By Kiera Morgan
On Thursday February 6th there were 1200 trucks and 10,000 people who went to Salem to rally against Senate Bill (SB) 1530 and show support for the Timber Unity movement. This is a cap and trade bill that Timber Unity opposes as they say it will put rural Oregonians at a disadvantage. The bill would raise fuel tax prices up to 22 cents a gallon right away and then sunset at 72 cents a gallon. It will also raise the utility rates by double digits according to Mike Pihl President of Timber Unity Family.
Pihl said another way the bill would affect rural areas of Oregon is to sell the state forests for carbon credits. He said "In my mind this would shut down the state forests for logging and any money received would go into state coffers. We are stewards of the land and we already work to preserve our natural resources." Another concern is that this affects all of Oregon and is being decided only in Salem without a vote of the people.
Toledo Mayor Rod Cross was at the rally and had this to say. "It was very encouraging to me to see thousands of Oregonian's rallying to a cause that means so much to many of us. It is my hope that the Legislature will take seriously Timber Unity's four point plan for carbon reduction in Oregon. I would also like to see us work with scientists in the timber studies area to plant millions more trees in our national forests and wilderness areas."
Cross added his discussion with State Representative David Gomberg was "constructive as we both noted the economy here on the coast is down, while the rest of the State is rising. Currently Senate Bill 1530 does nothing but harm our coastal economy. We need to work together, all of us here on the coast, to make sure that while we do work towards solving carbon emissions, we try to have as little impact on the lives of our neighbors as possible. Oregon is in the enviable state of being a near net carbon sink already. We can become a major carbon sink here in the United States just by taking that attitude versus one of trying to "lead the nation"."
According to State Representative David Gomberg "The bill is always changing and people are concerned. They are concerned about the climate future and how our coastal industries such as the salmon, oyster and crabbing industries, are already affected by climate change. At the same time people are concerned about the cost of living and the safety of their jobs."
Gomberg did say that he is concerned about how the bill will affect his district. "Residents here drive long distances for work, gas prices also affect the tourist industry. We already are faced with a large number of residents facing lack of housing. Our mass transit isn't as effective and frequent as it is in major cities like Portland and Salem." There is a clause in the bill that would provide for a tax credit to offset the higher gasoline costs, however Gomberg said this isn't something that people would get help with on a day to day basis.
"I need to look at how this bill will affect my District." Gomberg said, "I need to weigh how climate change will also affect things moving forward." The economy is strong in the Portland area but not in all areas of Oregon. Gomberg said in Newport medium family wages have shown to have gone down 6% in the last 10-years. "We need to ensure that we protect the jobs that we have got and we need to build opportunities for mid range income positions so people can move forward and make sure the benefits of Oregon's economy are reaching all parts of Oregon."
Pihl stated that it is Timber Unities view that this bill is trading off rural Oregon to benefit big cities and the industrial polluters. State forestry property would be sold for carbon credits and that could shut down the timber industry and destroy Oregon's rural economic industries. He also opposed the emergency clause and said it should go out to a vote. Gomberg said the bill is moving very quickly through the Senate right now. There are hearings on it today (Friday) and possibly into tomorrow (Saturday) in the Senate before it goes to a vote. If it passes, then it would go to the Ways and Means Committee.
Photos by Sharon Biddinger Simply Designs Studios