Capital Press: Timber families take last stand against climate bills at Oregon Capitol

Via Capital Press

Timber families, truckers and others representing rural industries — more than 300 in all — assembled at the Oregon Capitol Wednesday to protest House Bill 2020, also known as cap and trade, which they say will crush their industries and leave many of them jobless.

This was the second Wednesday in a row a convoy of logging trucks convened at the Oregon State Fairgrounds before protesters were bused to the Capitol. This time, there were more than 100 trucks. Even with a police escort, trucks were backed up on Interstate 5 for over 10 miles.

Impact on industries

Farmers and industry members who will be impacted by HB 2020 say that Oregon’s cap-and-trade legislation will put them out of business, require them to lay off workers and leave their families without financial support.

At the Capitol, protesters waved signs and took turns at the podium to voice their concern.

Tony Chapman, 45, from Deer Island, is a third-generation logger. Chapman came to protest in Salem because he’s a single father and says he worries that HB 2020 will make it harder to provide for his children.

“I’ve been logging since I was 18. Been doing this all my life. It’s really the only thing I know,” Chapman said. “Well, I don’t know what I will do if this bill passes. I’ll get laid off. We’ll lose everything without my timber dollar.”

May 31, Stimson Lumber, west of Portland, laid off 60 sawmill workers — 40% of its workforce — in anticipation of cap and trade and other new taxes.

Protesters said they do not want to become another statistic like Stimson Lumber.

Angelina Sanchez, 39, from Sweet Home, runs Angel’s Rock N’ Roll Construction. Sanchez showed up to protest because she fears that if HB 2020 passes, she won’t be able to afford the cost of fuel to continue operating.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be clean,” says Sanchez. “It’s just that I can’t afford this. It’s going to hurt so many people.”

Abigail Eckhart, 32, of Salem, handed out free water bottles to protesters at the rally. Although Eckhart is not part of the timber community, she believes HB 2020 will hurt her working-class family. “People don’t realize how much this will impact everybody,” Eckhart says. “There’s so much going on in this Capitol building that impacts me. I can’t stay at home and say nothing.”

Cap and trade

June 17, the legislation they are protesting passed the Oregon House 36-24 after more than 6 hours of debate on the House floor.

The bill now goes to the Senate for the final vote. If Republican senators attempt a walk-out on the bill, Gov. Kate Brown has said she will call a special session July 2 to get the job done. If it passes, Gov. Brown has already promised to sign the bill into law.

Advocates say the cap-and-trade legislation will be a victory in the struggle to slow down climate change.

Opponents say it will damage Oregon’s economy by catapulting fuel and energy prices while doing little to benefit the planet.

The “cap” part sets a firm limit — which gets stricter over time — on greenhouse gas emissions. Under HB 2020, Oregon companies that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon a year would be regulated. This would apply to about 100 companies statewide, including those handling fertilizer, fuel and energy.

This would impact nearly everyone and, according to the Oregon Farm Bureau, it would disproportionately hurt those in rural and agricultural industries.

The “trade” part, known as carbon pricing, creates a market for companies to buy and sell allowances that permit them to emit a specific amount of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. According to proponents, this gives companies a strong incentive to invest in “greener” technologies.

Oregon’s program would begin in 2021, and the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

“Climate change is the fight of our lifetime,” Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, one of the bill’s chief advocates, tweeted Monday.

Oregon lawmakers have been pushing for a cap-and-trade program like this for over a decade. And Oregon isn’t the first. According to the World Bank, 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces have a carbon pricing program.

Barry Rabe, a policy researcher and author of the 2018 book, “Can We Price Carbon,” points out that in California, where cap and trade was implemented in 2013, emissions have declined.

Opponents from both parties, however, recognize that cap and trade won’t dramatically reduce emissions. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recent report, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have declined in 7 out of the past 10 years — and only 20% of those reductions can be tied to cap and trade.

Jeffrey Ball, a researcher at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, says that carbon pricing without global adjustment for industries that are most vulnerable, though excellent in theory, fails in practice.

“It’s giving politicians and the public the warm feeling that they’re fighting climate change,” Ball says, “even as the problem continues to grow.”

Preston Mann