As a resident of Coos County who supports economic development and less government, I’m concerned about the various versions of the cap-and-trade bill that is under consideration in the state Legislative assembly.
Economic development, especially in rural areas, has been at the forefront of the policy issues I’ve tackled throughout my 20-year career. While serving on staff in Congress and then serving as a policy advocate in Washington, D.C., I dedicated many years to learning the ins and outs of cap-and-trade. This concept comes from the Clinton Administration. Since then, three Administrations have rankled with this issue. In each case, and after much research, both sides of the aisle concluded that there are significant economic risks with marginal environmental pay off.
Because of roadblocks at the federal level, proponents have shifted their focus to the states. Oregon is proud to be first in many things. Cap-and-trade should not be on that list. Economic recovery has been slow to come to Oregon. Our own state representative, Caddy McKeown addressed this issue this past December at the Leadership Summit hosted by the Oregon Business Plan in Portland.
The proposed cap-and-trade legislation is quickly moving through the short session of the Legislative assembly. I believe that it is imperative that local elected officials speak out on our behalf and remind our legislators that they are putting Coos County economy at risk. We are an important economic hub for coastal Oregon. This legislation is a direct attack on the industries that fuel our tax base that fund city, school and county services.
The benefits of the pending legislation are highly debated. What isn’t debated is that it targets the very industries that are the heart of Coos County’s economy. The county recently suffered the loss of 111 jobs with the closing of one just of our mills. It is imperative that our elected officials work together to protect the businesses who provide jobs to our citizens. As you know, our county’s economy focuses primarily on forest products, tourism, fishing and agriculture.
The proposed cap-and-trade legislation is a direct attack on most of these industries. The implementation of carbon pricing, new gas taxes and more bureaucratic red tape will result in higher heating fuel costs, the increased costs to our food and all supplies trucked to the coast. We already offer free lunches to all children in our schools due to the high poverty rate.
Because of weeks of pressure from rural residents, including Coos County, there is an amendment floating around that would postpone implementation of some parts of the bill. This is NOT an appropriate compromise. A tiered system creates inequities and unfair advantages and disadvantages for Oregon businesses. This manipulation of the economy not only makes it difficult for businesses inside Oregon to compete, it also puts Oregon businesses at a competitive disadvantage among neighboring states.
Proponents of the legislation justify job losses due to cap-and-trade by supposedly setting aside funds to reeducate and relocate those who become casualties of this system. Those job losses represent families, many with children in our schools. The one-third of the population in our county also represent many who volunteer in our service organizations, serve on boards and commissions, volunteer in our fire departments, coach sports and much more. Proponents dismiss this by calling these job losses “leakage." We are a small group of communities who live, work and play together. We are not "leakage"!
I’d like to leave you with one last thought. Of the 64,000 residents in the county, less than 24,000 are employed. Imagine the revenue losses to the cities, schools and county when cap-and-trade forces the closure of some of our key employers. Now picture that part of our workforce being “reeducated” and “relocated” to Oregon’s urban centers. Our cities and the county governments are already struggling to provide services due to loss of timber resources. A hit like this to their revenue stream could force local governments into insolvency.
I ask that you contact your state representative and senator and tell them to vote NO on cap-and-trade. We must make sure Coos County is robust and thriving for our next generation.
Teri Grier has been a resident of Coos County since 2015. She relocated to this area after spending over 20 years working on public policy both at the Legislature in Arizona and in Washington, D.C. In 2013, Governor Jan Brewer appointed Grier to serve on the Commerce Authority’s Rural Development Task Force. The task force approved economic development programs throughout the state. Grier also ran unsuccessfully in 2016 and 2018 for state representative for House District 9. She continues to remain active in policy discussions in our coastal communities and in Salem.