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Enviros squabble over governor's nominee to Environmental Quality Commission

The Oregonian by Ted Sickinger May 21, 2018

A handful of environmental groups are pushing back against Gov. Kate Brown's appointment to the Environmental Quality Commission because, they contend, he helped redirect millions of taxpayer dollars away from endangered salmon in the Klamath Basin and toward agribusiness.

But the nominee, Greg Addington, says that's a far-fetched story by a group of organizations that got kicked out of the Klamath Basin settlement talks years ago and haven't forgotten about it. Other environmental groups rose up in Addington's defense, saying he's an excellent candidate for the board that oversees the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

< Greg Addington

Until December 2015, Addington was the executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, a nonprofit that advocates for farming and ranching interests in the region. He was heavily involved in the 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the accompanying settlement to remove four dams on the Klamath River.

Two months before he resigned, the U.S. Department of the Interior's inspector general launched an investigation into whistleblowers' complaints. They alleged that an organization closely tied to Addington's, the Klamath Water and Power Agency, had misused millions of dollars that were supposed to benefit fish and wildlife. Instead, they said, the money went to ensure water deliveries for private irrigators.

The inspector general's investigation substantiated most of the whistleblowers' complaints. It concluded that the Bureau of Reclamation lacked the authority to enter into an agreement with the Klamath Water and Power Agency, and that the activities funded did not benefit fish and wildlife, but were used to benefit irrigators, resulting the waste of $32 million.

Oregon Wild, WaterWatch and the Audobon Society of Portland contend that Addington and his organization were instrumental in lobbying for the creation of the Klamath Water and Power Agency, that they shared staff and held joint board meetings, and that he bears some responsibility for the weak rules and oversight surrounding the money.

"Simply put, neither KWAPA nor the money it wasted would never have existed without the lobbying efforts of Addington and KWUA," said Steve Pedery, conservation director at Oregon Wild. "Many of us in the conservation community were stunned when we learned of this nomination. It is pretty shocking that Gov. Brown would nominate a guy who at least bears some of the responsibility for it to serve on the EQC."

The groups wrote to the Oregon Senate last week to oppose Addington's nomination to the Environmental Quality Commission. The confirmation hearings begin Tuesday.

Addington said he spent time with legislators Monday to rebut the allegations in the letter. He said the Klamath Water and Power Agency followed the rules laid out by the Bureau of Reclamation, and that the spending helped wildlife by reducing irrigators' draw on the Klamath River.

"This boiled down to some of these organizations having a real problem with this money being spent on farmers," he said. "The notion that we had the keys to the Treasury and absconded with a bunch of money is ridiculous.

"This money was not wasted. It kept us alive. And I'd do it again."

Paul Simmons, an attorney for the Klamath Water Users Association, said all of the spending by the Klamath Water and Power Agency was out in the open, and that the organization disagreed with the inspector general's after-the-fact conclusions, as did the Bureau of Reclamation.

A number of environmental groups that worked with Addington on the Klamath Basin agreement also wrote to the the Senate to support his candidacy

Steve Rothert, the California director for the conservation group American Rivers, described Addington as "a stand-up guy who doesn't deserve the allegations levied against him. I saw him time and again stand up in defense of agreements that were distasteful, if not outright offensive, to the agricultural community" in order to move the broader agreement forward.

In a letter to the Senate, Rothert said the historic Klamath agreements would not exist without Addington. "American Rivers is confident that Mr. Addington would serve the EQC as a constructive member with great skill and integrity."



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