Senator bias results in unsavory coal plant vote

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Hey ’Cats. I’ve got a bit of intrigue for you (and real intrigue, too, not just wondering who plastered Dillin with weepy poetry last week). Two weeks ago at the ASLC Senate, representatives from Greenfield, in conjunction with the Sierra Club, brought a resolution to be considered by the legislative body. The “Linfield Beyond Coal Resolution” would state that Linfield agrees that the Boardman Coal Field Plant (located in Boardman, Ore.) should be shut down and transitioned into a cleaner source of energy in 2014, six years sooner than PGE’s suggested 2020 date. As a resolution, it wouldn’t actually enforce an action but merely state the Senate’s position as a legislative body.
The resolution is part of a larger movement the Sierra Club is spearheading across Oregon. It plans to get as many universities and colleges to approve its version of the resolution as possible before taking them to the Public Utilities Commission hearing in late June. Hearing no opposition from the legislative body, the April 12 motion was tabled until the following week where it would go to a vote.
Fast forward to the Senate meeting April 19. The Sierra Club and Greenfield representatives returned to debate the resolution before the final vote but were met with significant opposition. A senator, junior Andrew Carpenter, took control of the discussion and rattled off a laundry list of statistics regarding the shutdown. Carpenter asserted that the 2014 date would cost taxpayers more money than the 2020 date, that the pollution levels are not as bad as the representatives claimed and that the energy lost could not immediately be replaced with any other source. He also claimed to have been in communication with PGE executives, who had furnished his statistics. The resolution was defeated soundly.
Freshman Tyler Gerlach, who helped present the resolution, had a few things to say to me about the questions brought up by the senator:
“The questions and statistics were ones that we, as a grassroots movement, couldn’t really answer,” Gerlach said. “He was almost uncomfortably prepared.”
Does anything about this story sound at all fishy to you? If not, try a Google search on “Andrew Carpenter PGE” and see what comes up. The first hit takes us to the Web page of Bruce Carpenter, PGE vice president of transmission and distribution services — in other words, Andrew’s father. That’s right Wildcats, the “PGE executive” that Carpenter claimed to be speaking to was likely his own father.
What does this tell us? Several things, all troubling. First, it shows us that in the week leading up to the vote, Carpenter Junior was pumping Daddy for stats or, more likely, getting fed stats by his father with which to shoot down the resolution. Assuming the latter is true, this means that PGE is taking this resolution seriously and actively trying to shoot it down whenever they can. More importantly, it means that PGE executives aren’t above cramming statistics down a student-senator’s throat so that he can throw them back up at a pliable and easily influenced body of students. I can’t think of a grosser misuse of corporate studies and power.
“[Carpenter] had studies that didn’t address parts of the issue that are relevant to our case,” Gerlach said. “But what could we do? We don’t have the means to do studies like that.”
Wow, way to go PGE. You used a student like a monkey wrench to defeat a resolution that could lead to you shutting down a coal plant and (God forbid!) help the environment. I know that you guys are only looking after your already overstuffed pocketbooks, but this is a little disgusting, even for you. You’d think that with your checkered history (see, part of the Enron scandal) you’d at least try to do something good for the world.
As for you, senator Carpenter, I wish I could say that your move wasn’t well played, but it was. You obviously knew that Sierra and Greenfield couldn’t shoot down cold, hard, corporate “bull” and, as such, played your hand accordingly. Well done, sir, but be warned: This is not the end. This reporter is fully in support of the Linfield Beyond Coal Resolution, and you better believe I’m coming to the next Senate meetings (alongside the Sierra Club and Greenfield) prepared with facts enough to counter your “statistics” and helping push this resolution through. Such facts exist, believe me, and without getting blindsided by your sneak attack, your figures can be knocked down with relative ease.
There’s one last thing I’d like to say. Not to get up on a soapbox, but logically, there is absolutely no reason not to take action to stop global warming. If it doesn’t exist, so we spent some money. If it does, we took steps to prevent what might have undone our entire global infrastructure as we know it. If we don’t take any action and this climate shift intensifies, as it well might, the executives at PGE and other such energy companies are going to be left as the wealthiest men on this charred ball of rock, scratching their heads and wondering who they can try to extort next now that everyone is dead.
I urge those in the ASLC Senate to vote for this resolution the next time it’s brought to the table. I’m not asking for money or a picket line around PGE, just a simple raised hand at the next meeting. Hell, you can even pick which one. People, do the logical thing and help the earth cover its ass. Anybody who wants to discuss, argue or affirm anything in this article, feel free to shoot me an e-mail ([email protected]), and we’ll talk. Until then, see you at the next Senate meeting.
Live long and prosper.

