SALEM, Ore. (KGW) – Loggers and truck drivers from across the state of Oregon were protesting in the state capital of Salem Wednesday. They’re worried about a bill aimed at fighting climate change that they say could cost them their jobs.
On the capitol steps, it was a show of solidarity from rural Oregonians. They first gathered at the Oregon State Fairgrounds—one big rig after another.
Logger Mike Pihl said, “There’s probably 10 times more people here than we expected.”
Then they bussed here together. They’re protesting a bill designed to help the environment.
The goal: to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but many in the timber industry have big issues with it.
“We’re gonna lose our jobs,” Pihl said.
The legislation involves what’s called a “cap and trade program.” Basically it means if you pollute a lot you’re going to have to pay a lot or reduce your emissions.
It’s complicated, but here’s how it would work: the largest polluters in Oregon would have to pay for each ton of gas they produce. Right now, that’s about a hundred companies. Over time, more companies would have to pay up, as the maximum emissions allowed goes down.
But those big polluters could buy credits to offset their emissions. That doesn’t sit well with Pihl, who says that the system doesn’t really fix the problem. “It allows large corporations to keep polluting at the cost of us working people,” he said.
He says jobs are on the line because the credits companies buy translate to plots of trees that won’t be available for loggers to cut down. Fewer trees to log in an already stagnating industry means fewer jobs.
Early Wednesday morning, KGW spoke with truck drivers in the Portland area as they got ready for the trek to Salem. They said they’re worried it’ll kill business and force companies to move. “It affects every single industry in the State of Oregon,” explained rally organizer Jeff Leavy.
But those who support the bill say they care too about the environment and the money already being spent on climate change. Oregon Business for Climate representative Nancy Hamilton said, “Climate change is here, it’s happening and it is costing our state and the country and the planet, for that matter, hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”
The program would raise an estimated $550 million in its first year. That money would pay for a transition to cleaner energy. If approved, all this would begin in 2021.
The bill has already passed the House and is now in the Senate. If it passes there Oregon Governor Kate Brown has said she will sign it.