Sweet Home at Timber Unity Rally

Twenty-four rigs left Sweet Home early on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 6, to join a statewide #TimberUnity convoy at the capitol in protest of proposed Senate Bill 1530, known colloquially as the “cap-and-trade” bill, and its sister bills.

They picked up 10 more trucks in Lebanon, and then united with about 1,100 others in the capital. Most rigs parked at the state fairgrounds and other locations, and participants in the rally organized by TimberUnity were shuttled to the capitol building. Many others spent the day driving through downtown Salem and blowing their horns around the capitol building.

A crowd estimated at more than 9,500 people rallied in front of the capitol with signs, and listened to workers, leaders and politicians speak out against the bill.

“You always get nervous because you don’t know how many people are going to show up, and then when they all come together, it’s like, ‘Wow!’ It’s fantastic,” said Angelita Sanchez, a Sweet Home business owner and board member of Timber Unity.

The stated purpose of the bill, numbering 86-plus pages, is said to be for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to climate change by gradually reducing the allowed amount of gas emitted by manufacturing, transportation and utility entities.

Concerns raised by Timber Unity supporters include the requirement to upgrade trucks and equipment to meet emission control standards.

In other words, it’s a “pay to pollute” system, Sanchez said, noting that any cost increases those gas-emitting companies have to pay will simply be passed on to consumers.

“They’re trying to push to where you can’t run older trucks. The price of a new truck is $165,000, and that’s a really big payment,” said Leon Vineyard, of Sweet Home, owner-operator of Vineyard Trucking.

“I just have the one truck and I drive for myself, and that’s a lot of money to try to fork out for a new truck not knowing what the economy’s going to do,” he said.

Even if he could obtain a qualified truck, loggers and mills would also have to be able to afford new gas-emitting equipment in order to continue their work, he said. If they shut down, he and other truckers lose work, and would still be stuck with payments on their new trucks.

Sanchez said that verbiage in last year’s HB2020 indicated Oregon’s timber industry is basically dead, and when she attended the first convoy in 2019, Senate President Peter Courtney stood on the capitol steps and said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. Your rural way of life is over. You’re just going to have to move to town and get a green job.’

But Timber Unity concerns go beyond the logging industry, supporters say. The cap-and-trade bill affects farmers and agriculture, commercial fishermen, miners, the transportation industry, and every citizen in Oregon.

Jeff Leavy, founder of Timber Unity, said he read SB1530 and worked out the math, noting that fuel costs would go up more than 75 cents per gallon, and increase several dollars over the course of the program, he said.

The bill was modified to take rural areas of the state into consideration in order to lessen the impact on financially-burdened families, but Leavy doesn’t believe it will make a difference at all.

“If you look at the numbers and what it will do to every single person in this state, it will go up anywhere from $600 the first year to $1,100 for a family of four,” he said. “Your fuel prices are gonna jump 78 cents the first year, and they do nothing but go up. By 2050, you’re looking at close to $10 a gallon.”

SB1530 limits and gradually reduces the amount of carbon that gas-emitting companies can expend, but they can pay for carbon credits to emit more. However, anyone is able to buy the credits outside of public record, including companies in California, and can re-sell them.

Leavy believes California will buy up the credits and try to re-sell them at blown up prices. If the smaller industries in Oregon, such as Georgia Pacific, can’t afford to make their products under the new emissions standards, and can’t buy the inflated credits, they will simply close their business, he said.

The proposed bill also includes provisions for keeping some information confidential, exempt from disclosure to the Legislative Assembly, media and public. This is so that “the Oregon Greenhouse Gas Initiative operate free of abuse and disruptive activity,” sponsors say.

But public records advocates worry that it will create a slippery slope leading to excessive secrecy.

And finally, attached to the bill is an emergency clause, making the law and its requirements effective immediately.

And finally, attached to the bill is an emergency clause, making the law and its requirements effective immediately.

Timber Unity is opposed to the bill being fitted with an emergency clause and being pushed during the 35-day short session. They believe it should be up to the voters.

“(Democratic State Sen.) Ginny Burdick came out on record and said this bill is too complex for the voters to be able to determine, so that’s why they need the emergency clause, and basically she’s saying the voters are too stupid,” Leavy said. “We want it removed, and we want it put to the vote, because I can tell you this, it will fail and they know it, and that’s why they’re doing it this way.”

Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, agrees the bill is not suitable for short session work.

“For this bill to not even be ready that first week of short session is just proof that it’s not a short session issue,” Boshart Davis said. “It absolutely should be taken up in the long session, and people working on it from now until then.”

If the bill passes, Leavy predicted, every Oregonian will feel its effect.

“Rural Oregon’s gonna pay for it just like Portland will in about three or four years after this is initiated,” he said. “It really affects not just rural, it affects urban, it affects everybody. Everybody is gonna pay.”

That’s because any increased cost to a business will be passed on to the consumer, opponents say.

“I heard that utilities are supposed to spike, and cost of living,” Vineyard said.

If farmers have to pay to upgrade their equipment, that means the price of produce will go up, he said.

“It’s already so expensive to try to live and survive; you can’t justify trying to make the cost of living go up any more, because my wages aren’t going to go up,” Vineyard said.

During the rally on Feb. 6, Timber Unity submitted a five-page proposal to legislative leaders aimed at meeting goals for carbon reduction.

“We presented a question to (Gov. Kate Brown) and to the committee: ‘Is this really about sequestering carbon, or is this really about raising revenue?’ Gov. Brown did say this is about sequestering carbon, but (Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee) Chair (Sen. Michael) Dembrow did not respond,” Sanchez said.

“We submitted four suggestions to meet their goals and standards that would cost taxpayers zero dollars. So if it’s to be working on carbon emissions, we’ll talk about it. But if it’s to cost any more money, we’re totally against it,” she said.

Their four suggestions include: installing high-carbon sequestering plants along public roadways; taking into consideration that goods and services purchased out-of-state by the state costs more in terms of carbon emissions; building better recycling infrastructures within the state instead of hauling materials out-of-state; and enacting an accelerated depreciation program for facility and fleet upgrades to help business owners recoup investment costs.

A crowd that organizers said numbered more than 9,500 people rallied in front of the capitol with signs, and listened to workers, leaders and politicians speak out against the bill. The turnout exceeded Sanchez’s expectations, she said.

“You always get nervous because you don’t know how many people are going to show up, and then when they all come together, it’s like, ‘Wow!’ It’s fantastic,” she said.

Those who journeyed to the capitol admitted they had to lose a day’s wage to be there, not to mention also the costs to drive and stay in Salem for the rally.

“It’s hard to sit there and say, ‘oh, I’m not going to make any money today; I’m gonna go up here and support this,’ when you do have the opportunity to work and make money,” Vineyard said.

“I feel like our industry’s under attack, and if I can’t take a day off, then I can’t complain about it if I’m not willing to participate,” said Garrett Kauffman of Sweet Home, who drives for Timberline Logging.

“I heard that they are internally conflicted and they are possibly going to scrap it,” Sanchez said. “So we can only hope.”