Timber Unity sits down with governor with its own plan to reduce Oregon emissions

Julie Parrish, a former state legislator now working with Timber Unity, speaks at group’s Capitol rally on Thursday, Feb. 6. (Jaime Valdez/Pamplin Media)

SALEM — An Oregon activist group that opposes a state plan to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions presented Gov. Kate Brown Thursday with its own ideas of how to cut emissions.

Lawmakers are considering a proposal to limit and shrink the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would setup a marketplace for companies to buy and sell allowance, essentially permits to emit greenhouse gases.

Timber Unity wants the state to plant trees along roads to act as carbon sinks and wants state government agencies to buy goods and services locally to reduce their carbon footprint. It also wants Oregon to boost its recycling infrastructure and allow businesses to write off more quickly the costs of upgrading to greener technology.

The four-point plan was pitched to Brown and two staff members when they met with business owners associated with Timber Unity for about 45 minutes, according to spokeswoman Kate Kondayen. The meeting occurred against the din of speeches and truck horns outside the Capitol.

Of those representing Timber Unity was former state Rep. Julie Parrish. According to Parrish, the meeting was genial. 

“The conversation was exclusively on climate policy,” Kondayen wrote in response to written questions from the Oregon Capital Bureau. “The governor shared what she had heard from her previous conversations with them and others: that protecting rural jobs and communities was critical, and the governor agrees with that. She described in detail the changes that were made to SB 1530 to accommodate that concern.”

Kondayen said the governor was reviewing Timber Unity’s proposals.

Mike Pihl, president of the Timber Unity Association, said that the group doesn’t want the pending legislation to carry an “emergency clause,” legal craftsmanship which makes a new law go into effect immediately and forestalls a referral to voters.

Proponents say the legislation could still go through the initiative process to move to the ballot, but allows the state to start laying the groundwork to get the program started on time.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, a lead architect of the greenhouse gas bill, said he and Timber Unity are “very aligned” on the notion of planting trees in the roadway, and have a shared interest in urban forestry and using urban trees for lumber. 

“I’d have to look at the specific proposals in detail, but I think they’re a distraction from the larger issue,” Dembrow said Friday. “I think the argument … (they’re) trying to make is that we shouldn’t be doing broad climate action, we should be focusing on these things as alternatives. I don’t see these as being mutually exclusive by any means. This greenhouse gas initiative is a platform and umbrella that’s going to be joined by a number of complementary programs.”

Parrish said that while Brown didn’t commit to making any changes in the cap-and-trade policy being proposed, she thanked them for presenting solutions.

“We’re going to continue to try to push on the belief that you can address carbon without taxation,” Parrish said. “The bottom line, at the end of our meeting, we asked, do you want to raise revenue, or do you want to fix carbon? If you want to raise revenue, we’re going to have a problem. If you want to fix carbon and hear these solutions, we’ll come to the table with you to address them.” 

Parrish and other supporters of Timber Unity feel that mechanism for regulating fuel importers is effectively taxes all Oregonians. 

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources is taking more testimony on the bill on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 10 a.m.

Contact Reporter Sam Stites: [email protected] or 971-255-2480.

Contact reporter Claire Withycombe: [email protected] or 971-304-4148.


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