Letters: Rural Oregon at risk of power fiasco
For the past 75 years, Oregon's electric co-ops, like the West Oregon Electric Cooperative, have provided members with affordable, reliable electricity. Sometimes that's not easy.
WOEC experienced four FEMA events in the past six years, leaving consumers without power, causing millions of dollars in damages. FEMA funds bring the lights back on after these major events. However, due to an unintended consequence of federal tax law changes in 2017, electric co-ops that receive FEMA grants now are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status, forcing them to raise rates on members to pay taxes.
Electric cooperatives remain tax-exempt as long as they receive 85% of their income from their member-owners. With tax law changes, government grants now count as nonmember income, threatening this 85% threshold.
Thankfully, common-sense legislation in Congress — the RURAL Act — ensures that co-ops do not jeopardize their tax-exempt status when they accept government grants. Passage of this bipartisan legislation means that Oregon's electric co-ops do not have to choose between their tax status or rebuilding infrastructure. But time is running out.
The bill's ultimate fate may rest with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who has a unique opportunity to help keep rural Oregon in the light in more ways than one. By passing the RURAL Act, Wyden can continue as a shining example of bipartisan cooperation that Oregonians expect from their elected leaders.
Please write to Sen. Wyden asking him to support the Rural Act: wyden.senate.gov/contact/email-ron
West Oregon Electric Cooperative District 5 director
No proof Trump should be impeached
Forty-six years ago, in July 1973, while lying in a hospital bed in the old wooden Portland VA Medical Center, all the television channels' broadcasts were of the President Richard Nixon impeachment hearings in Congress. I had head injuries from Vietnam and had had surgery on my right ear and was covered in bandages, so I heard very little from my left ear and wasn't wearing my eyeglasses, thus could only see the foot of my bed.
Did Nixon have prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in? Maybe. Did Nixon aid and abet the purported cover-up? Yes. Was this a serious impeachable offense? Yes.
Once again, Congress is pursuing an impeachment of a president, and for what? As per Rep. Adam Schiff "quid pro quo." Really? Since the United States became active in world politics around 1873, quid pro quo has been the standard operandi on how it conducts its foreign policies.
Africa wants 100 tons of grain so Congress requires it to implement birth control, get the picture? America sends billions in aid around the world — food, weaponry, technology and financial aid — and does it expect things in return? You betcha.
If quid pro quo is a crime, then every official in Washington, D.C., is a criminal, even Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici.
Does President Donald Trump suffer from severe Stage 4 narcissism? Yes. Is President Trump a crude, rude dude? Yes. Are these attributes impeachable offenses? No, not according to my copy of the Constitution. Show me some facts.
Don't be fooled by Senate's impeachment folly
In structuring the impeachment trial, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks he can fool Democrats to send over the articles of impeachment without a guarantee of the production of witnesses and documents.
McConnell and his fellows in the Senate act as if the trial belongs solely to them, rather than to the country. McConnell and Trump know if there are no witnesses, such as those the president has refused to allow to testify, there will be no conviction.
Of course, they think the American people will fall for this. Well, will we?
Seek fairness in medical-billing fix
The legislation in Congress for surprise medical billing has the potential to improve our health care system, but not if it includes benchmark rates. Although the proposed benchmark rate law might lower current out-of-pocket costs for patients, it will have unintended consequences for local patients and providers.
I approach the surprise medical billing problem as a licensed clinical social worker. My clinic, the Firefly Institute, specializes in trauma-informed care and addressing adverse childhood experiences.
Benchmarking would require my clinic to use insurers' rates when a patient receives out-of-network care. This affects our ability to contract with insurers because benchmarking is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario. Even if we turn down the insurers' rates, we cannot earn more than insurers' rates as out-of-network providers.
This unfair negotiating table will force more providers to deliver services out of network. Patients will lose the ability to see whichever doctors and specialists they like and trust. For rural patients, the search for an in-network provider will become even harder.
Many patients currently drive an hour or more from rural areas to receive specialized services at my clinic. They would not be able to obtain these services closer to home. I worry about the prospect of fewer in-network providers for these patients who already travel so far.
Health insurance is important. It helps patients manage care. Congress should ensure fair negotiations between insurers and health care providers so that patients have fewer surprise bills and sufficient networks for care.
