SALEM, Ore. | Oregon Gov. Kate Brown deployed the state police Thursday to try to round up Republican lawmakers who fled the Capitol in an attempt to block a vote on a landmark climate plan that would be the second of its kind in the nation.
Minority Republicans want the cap-and-trade proposal aimed at dramatically lowering the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to be sent to the voters for approval instead of instituted by lawmakers. Negotiations with Democrats fell apart late Wednesday prompting conservatives to pursue a walkout, said Kate Gillem, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans said Thursday.
Some members have even left the state to avoid a vote, Gillem said. State police don’t have jurisdiction beyond state lines.
Democrats have an 18 to 12 majority in the chamber, but need 20 members present for a quorum.
Those opposed to the cap-and-trade plan say it would exacerbate a growing divide between the liberal, urban parts of the state and the rural areas, which tend to be more conservative. The plan would increase the cost of fuel, damaging small business, truckers and the logging industry, which is already in freefall due to federal environmental protections, they contend.
“Protesting cap and trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” said Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., of Grants Pass.
Under the proposed cap and trade program, the state would put an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions and auction off pollution “allowances” for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit.
The legislation would lower that cap over time to encourage businesses to move away from fossil fuels: The state would reduce emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Democrats have presented the proposal as an efficient way to lower emissions while investing in low-income and rural communities’ ability to adapt to climate change. It has the support of environmental groups, farmworkers and some trade unions.
Brown, a Democrat, said Wednesday she’s willing to extend the legislative session.
This is the second time this session that GOP lawmakers have used a high-stakes walkout as a way to slow the legislative process.
Republicans walked out of the Senate last month in protest of a school funding tax package. The standoff lasted four days, until the governor struck a deal to table legislation on gun control and vaccine requirements.
Outside the Capitol on Thursday, a small group of loggers gathered to protest — and more were expected to show up.
Bridger Hasbrouck, a 32-year-old self-employed logger from Dallas, Oregon, said the bill if passed would be “devastating” to his business because he uses diesel fuel to power all his logging equipment.
“There’s a whole lot involved but the biggest thing that’s very crippling is the fact that these bills would impose regulations that would take trucks off the road that people are using to earn their living,” he said.
“The American dream of owning a small business, it starts to go away.”