Christ Forrer Guest Columnist

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12 Responses to “Senator bias results in unsavory coal plant vote”

  1. Mark Johnson on April 30th, 2010 6:40 pm

    So I’m confused. Andrew Carpenter voted for the senate as a whole? Or did he tell people how to vote? Or are people independent minds that can think for themselves? I don’t understand how you can rag on someone with FACTS in hand, debating a resolution. It doesn’t matter how it happend. It happened. And this resolution doesn’t do anything. It just puts our name at the bottom of a piece of paper that may or may not sway a couple votes for a house or senate bill that doesn’t exist. Is it not ok for Andrew to defend his dad’s job and make it clear that you guys (I say you guys because I know Chris and Tyler are friends) are trying to take jobs away for the ‘righteous’ cause. Taking jobs does nothing for anyone.

  2. Tyler Gerlach on May 1st, 2010 4:15 pm

    Andrew asked specific questions that PGE has focused on in debate because they know that we don’t have the answers to them. PGE is the only body with the resources to do an analysis of the level that we would need, and they haven’t done so because it would most likely prove that it would be in our best interest that the plant be shut down in 2014. I completely support Andrew defending his dad’s job on a personal level, but as a Linfield student senator he has a responsibility to represent his constituents and with a conflict of interest like that, it seems like he was representing PGE instead. Oh and by the way the jobs would not be lost, the plant would most likely be transitioned into a domestic natural gas burning plant which would accomplish the purposes of keeping those people employed, powering Oregon’s energy demands, and dramatically reducing the emissions from the plant.

  3. Tyler Gerlach on May 1st, 2010 4:22 pm

    And just for your information, this resolution is a part of a larger campaign throughout Oregon. Four schools have already passed this resolution and it would be brought to several hearings in the next month and a half to show those departments and commissions that student populations care more about their state’s environment, economy, and people than the wallets of utility company corporate executives.

  4. Chris Forrer on May 1st, 2010 10:30 pm

    Oh, and for the record, Tyler and I are acquaintances that only met just this week after this reporter took interest in the coal plant issue. I am not a member of Greenfield, nor the Sierra Club, I just happen to feel strongly about this issue.

  5. Chris Forrer on May 1st, 2010 10:31 pm

    Allow me to clear some things up. Obviously, Senator Carpenter didn’t vote for the entire Senate. I get how the cute comments at the start of your post seem snappy, but you’re strafing the point of this issue by trying to zero in on his ‘facts’ (I use the term loosely). The point I’m trying to make is that PGE is clearly taking this resolution seriously enough to make sure that somebody was present at the ASLC Senate meeting with PGE-furnished statistics (that a grassroots movement clearly couldn’t refute) to gun it down. So everything you’re saying about it being nothing more than a name on a paper is clearly not the mindset of Portland General Electric. It is absolutely Senator Carpenter’s right to defend his father’s company; it’s that very company’s actions this reporter has a problem with, not the Senator.

  6. Chris Forrer on May 1st, 2010 10:31 pm

    On another note, I don’t remember ever saying this resolution would lead to a loss of jobs…as a matter of fact, I said the plant wouldn’t be shut down and lose any jobs at all, but rather be transitioned into a natural gas plant before going to entirely green energy, a perfectly viable option that PGE explored and canned to save themselves some money. I don’t have a problem with tightening pocketbooks, but when the monetary loss isn’t even that great for a company of this size and they can help out the Earth I don’t see the downside, frankly. Not to mention that Vice President Carpenter’s job isn’t going to be in danger anyway; PGE is always going to need a VP of Emissions.

