Transportation Commission Chair Takes a Stand–and is fired!
In a surprise move, the recently appointed Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission was fired by Governor John Kitzhaber for not approving subsidies
for coal exports at the port of Clatskanie, reported by the Oregonian today.
Surprise because the Governor has previously come out against exporting coal from Oregon ports, saying that coal, as well as oil, exports only bring danger and congestion to Oregon with few jobs. Catherine Mater had only been appointed last summer to fill out the post of Pat Egan, a former gubernatorial aide who had been transferred by his employer, Pacific Power. Ms. Mater had written an op ed explaining her no vote two weeks ago, stating that “(A)side from the significant environmental impacts oil and coal companies present, using Oregon as a transport route for these products is expected to impact the states’ agriculture and wood products industries, both of which rely on rail transport to move product. ”
She continued to lay out the potential economic costs to Oregon of being a pass through state for oil and coal exports:
Nationally the statistics are sobering: a loss of over $100 million annually per state in the agriculture sector resulting from more than two-week product shipment delays due to oil and coal shipment priority. Rail car prices are also likely to be affected, following national trends which have seen significant price increases resulting from coal and oil business demand (from $700/car to $6,000/car). Amtrak passenger rail schedules nationally have been affected by delays caused by coal and oil train shipments as well, with trip delays increasing to 60 percent in the last year.
Why should Oregon taxpayers subsidize an industry that not only will add costs and delays to Oregon producers but are dealing in a dangerous substance as well as fanning the flames of climate change. And why should Oregon’s governor, with his well known concerns about climate change as well as opposition to oil and coal trains fire someone brave enough to take a stand against the go-along, get-along Oregon Department of Transportation?
Kitzhaber’s official website doesn’t mention the firing, with the only press releases since September being about his inaugural address (which doesn’t mention oil, coal or climate change!).