The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners has officially opposed two environmental bills being considered in the Oregon Legislature, joining at least 23 other counties in the state.
Senate Bill 1530 and House Bill 4167 — the cap and trade bills — both seek to reduce greenhouse gases through a variety of measures, including trading carbon offsets for large emitters. Both bills declare an emergency, meaning the proposals don't have to go before voters if the Legislature enacts them.
Republicans led a walkout on Feb. 23, and as of press time, they have not returned to the Capitol, denying the Democratic majority a quorum and the ability to vote on the bills.
The Board of Commissioners' proclamation says the bills will raise costs to provide critical services, both through increased utility and fuel prices.
It says those costs "will further burden the residents of Jefferson County who are already burdened by the increasing costs of living in our communities through higher rents, increasing costs to purchase a home, and additional tax burdens placed on them by the state of Oregon."
It also says the benefits of the bill are in dispute and don't justify the penalties and costs imposed by the bill.
Board President Kelly Simmelink said the bill would mean the county and individuals would have to replace pickups and equipment built after a specific date.
"We don't have the ability to do that," he said.
Though some of the proposals wouldn't kick in until a certain number of counties — which has changed with different proposed amendments — chose to opt in.
"My opposition ot the tax portion o fit is that a lot of our goods and services, our fuels, etc., come from the Portland metro area," Simmelink said. And if they're being taxed, they'll pass that tax on to Jefferson County.
Simmelink said his biggest issue with the proposals is its lack of public disclosure and the emergency clause.
"I absolutely don't like the emergency clause, and I absolutely don't like it not being referred to the voters to decide," he said. "And I think the number show that when you've got that many county commissions."
Simmelink said he believes climate change is a global crisis. He just doesn't think the bills Democrats have proposed are the way to combat it.
"Our own grass seed growers sequester a tremendous amount" of carbon, he said, and so do "our forests, obviously."
"If we were carbon-neutral," he said, "it doesn't make a difference globally. Period."
He said the load is too much for Oregon to try to carry without federal policy.
"I think you should have the vote," he said. "I value what your opinion is."
He said he is concerned that only Democrats are supporting the bills. He said the bills' proponents assume anyone who is against them are climate change deniers, and he said that isn't true.
He said one Democratic commissioner from Columbia County agrees that the bills aren't fair to his communities, his constituents can't vote on them, and it's not clear what the costs would be.
"That's the problem to me," Simmelink said. "It's so polarized because of everything else that's going on in the country. In my opinion, this really shows the urban-rural divide."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.