going.

    I hope my colleagues in the Senate will adopt these common-sense regulations to work towards more transparent campaigns in the future.