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Cap-And-Trade Protests Signify Bigger Frustrations For Some Rural Oregonians

David Stuckey/OPB
A man holds a Timber Unity sign at a rally at the state Capitol in Salem in June, 2019.

Cap-and-trade legislation is among the items topping Oregon’s agenda during this year’s legislative session. But like last year’s bill, which led to Republican Senators walking out of the Capitol in protest, it’s already drawing criticism from rural Oregon.

The aim of SB 1530 is to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by capping sectors like transportation and manufacturing, and creating a carbon trading scheme.

It sets gradually increasing emission reduction targets at years 2035 and 2050. This year’s bill also makes broader exceptions from the cap-and-trade rules for rural Oregon than the 2019 proposal.

Still, critics like Jack Armstrong from rural Jackson County are joining a grassroots group called Timber Unity to protest the cap-and-trade bill in Salem on Thursday.

Armstrong runs water tankers to fight forest fires. He’s concerned the proposal will increase fuel costs which he’ll have to pass along to customers.

“It’s going to cascade, it’s going to be a mess, and it’s going to be expensive,” he says. 

But Armstrong also acknowledges the legislation has come to symbolize a bigger frustration for rural Oregonians.

“I think the overall bottom line, to be truthful with you, it’s the encroachment of government into anything agriculture,” he says. “It’s the encroachment of the urban into the rural.”

Public hearings on the cap-and-trade bill are slated for several days this week. A truck convoy and rally against the bill is planned in Salem on Thursday.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.