  7. Chris Forrer on May 1st, 2010 10:32 pm

    Lastly, you’re completely missing the overarching theme of the piece. Yeah, I think PGE acted heinously, but the point is that this resolution is a small way to help out the Earth. Check the end bit about logic again and maybe you’ll see why I think this is a good idea. It’s something that requires nothing of our senate but support in spirit and could help out with a problem that’s bigger than any of us.

  8. Andrew Carpenter on May 3rd, 2010 2:16 pm

    Hey everyone,
    seeing as this article has to do with me, I figured that it might be good for me to maybe clear up some comments.

    First, yes my father is Bruce Carpenter, Vice President of Transmission and Distribution. I told all of senate that I talked to the Vice President of Transmission and Distribution along with the rest of the people I talked to. Did I feel as though it was necessary that I say that it was my father? No, it was not. Though when people asked me how I was able to contact a VP, I informed them that it was my father.

    Second, I am in fact not a ‘monkey wrench’ being used by PGE. I contacted my father ASKING for information on the Boardman Power Plant. All of the information that they gave me is readily available to the public. If people would like, I will get links for them.

    Third, I would say that this is not an open close discussion on whether or not it is environmentally friendly. One needs to consider the social and economic effects as well as the environmental effects. This is the difference between being green (only looking to maintain the environment) and sustainable (social and economic impact).

    I offer this dialogue to further the conversation on discovering what is best for everyone.

    Andrew Carpenter

  9. Mark Johnson on May 4th, 2010 9:25 am

    Well said Andrew. I don’t feel you have to defend a thing you did but you did so well. I know how it feels. I support gun rights so automatically I must be a shill for the NRA and gun lobbyist. I’m against health care for everyone so I must be getting paid by insurance companies. Regardless of your connections, regardless of how you disseminated your information, you still didn’t vote for everyone. People have independent minds and can choose to vote how they want. If Future Greenpeace of America doesn’t have a rebuttal, that’s their fault for not being prepared. Instead, they have to attack you personally for being the son of a greedy, money grubbing corporatist. Another page out Saul Alinsky’s book. “Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.” Hmmm, sounds familiar.

  10. Chris Forrer on May 5th, 2010 10:39 pm

    I think you gents ought to re-read the article where I expressly state that the fault I am looking to lay goes on PGE’s doorstep, not the Senator’s. The only thing I find slightly unprofessional about this whole ordeal on Senator Carpenter’s plate is that he failed to mention that his father was the executive he spoke to. You have to admit Senator, although your father certainly is a legitimate source the fact that you weren’t up front about that casts doubt on the whole process and probably would have affected some people’s votes. Beyond that, bravo for furnishing statistics. It was, as I said exactly, a well-played move.

    As far as sustainability, I still fail to see how this will:
    A) Lose jobs, as it can be transitioned into a natural gas plant and, eventually, wind or other green energy.
    B) Lose energy, as Oregon is one of the nation’s highest producers of hydroelectric and wind energy, and our wind production is only increasing as PGE continues to erect new wind turbines.
    C) Lose money, as PGE is a multi-billion dollar corporation that has stakes in far more plants and energy production systems that one simple coal plant.

  11. Chris Forrer on May 5th, 2010 10:42 pm

    And Mr. Johnson, that last comment applies to you as well. I seriously doubt you even read this article based on the fact that you find it an affront to Senator Carpenter. The fault I lay is on PGE, and you would know that if you’d have actually read it.

    PS- I’m a Socialist; does that automatically make me an anti-corporate pinko? No sir, it doesn’t, no more than your gun rights make you an NRA blowhard or your anti-health care makes you an insurance company’s puppet. Perhaps you ought to take a measure of your own advice and not judge and label us “Future Greenpeace of America” members as you yourself disdain being labeled.

  12. Mark Johnson on May 6th, 2010 11:58 pm

    I was the first one to comment. I didn’t comment based on nothing. I had no idea about the Carpenter connection before reading it. If you lay blame on PGE, why bring Andrew into this at all? If i had talked to Andrew’s dad, would I have had to say I talked to this senators dad? How does it make a difference how he got the information? Maybe you should have been more critical of greenfield for not being properly prepared or professional. Multiple senators I have talked to were turned off by the hodge podge presentation and laissez faire attitude, which makes the information less credible.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.

Senator bias results in unsavory coal plant vote