Business & economy

Major Malheur County employer eyes exit if state’s carbon plan is approved

VALE – One of Malheur County’s key employers may shut down its local operations if legislators move ahead with approval of a proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

State Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, told his fellow lawmakers Thursday that EP Minerals, a global producer of diatomaceous rock, would likely depart Malheur County if House Bill 2020, the proposal to limit carbon emissions, becomes law.

EP Minerals, headquartered in Nevada, employs 115 people at its plant east of Vale. The firm has an annual payroll of $5 million. The company is the ninth-largest taxpayer in Malheur County and paid about $161,000 in taxes last year. EP Minerals has an assessed property value of $16 million in the county.

A statement from the company Thursday said its plant west of Vale is “emission-intensive” and the proposed legislation will impact its operations.

“Our plant in Nevada (where no carbon tax exists nor is planned) produces similar products and could be expanded to accommodate Vale’s operations,” the company said.

The warning from EP Minerals is the latest from rural Oregon as businesses share concerns that their costs will go up under the carbon emission plan.

Findley echoed that concern Thursday.

“We must do no harm to existing business, understand the economic impacts of this law, and not destroy the ability of Oregon businesses to compete,” Findley said in a speech in the Oregon House.

EP Minerals said in its statement it already “implemented multiple emissions reduction initiatives at Vale.”

“For purposes of long-term planning, EP seeks assurance that no carbon tax will be implemented in Oregon,” the company statement said.

Findley said rural economies like Malheur County’s are “extremely fragile.”

“Any reduction of employment diversity, such as this, is very significant,” said Findley.

Lawmakers held hearings on House Bill 2020 around the state in the past few weeks.

A hearing in Baker City Feb. 25 drew a standing-room-only crowd. Most who gave testimony at the Baker City session opposed the emission restriction plan.

House Bill 2020 has the support of influential Democratic lawmakers – such as House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. Gov. Kate Brown also supports the plan.

At once simple and complex, the proposal creates a new emission standard for the state. The emission standard applies to companies that discharge more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents each year.

This is a developing story. Watch the Enterprise website for new information.

News tip? Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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