President, National Association of Social Workers Oregon Chapter
Time is now to address climate chaos
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists are convinced by evidence that human-caused global warming is real. Major organizations of physicists, chemists, meteorologists and astronomers agree. We are in a climate crisis.
When we began burning coal, oil and gas faster and faster, carbon dioxide levels exceeded the natural level. Normal variances of weather have become supercharged with more extremes. We have all witnessed, or heard of, more severe hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, massive downpours, fires and extreme snowfall. Supercharging our weather also affects our economy. It costs us billions of dollars.
As we begin 2020 I am hopeful that knowledge will turn into action. I encourage more citizens to become involved in combating climate change. We must move from helplessness to action. There is something that everyone can do from decreasing your own individual carbon footprint to writing your congressional and city representatives. The time is now.
Right now there is bipartisan and effective legislation called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 763. This act places a fee on carbon from fossil fuel companies and gives a dividend to every American household. What a positive effect on our well-being when we can avoid climate change costs and reap health benefits because of decreased pollution. A carbon fee and dividend plan actually would increase job growth.
Every day more people agree that climate change is real and placing a price on carbon is an effective way to deal with it. As we begin this new year, let's think about what each of us can do to help combat this enormous challenge. Let's show that we care not only about our current climate, but we care about the climate we leave for our children and future generations. Make climate a priority for 2020!
Even with changes, I'll read the Tribune
I just read Mark Garber's article on the impending changes on the immediate horizon in the Dec. 19 Tribune.
Of course it is inevitable, as cutbacks in other newspapers have occurred. That said, I am heartened by the fact that the newspaper is not going to disappear into cyberspace.
Admittedly, I am a tad old-school and relish reading current events in a newspaper I can hold in my hands. I remember when the Tribune was born, and like many other Portlanders eagerly grabbed each edition, as it was free. I recall some columnists from The Oregonian sharing their expertise after joining the Tribune. I am a native Portlander who has followed many of the horrific stories written about unspeakable occurrences that were difficult to digest.
The costs of doing business rise in many fields, resulting in necessary steps to curtail the outflow in a prudent manner. In a field that is very public and subject to positive and negative comments from folks of all stripes, it can be a challenge.
So yeah. I look forward to a beefed-up Thursday edition. And, yes, I will miss the Tuesday edition. But as a senior citizen, I don't have the time to dwell on this change. Time sprints along like a skilled distance runner and news cycles are short.
Do fatten up that issue and please keep your well researched and written stories rolling off the press. Thank you.
Mark L. Brown
Bipartisan act could address carbon goals
Exercise. Cook more homemade meals. Ah, it's time for resolutions.
My resolutions are to do more yoga and take more action on climate. Yoga is entirely under my control; my core strength and flexibility will increase the more I do. But I realize that anything I do for climate will be swamped by what the government does or does not do.
So, my new year's resolution is a new year's wish: I wish that, in these early days of January, my members of Congress solidify their own resolve to take bold action on climate in a collaborative and bipartisan manner.
The good news is that simple, bipartisan and effective national legislation exists. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend, Act, H.R.763, will drive down emissions 36% to 38% within 10 years while protecting the poor and middle class from increased costs by returning revenue to all Americans via a monthly dividend.
Within 10 years, local air quality will substantially improve, saving thousands of lives, and we will be on a path to avoid catastrophic climate disruption while the economy improves. Best of all, it has the support of hundreds of businesses, faith groups and social justice nonprofits from across the political spectrum.
Congressional Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader have the power to make climate a bridge issue by supporting H.R. 763. While I work to reduce my carbon footprint, I know their leadership would lessen my unease about toxic partisan politics and our uncertain future.
PPS climate change hire doesn't make sense
In your Dec. 12 edition, I immediately noticed the cover story regarding Portland Public Schools hiring Nichole Berg to be the manager for climate change and climate justice.
While I am in complete agreement that climate change is a critical issue that needs addressing, I question that her hire is necessary.
The story noted that her emphasis would be in social studies and in science curriculum. My bet is that the district already has people in charge of curriculum in both science and social studies at every grade level that could develop these programs to educate the district's students.
While the need to address climate change is clear to me, the need to hire an additional person to handle the curriculum seems a waste.
What am I missing here?
This is year to change how we eat
With the glow of Christmas barely behind us, we look forward to the new year and the customary resolutions: reduce social media, reduce weight and, this year, reduce animal food consumption.
