Rep. blasts governor on climate policy
Gov. Kate Brown, a vocal proponent of a cap and trade policy to curb Oregon's carbon emissions, hopped on a private jet to make a speech at Sunriver Resort in Central Oregon this week.
The jaunt received a somewhat predictable backlash from Republicans, who by and large opposed the policy as written earlier this year.
Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, whose district includes Sunriver, picked up a pen, addressing a formal letter to Brown in which he called the initial report of the trip from the conservative blog Oregon Catalyst "deeply concerning."
On Thursday, Zika took his complaints to conservative radio host Lars Larson.
"We drive from Redmond to Salem all the time for our legislative duties...so I know that trip very well and I've never taken a private jet, I don't think I ever will," Zika told Larson. "Their hypocrisy knows no bounds and I think it's time to hold our leaders accountable."
Campaign finance records show the first-term representative has received some fossil fuel cash, including $1,000 from the Oregon Fuels Association, and $500 from the Natural Gas Political Action Committee.
"Those donations don't sway my vote," Zika said in a phone interview Thursday.
Zika, who voted against House Bill 2020, said that wildfires are a major source of the state's carbon emissions, and says Oregon forests should be managed to tamp down on those fires.
And he expressed concern about whether the cost of transportation and heat could increase for his constituents.
According to Brown's office, the governor's flight Monday was paid for by the Oregon Forest & Industries Council, a trade association. Brown went to Sunriver to speak at the council's annual meeting.
"In order to be able to attend and participate as a representative of the state, she took a flight that was arranged and paid for by OFIC," Kate Kondayen, a spokeswoman for the governor, wrote in an email. "She does not frequently use private plane travel. The transportation arrangements for Monday were decided upon through the same lens as other scheduled events and travel plans, by balancing the need to get as much done as possible with the needs of doing so as efficiently as possible."
Zika said that the governor had other choices. She could have appeared at the event by video conference, or arranged her schedule ahead of time to accommodate the drive, he said.
"It kind of goes back to the 'Do as I say, not as I do,' thing," Zika said. "If you're out there saying that we need to cut our emissions, then you need to practice it."
Zika has also benefited from OFIC's largesse, receiving $1,000 from the group in October 2018.
Environmental advocates tend to dismiss this particular type of criticism as political stuntery.
Zoe Williams, writing in The Guardian, said criticism of personal habits is "particularly corrosive to environmentalism, where the compromises that activists necessarily make take up more discursive energy than the crisis itself."
In March, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was criticized for calling for a "Green New Deal" while also taking car services.
Laura Bliss, in a piece for CityLab, argued Ocasio-Cortez should take the subway more often — but because her constituents do.
"AOC's ability to keep step with Queens is a separate issue from her qualifications to fight for the environment on a national, even global stage," Bliss wrote. "In that context, if her every MTA swipe (or lack thereof) is interpreted as a brick in the ethical foundation for her climate advocacy, AOC will fail — because everyone who aspires to live by an environmental ethic 100% of the time fails, too."
Brown isn't the only Oregon politician who has made use of a private jet.
When Senate Republicans abandoned proceedings to avoid taking a vote on cap and trade policy, some were rumored to have taken a private jet out of the state.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce, who lost to Brown in 2016, traveled by private plane to Oregon's smaller cities and towns thanks to businessman Dick Withnell, according to reporting in this Statesman-Journal story at the time.