Jefferson County commissioners join Timber Unity rally
An Oregon activist group that opposes a state plan to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions presented Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday, Feb. 6, with its own ideas on how to cut emissions.
The group included all three Jefferson County commissioners — Kelly Simmelink, Wayne Fording and Mae Huston.
Lawmakers are considering a proposal to limit and shrink the state's greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would set up a marketplace for companies to buy and sell allowance, essentially permits to emit greenhouse gases.
Timber Unity wants the state to plant trees along roads to act as carbon sinks and wants state government agencies to buy goods and services locally to reduce their carbon footprint. It also wants Oregon to boost its recycling infrastructure and allow businesses to write off the costs of upgrading to greener technology more quickly.
"I went to support the Timber Unity event as well as to testify in the Senate committee our opposition to SB 1530, the cap and trade," Simmelink said in an email interview.
"Each of the rural commissioners in attendance were given the chance to address the rallygoers," he said. "It was an incredible feeling representing our county in front of that many people."
"SB 1530 is supposed to 'phase in' rural Oregon, but if rural Oregon receives supplies like fuel, groceries and other commodities from the metro area, our costs will go up!" he said.
The four-point plan was pitched to Brown and two staff members when they met with business owners associated with Timber Unity for about 45 minutes, according to spokeswoman Kate Kondayen. The meeting occurred against the din of speeches and truck horns outside the Capitol.
Of those representing Timber Unity was former state Rep. Julie Parrish. According to Parrish, the meeting was genial.
"The conversation was exclusively on climate policy," Kondayen wrote in response to written questions from the Oregon Capital Bureau. "The governor shared what she had heard from her previous conversations with them and others: that protecting rural jobs and communities was critical, and the governor agrees with that. She described in detail the changes that were made to SB 1530 to accommodate that concern."
Kondayen said the governor was reviewing Timber Unity's proposals.
Mike Pihl, president of the Timber Unity Association, said that the group doesn't want the pending legislation to carry an "emergency clause," legal craftsmanship which makes a new law go into effect immediately and forestalls a referral to voters.
Simmelink echoed that concern.
"In the Senate committee, I testified on SB1530," Simmelink said. "This bill would absolutely destroy our already volatile ag-based economy. I am opposed to it being an emergency clause, meaning the citizens of Oregon do not get to vote on it."
Proponents say the legislation could still go through the initiative process to move to the ballot but allows the state to start laying the groundwork to get the program started on time. Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, a lead architect of the greenhouse gas bill, said he and Timber Unity are "very aligned" on the notion of planting trees in the roadway, and have a shared interest in urban forestry and using urban trees for lumber.
"I'd have to look at the specific proposals in detail, but I think they're a distraction from the larger issue," Dembrow said. "I think the argument ... (they're) trying to make is that we shouldn't be doing broad climate action, we should be focusing on these things as alternatives. I don't see these as being mutually exclusive by any means. This greenhouse gas initiative is a platform and umbrella that's going to be joined by a number of complementary programs."
Parrish said that while Brown didn't commit to making any changes in the cap-and-trade policy being proposed, she thanked them for presenting solutions. "We're going to continue to try to push on the belief that you can address carbon without taxation," Parrish said. "The bottom line, at the end of our meeting, we asked, do you want to raise revenue, or do you want to fix carbon? If you want to raise revenue, we're going to have a problem. If you want to fix carbon and hear these solutions, we'll come to the table with you to address them."
Parrish and other supporters of Timber Unity feel that mechanism for regulating fuel importers effectively taxes all Oregonians.
Simmelink has doubts the Legislature can fix anything.
"The state of Oregon, for the past 20 years, has been asking for money through tax and fee increases to solve Oregon's education system, roads and bridges, homelessness and to fix PERS," he said.
"Why would anyone think that giving the state of Oregon more money will fix the climate? They have no control over the climate. They could have fixed education, transportation and PERS, but they didn't. The only thing the State of Oregon has done is raise the cost of living to all Oregonians."
News editor Teresa Jackson contributed to this story.
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