One-third of consumers already report reducing their consumption of animal foods. Hundreds of school, college, hospital and corporate cafeterias have embraced Meatless Monday. Even fast-food chains such as Chipotle, Denny's, Panera Bread, Subway, Taco Bell and White Castle are rolling out plant-based options.
A dozen start-ups, led by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are creating healthy, eco-friendly, compassionate, convenient, delicious plant-based meat and dairy products. Meat industry giants Tyson Foods, Cargill and Canada's Maple Leaf Foods have invested heavily in plant-based meat development. So have a number of Microsoft, Google, Twitter and PayPal pioneers.
According to Plant-Based Foods Association, plant-based food sales have grown by 20% in the past year, 10 times the growth rate of all foods. Sales of plant-based cheeses, creamers, butter, yogurts and ice creams are exploding at a 50% growth rate. Plant-based milks now account for 15% of the milk market.
The plant-based new year resolution requires no sweat or deprivation — just some fun exploration of your favorite supermarket and food websites.
Legislature, Congress must act on climate
I support Harriet Cooke's call for more debate and compromise and less partisan divisiveness (Portland Tribune, Dec. 26). The serious issues of inequality and climate change need responses now. We all suffer if our democratic institutions are disrupted by the powerful. We all suffer if we do nothing to minimize disruptions to the climate and environment. These disruptions will hurt us all, rural or urban, left or right.
A diversity of perspectives gives us strength, but it does not make life easy or simple. Our communities need to demand our leaders honestly grapple with these serious challenges, and not protect their position by ignoring these hard issues and acting only on safe issues.
The Oregon Legislature needs to agree to some kind of cap-and-trade that will actually have an impact on Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions, and not be just window dressing for the legislators to say they have done something.
Action at the federal level is even more important. The Green New Deal is broad in scope and impact, and because of that will likely take some debate and compromise before we can enjoy its fruits. There is an act that is ready to implement and could speed the transition to a safe and sustainable energy future, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). An independent research team at Columbia University found that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 36% to 38% by 2030 while protecting middle and low-income households from price increases.
We cannot afford to allow our leaders to stay in partisan gridlock while our climate and democracy is damaged. In this coming new year I encourage everyone to contact their representatives and ask that they act on these important issues.
Act now to save the world's environment
The end of the year is upon us and is always a time of reflection for many.
I take a moment to reflect on the journey that this year has taken our family on — a new baby, another child reaching toddlerhood, challenging nights, many with compromised sleep. As a new mother, it is always a sharp contrast — the beauty and richness of my family life juxtaposed with the strain, the sheer exhaustion of keeping it all afloat.
So similar seems the nature of the human game. Humans have done incredible things, created complex systems, beautiful works of art and music, are capable of a degree of compassion not seen in other animal forms.
However, humans also have the capacity to perform egregious acts, tapping into the aggressive side that seems to also be a natural part of our existence. Acts of killing, of war, of greed. Perhaps most pressing of all these exploitations is the influence that humans have had on our climate.
Through years of digging, extracting and mining, the fossil fuels that we have burned into the atmosphere have changed and continue to change our weather patterns, taking us into a realm of a frightening unknown.
The climate crisis is daunting and one that is always on my mind. How can we possibly reverse the course of what seems like a train speeding into a brick wall? What will my children's future look like? What will happen to all the beautiful and innocent nonhuman life and systems that have been in place in a delicate balance for thousands of years? Is this the beginning of the end?
I cannot bring myself to believe that there is nothing to be done. So, I write this to reach out and educate those who may not know the economics behind a policy called carbon fee and dividend. The basic tenet places a gradually increasing fee on carbon-based products from its source, then distributes that collected money in the form of an equal dividend to every American.
This simple and elegant policy will cause carbon-based products to increase in price to a degree that they are unsustainable to use. This paves the way for cheaper alternatives to be the mainstay of our energy sources. It also protects low- and middle-income families from the rising costs of everyday goods.
While this is certainly not the only thing that should be done to help mitigate the climate crisis, studies have shown that it is the best single policy that makes the biggest dent in our emissions with at least a 40% reduction by 2030.
In the coming of this new and crucial decade, I call on those who feel helpless to take action. Write your senators and representatives, your mayors, your city councils, and tell them how much you want to see action taken on the climate. Significant changes must be made starting next year if we want to avoid the beginning of the end of a future for our children.
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