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Wyden tackles two touchy topics in Bend

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Apr 02 2013 08:42:54 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 02 2013 08:59:17 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with the senator about his trip to Central Oregon and sat in on discussions with students and residents.

BEND, Ore. -

Energy and natural resources brought  Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to Central Oregon on Tuesday for presentations and open discussions at a Bend middle school and  the City Club of Central Oregon.

Wyden visited Pilot Butte Middle School, praising school leaders for cutting natural gas energy consumption by 38 percent, saving the school district more than $200,000.

"They're helping to clean up the climate by using natural gas, and at the same time generating real savings," Wyden said. "That's a very powerful one-two punch for a stronger economy, and for these younger people, a cleaner world."

"If these kids are getting a great school, and they've got a good budget and stuff, they've got a lot of opportunity," said eighth-grader Reign Bach. "And it's important to get a good education."

Natural gas was a big part of Wyden's message. He said it's 50 percent cleaner than other fossil fuels and is cheaper because of increased domestic supplies.

Wyden said the U.S. government shouldn't rush into exporting its supplies to other countries like China. The senator said too high levels of exports could lead to higher prices here in the U.S.

On Tuesday afternoon, Wyden spoke to the City Club of Central Oregon, expanding on his thoughts on energy and talking about the future of Oregon's timber industry.

"I also believe that we ought to be looking at approaches that bump up the harvest in Central and Eastern Oregon," Wyden said.

But some Central Oregonians had other issues on their minds -- like middle schoolers asking about gay marriage.

"Why do you think it shouldn't be a big deal?" Wyden asked the students.

"I don't think it's a big deal because it's what people want to do," a student said.

Several students shared their support for gay marriage.

When Wyden asked for viewpoints from students opposing gay marriage, no one spoke up.

He ended the conversation with gay marriage by sharing his thoughts: "If you don't like a gay marriage, then don't get one."

After Wyden spoke to the City Club about energy and natural resources, the first questioner from the audience asked his stance in the gun debate.

"Mental health services, front and center, background check system that works, dealing with these straw purchases," he said, adding, "I'm very interested in the high-capacity magazine limits."

But Wyden added  he is wary of legislation banning assault weapons -- saying the definition could be too broad and infringe on Americans' Second Amendment rights.

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