Senator Ron Wyden responded to questions concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline and climate change from a crowd that packed the Ashland High School gymnasium on at his annual town hall meeting on Feb. 23rd.
Audience members were particularly concerned with the conflict surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wyden was asked directly by an Ashland High School student “Will you commit to us today that you will join our community in speaking out against frugal of the frack gas pipeline and export terminal?”
Wyden met this question by saying “I really wasn’t going to put my thumb on the scale but I’m going to make sure that both sides were treated fairly.”
The crowd was not satisfied with Wyden’s response. Wyden was later asked by another Ashland High School student, Kleya Dhenin, why he was cautious to commit to fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Why won’t you commit today to oppose the pipeline,” asked Dhenin who received a standing ovation from the crowd. Wyden responded by saying “If a company isn’t going to find a way to make sure the land owners are happy it’s not going to make the test.”
Climate change was also a topic of concern for the audience. “When we tackle climate change everybody knows we’re not just doing it for now, we’re doing it for our kids, and our grand kids,” Wyden said. He emphasized that major companies that appeared to be the most reluctant to join the fight for a better environment in the past, have joined the cause. “The most reluctant to be bold are now saying we got to figure this out.”
“It’s clear that we also have to figure out a way to take bigger steps, bolder steps, because folks, we don’t have time to wait,” he continued.
Regarding the new immigration policy put in place by President Trump a student from Ashland High School asked if there was still an opportunity to repeal the policy.
“When we start the debate about immigration, let’s make sure the first sentence out of our mouth is, America has always been a nation of immigrants,” Wyden responded. He suggested a proposal that he brought to the senate that focused on strengthening borders and enforcing immigration laws by the books. He explained if an illegal immigrant comes forward and pays a fine for entering the country illegal and shows that they haven’t broken any other laws and is fluent in English, they should have the opportunity to became a citizen.
“The choice on immigration is one of two routes, you can continue to play the blame game or you can decide to fix it. The Oregon way is to decide to fix it,” said Wyden. He emphasized that there are individuals living in Southern Oregon with the fear of deportation. “The Oregon way is better than that,” he said.
This will mark Wyden’s 798th town hall meeting since he was elected as Senator in 1996. “Part of the Oregon way is to work together whenever we can,” said Wyden. He also discussed issues regarding LGBTQ rights, healthcare, political discourse, and internet privacy.