SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Conservative, mostly rural Oregonians demonstrated at the Oregon State Capitol on Thursday in an effort to get the Democratic-dominated Legislature to drop a bill aimed at reducing global warming through a cap-and-trade plan.
Many protesters were truck drivers. They drove their rigs up Interstate 5 and into Salem, the state capital, and then rolled slowly by the Capitol building, their horns blaring, as protesters on the steps cheered and made speeches. Tractors also joined the procession.
Inside, in the House of Representatives, the day’s session began with a moment of silence. As lawmakers had heads bowed, the cacophony of truck horns reverberated through the room. A Republican lawmaker later asked for another moment of silence, so the horns could be heard.
Outside, Rep. Bill Post, a Republican from Keizer, took the microphone and urged protesters to register to vote and to cast ballots in the primary and election.
“If you don’t vote, you might as well live in Timbuktu,” Post said.
The climate bill aims to curtail the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by limiting, through allowances, the metric tons being emitted. It provides a system for covered entities to buy and sell allowances and offset credits used to demonstrate compliance with obligations.
Opponents of the legislation say increased costs to major greenhouse gas emitters will be passed down to consumers, especially affecting the poor.
Organizers of the Timber Unity rally, a repeat of one staged last year, handed out hot dogs, potato chips and juice for the hungry. Many wore red Make America Great Again caps and waved American flags.
The new climate change measure, largely authored by Senate Democrats, includes changes from another bill that failed in the 2019 session and is designed to assuage critics in the manufacturing and utility sectors, and create fewer impacts for rural Oregon. The new bill splits the state into three geographic zones that would be phased in separately for rules that would likely increase gas and diesel prices, with Portland being affected first, then other large urban areas, and finally rural regions.
On Monday, House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat from Portland, was asked during a press briefing what effect the Timber Unity rally would have on the Legislature.
“I think it will clog up traffic,” she said, then added: “Look, we will have some major rallies here. That’s probably going to be the biggest and loudest because there are trucks involved, but we always like when people come and tell us what they think.”
She left no doubt, though, that Democrats would stick to the effort.
“We are here to listen and hear concerns, and we’re also here to pass bills that are going to do the right thing for the state, so we always balance that,” she said.
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