An attendee of a rally that opposed cap and trade in Oregon stands near one of many tractors that drove to the Capitol on Thursday. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
SALEM — Through speeches and blaring horns, opponents to Oregon’s cap-and-trade proposal made their views clear to state lawmakers Thursday.
Local police estimate the logging-oriented rally drew about 1,000 people to the Capitol, contending that a carbon pricing proposal would disproportionately impact rural industries like logging and farming.
The legislation, House Bill 2020, is stalled in the Senate, where leaders say it doesn’t have votes to pass.
“I want to keep my job and stay in Oregon, where I grew up,” said Joe Kennedy, a logger from Sweet Home. “I fought for this country and now they want to take my rights away.”
Although Democratic leaders announced Tuesday the proposal had died, many rally-goers said they were making it clear that if a carbon tax proposal returned, so would they. Senate Republicans walked out last week to stop a vote, and the 11 senators remained away from the Capitol Thursday.
“Kate will bring it back,” said Janet Mulder, a rancher from Drain, whose husband held a sign of a boot kicking the flaming names of U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden into a dumpster. “Don’t ever bring it back.”
Ray Winters, a 33-year-old trucker from Hillsboro, said many weren’t convinced the bill was dead.
“They think they’re just trying to get (the Senate Republicans) back in the building,” he said.
The event was mostly spawned by the Facebook page Timber Unity, which has grown to more than 6,000 followers over a few weeks.
Timber Unity has been portrayed as a grassroots movement by members, though it recently formed a political action committee directed by Andrew Miller, chief executive officer of Stimson Lumber.
Besides the crowds, the event drew a cavalcade of log trucks, tractors and other heavy vehicles to Salem Thursday morning. Many, adorned with signs, parked at the Oregon State Fairgrounds where rally-goers then bussed to the Capitol.
Trucks hailed from as far north as Washougal, Washington, and as far south as the Klamath County town of Malin. Many came from southern Oregon cities like Roseburg. Some came from companies operating in Banks, Lebanon, Tillamook, Monmouth, and Mist.
Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, told the crowd outside the Capitol that Oregon owed industries like timber, trucking and logging. He pointed the Oregon Pioneer, the golden statue on top of the Capitol, which carries an ax.
"Rural Oregon built this state," Brock Smith said.
A truck supporting missing Republican Senators stayed parked outside the Oregon Capitol into Thursday afternoon. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
Tiffany Harper Monroe, president of the Lane County Farm Bureau, told the crowds the state bills put "financial pressure on rural Oregonians."
“It’s going to cost billions of dollars even though it’s not going to make an impact on global warming, when rural Oregonians are already making contributions to climate change through land management and carbon sequestration,” she told Salem Reporter.
HB 2020 would have placed a cap on many greenhouse gas emissions and taxed select industry that exceeded limits.
Another proposal rally-goers contested, House Bill 2007, would establish a diesel standard for medium and heavy-duty trucks. The bill only regulates trucks driving through the greater Portland metro area and exempts certain vehicles, including logging trucks.
John Parks, a 54-year-old Sheridan resident, said the proposals would pinch small businesses like his, where he drives logs around the mid-Willamette Valley, along the coast and down into southern Oregon. Some days can be long, he said.
“My alarm goes off at 1:15 a.m., I leave at 2 a.m. and sometimes don’t get back until 6 p.m. I’ll see my wife for an hour and then go to bed,” he said.
Hauling logs comes with a lot of built-in expense and thin profits, Parks said. His costs include gas, maintenance, permits and $3,000 monthly payments on his 28,000-pound truck.
“Besides this I have to pay for my house bills and that’s $3,000 a month,” he said. Carbon pricing, he said, could tighten his situation. “If I have a major break down, I won’t have the money to fix it.”
Parks said he was convinced carbon taxes would be proposed again, but he hoped that if lawmakers passed such a proposal, voters could weigh in.
“The Democrats in the three counties around the Portland metro area are not going to let this go dead,” he said. “It will come back, and we will be fighting again until it’s put to the voters of Oregon and we kill it.”
Also in attendance were people wearing clothes of the Three Percenters of Oregon, who declined to comment at the rally.
Salem Police Department spokesman Treven Upkes said that despite the turnout, Salem streets were not very impacted. The biggest congestion came from trucks and other heavy vehicles moving between the Capitol and the Fairgrounds.
"Although it was quite the spectacle it didn’t draw a lot of our resources. It was peaceful. We had no safety issues," he said.
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