Climate bill protesters rev up for lap around Capitol
Activists from across Oregon are gathering in Salem today, Thursday, Feb. 6, as they attempt to break a world record for the largest truck convoy while also aiming to derail key environmental legislation.
Meanwhile, students from throughout Oregon are gathering today in Portland today to protest the lack of action regarding climate change. That event is at 222 N.W. Davis St., according to Renew Oregon, a clean energy advocacy coalition.
"Oregon's young people will deal with the fallout of the climate crisis long after the lawmakers in Salem are gone if significant actions are not taken by government and industries to curb global warming pollution," organizers said in a press release. "If lawmakers continue to delay, they risk leaving a legacy of drought, fire, ocean acidification, and collapsing natural resource economies for future generations."
The Tribune plans to cover both events.
A cap-and-trade bill is the top priority of both parties in the short legislative session that began Monday. Its goal would be to reduce Oregon's emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Democrats want to pass it and Republicans want it stalled.
Under the name #TimberUnity, protesters driving big rigs, tractors, dump trucks and other hulking vehicles are flooding into the Capitol. As of 6:20 a.m., KXL radio — a news partner of Pamplin Media Group — reported that traffic already was being affected by the convoy.
The #TimberUnity protesters oppose the cap-and-trade plan — Senate Bill 1530 — saying it would cripple the economy and forever alter rural Oregonians' way of life.
"Everybody that works in the natural resources industry across this entire state is going to be trying to get their voices heard," Angelita Sanchez, a Timber Unity Association founding board member and secretary, said.
Their rally is a throwback to a nearly identical demonstration that took place last summer to protest a previous version of the bill.
The effort to pass environmental legislation stalled in the 2019 Legislature after Republican senators walked out, denying a quorum. Democrats, who hold firm majorities in the House and Senate, consider passing a revived version of the bill a priority during the 35-day legislative session.
House Democratic Leader Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, spoke about the bill last at a town hall last Saturday, saying, "We want to pass the strongest possible climate-change legislation that we can."
Sen. Michael Dembrow, floor leader of the bill, said on Saturday almost 15,000 pieces of public testimony have been submitted.
Sen. Michael Dembrow
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1723
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR 97301
Sanchez said trucks will converge on Interstate 5 between Portland and Salem early in the morning while heading south. KXL reports that's happening now.
The convoy will peel off onto Salem Parkway with the aim of breaking a world record for the most trucks in a convoy. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record stands at 416 during a 2004 truck parade organized by a logistics and transportation company in the Netherlands.
Demonstrators will be bused in throughout the morning from nearby staging grounds to the front of the Capitol for an event that features letter-writing, voter registration, petitions and a free meal courtesy of the Marion County Republican Party and Adam's Rib Smoke House. It's unclear exactly how many will attend the event, but it could range from the hundreds to potentially more than a thousand demonstrators.
Don't need a permit
Capt. Timothy Fox, Oregon State Police spokesman, wrote in an email that #TimberUnity planners expect between 800 to 1,000 trucks. He said it was expected to significantly affect traffic surrounding the Capitol, as well as routes from sites where protestors will gather before heading to the Capitol. Those sites include the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer and the Polk County Fairgrounds in Rickreall.
"The Capitol will be open and staffed accordingly to ensure everyone's safety and rights are maintained," Fox said, noting that several hundred people are expected to enter the Capitol to speak with legislators.
Salem Police Department spokesman Lt. Treven Upkes said that no local roads are expected to be closed because of the event, and organizers didn't need a permit. He said there would be an unusual amount of Salem-area traffic from 7 to 9 a.m. the day of the event and from 3 to 4:30 p.m. as it ends.
Upkes said that organizers didn't plan to have many vehicles drive around the Capitol. While Salem police will increase traffic enforcement, he said that as long as vehicles don't block traffic and obeying laws they could drive around as long as they want. However, he said organizers plan to have vehicles do only one lap around the Capitol.
Hurting the most vulnerable
Dembrow, who sponsored the bill, said the proposal has been changed to phase in the program affecting vehicle fuel by county, beginning with the Portland area in 2022 and then all counties west of the Cascades (as well as the Bend and Klamath Falls) in 2025. Amendments also carve out tax credits for low-income Oregonians to help with utility cost increases.
Sanchez said she wasn't aware of the changes to accommodate low-income people but feels they won't go far enough to insulate Oregonians. "We know that everything trickles down to the consumer," she said.
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