February 1, 2006
Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, will roll up her sleeves next week and set to work on legislation to encourage the growth of renewable energy.
Smith, chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, will begin working with her peers in Salem on Feb. 6 to address the issue. She believes Oregon officials need to encourage more bio-mass, wind, hydro and bio-diesel production.
“Hood River County and many other entities in Oregon are interested in getting into this business. We need to be able to bring something to the table next year that makes it more affordable,” said Smith.
The Hood River County Commission will interview candidates for a nine-member central steering committee to begin exploring “green power” options on Feb. 21. The local government agency believes that operating an alternative energy facility will provide revenue for extra projects, such as a bicycle path along public rights-of-way throughout the area.
The county also wants to establish more affordable housing opportunities for middle income residents. And expand the existing industrial land base to create more family-wage jobs. Officials are hopeful that renewable energy production might fund these goals.
County Commission Chair Rodger Schock said, with the annual budget growing tighter each year, the county is also looking for ways to avoid any reduction in essential services.
“Anything Patti and the state legislature can do to help out here is going to be much appreciated,” he said.
Smith said renewable energy was a key topic of discussion at the fourth annual Legislative Agricultural Chairs Summit. The conference, held in Phoenix, Ariz., drew representatives from 43 states, four Canadian Provinces and Puerto Rico.
She said the officials in attendance believed that farmers had a strong role to play in decreasing America’s dependence upon foreign oil, and finding fuel sources that were friendlier to the environment and could meet the growing need for more power.
“We were all interested in meeting today’s energy challenges by coming up with legislation that could be applied regionally or nationally,” said Smith.
She said the House committee intends to have an Oregon bill ready for introduction at the start of the 2007-09 session. She is hopeful that legislation will spark more interest in renewable energy production.
In December, Smith, a rancher, was presented with the 2005 Defender of the Family Farm award at the annual convention of the Oregon Farm Bureau.
She was honored for leading the way on several issues important to the agriculture community. These included the formation of a scientific panel that has been tasked with finding safe ways to stop the theft of anhydrous ammonia, a farm fertilizer that is used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Smith also made reporting practices for pesticide use less onerous for farmers and increased the ability of the state to gain federal funding for noxious weed control.
“Oregon agriculture has become a $4 billion industry with nearly 250 commodities grown and produced here. It is such an important industry for everything from how we live, work and play to our potential for economic development,” said Smith. “Oregon farmers have much to be proud of and it is truly an honor to represent them.”