A major shakeup is in the works for Oregon Senate District 30.
Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, was recently appointed to represent Oregon on the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Council. His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate Rules Committee, which will take up the appointment Nov. 13-15.
Ferrioli told the Eagle he wants to see the security of the regional power grid enhanced to protect it from cyberattacks and even an electromagnetic-pulse attack by North Korea.
“Power distribution systems are a favorite target,” he said. “The Pacific Northwest has long known a sense of peace and security.”
He also cited his work on the Senate’s Natural Resources Subcommittee protecting steelhead and salmon.
“We can’t have any species go extinct on our watch,” he emphasized.
Ferrioli said he’s not a climate change denier.
“The question of anthropogenic impacts is like asking how many angels can fit on the head of a pin,” he said. “What difference does it make? The fact is that adding carbon to the environment has been a concern of Oregonians for a decade.”
Ferrioli noted that the regional power council has focused on carbon reduction by way of conservation, which he characterized as the “cheapest solution.”
Political musical chairs
If confirmed by the Senate, Ferrioli will submit his resignation and a 30-day window will open for his replacement, according to the Oregon Legislative Counsel. Republican precinct committees in his district will submit the names of three to five candidates to the county courts or commissions in his district. The commissioners will then choose Ferrioli’s replacement, with the votes apportioned by the total number of electors in each county.
Senate District 30 is the state’s largest district, encompassing 36,000 square miles, including six counties and parts of five more.
Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, whose state House District includes Grant County, told the Eagle he’s interested in filling Ferrioli’s position. If appointed, Bentz would need to run for election in 2018 to finish Ferrioli’s four-year term.
Replacing Bentz in the House would involve a similar process. Grant County Judge Scott Myers described it as “political musical chairs.”
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown appointed Ferrioli and Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, to the regional power council in October. Both have served in the Senate since 1997.
Established by federal law in 1980, the power council is made up of two gubernatorial appointees each from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, backed by a full-time staff. Oregon council member terms are three years, with appointees limited to three consecutive terms.
Funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, the council helps develop strategies aimed at balancing the needs of power production and conservation with fish and wildlife protections. Council members are considered to be full-time state public officials.
A Senate legacy
Ferrioli moved to John Day in 1994 to become executive director of Malheur Timber Operators Inc., retiring in 2010 to a ranch near Mt. Vernon. He was elected to the state Senate in 1996 and is serving his fifth term.
Ferrioli has served as chairman or vice chairman of legislative committees dealing with natural resources, stream restoration and species recovery, water and land use, revenue and rules. He also served on the Oregon Broadband Advisory Council and the Commission on Indian Services.
He described the state’s steelhead and salmon protection plan as “unprecedented” and a “model” for other states.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said.
He called his work with Indian Services “very gratifying” and noted that other states have strained relations with American Indians compared to Oregon.
Ferrioli said he served as a “conduit for information” from rural Oregon to the capital. He cited open land regulations as an example where rules established to prevent sprawl in western Oregon haven’t work well in Eastern Oregon.
He said it took the city of Bend seven years to grow by 165 acres despite the efforts of a large organized planning department, and he presented a bill to address that problem in the past five legislatures.
“Each time it got some more converts,” he said.
Looking ahead to the council
Regional power issues can be complex, and Ferrioli said he’ll rely on his predecessors and the power council’s professional staff to handle the learning curve.
Outgoing council members from Oregon include Henry Lorenzen, a farmer and attorney from Pendleton, and Bill Bradbury, a former state senator and Oregon Secretary of State.
Ferrioli noted that Gov. Brown made a wise choice in appointing a Republican and a Democrat to the power council.
“There’s symmetry to the choice,” he said. “Sen. Devlin is more of an expert on budgets, and I have extensive experience with natural resource issues.”
Ferrioli said he supports regulation of power markets.
“Unregulated energy leads to Enron-type companies – energy buccaneers,” he said.
Rep. Bentz has represented House District 60 since 2008, when he was unanimously elected by the district’s county courts and commissions to replace Rep. Tom Butler.
“I initially was interested in running for Ted’s Senate seat when I heard he might not run for re-election,” Bentz said.
Bentz ran for election in 2008 and is in his fifth term in the House. Bentz faced no opposition in the general election, other than in 2014.
Bentz, who owns a small farm and is an attorney with the Yturri Rose law firm in Ontario, specializing in agriculture, water and real property law, said he’s interested in serving on the same committees Ferrioli served on.
“That would depend upon who is already serving on those committees,” he noted.