#TimberUnity convoys converge in Oregon capitol to protest cap and trade legislation

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Updated Feb 7, 2020

During my conversation with longtime reefer-hauling owner-operator Mike Jellison at That’s a Big 10-4 on D.C. this past year, Jellison raised his observations about a particular group of truckers in a particular state, Oregon, that he felt “saw an imminent threat to their livelihoods, with one fell swoop of an ink pen,” as he put it, in state cap and trade legislation. That ultimately failed to pass the Oregon State Legislature when Republican lawmakers walked out on the job last June. During that, those haulers Jellison referenced, predominantly log-truck owner-operators and often operating locally in-state, “stood up,” with a June convoy to the state capitol in Salem, as Jellison said. “I really think it made a difference.”

With the Oregon State Legislature back in a short session this week, and reintroducing cap-and-trade legislation with revisions intended to mute the applicability in various forms to rural areas of the state, the so-called #TimberUnity group is planning their return to Salem for tomorrow, Feb. 6, while the legislature is in session. The group wants to make it known that capping statewide emissions and requiring large businesses to purchase credits for amounts emitted, giving them the ability to trade those credits — at its essence what a cap-and-trade system does — is not something they feel is in the best interests of the state or their own businesses and those they contract with.

The #TimberUnity group organized around a Facebook group and in person initially. Today, you can find information about it via this website.The #TimberUnity group organized around a Facebook group and in person initially. Today, you can find information about it via this website.

For Klamath Falls, Ore.-based owner-operator Mike Todd, the point man for one of the convoys running from the Southern part of the state (Todd’s convoy from a gathering point at the I-5 port of entry from California), the system feels like a long-term “rich get richer, poor get poorer” sort of scheme, he says, whose ripple effects would be felt by anyone and everyone doing business in the state.

“I wasn’t part of the first convoys” last year, Todd says. But the independent log hauler took notice of the #TimberUnity group’s messaging at the time and afterward. Todd, who contracts mostly with one particular logger, occasionally with others, in his area, runs with the well-maintained vintage 1985 Peterbilt 359 you see him pictured with below. The prospect of being required, whether by law or contract, to upgrade to a newer unit, a possible ripple effect of the legislation, he believes, doesn’t sit well.

After some years a company driver, owner-operator Mike Todd has been in business for himself for seven years now with this 1985 Peterbilt 359.After some years a company driver, owner-operator Mike Todd has been in business for himself for seven years now with this 1985 Peterbilt 359.

“I don’t want a newer truck,” he says, citing the pressure of keeping up with high payments, chiefly, and maintenance costs with complicated emissions-control systems. “You wouldn’t be able to have a personal life” with the pressure to run. Today, he’s “one truck, just local, and I’m home every night.”

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Rules and regulations like the contemplated cap and trade bill — reintroduced from last session with significant modifications as Senate Bill 1530 — for Todd, feel “like a slippery slope to flow downhill, and it’ll push the small guys out. Big picture, that feels like where it’s going to end.”

One modification to last year’s bill being contemplated might assauge one widely held concern about administering the funds raised by the state through the program — that’s giving the people’s reps in state legislature more control over that administration. For Todd, though, the businesses who will be required to purchase credits and able to trade them should “have to report who buys [and trades] them – there’s not a requirement to report” to the public. “That seems like a big red flag for me.”

While exceptions for much of the rural western portion of the state under the system are made in the new version of the bill, Todd says, “it will affect plenty of the businesses that we work with, all the mills and everything.”

The logging industry, including log haulers, is known, he adds, “for sticking together to support one another.”

Some of the more central organizers, Todd says, have offered estimates for participation in the truck convoys as high as 1,000 trucks. For his part, he says he’s likely to be in a group of about 20 trucks departing in the wee hours from I-5 at the California border. (Details of all the convoys and contact information for point people is available via this website.) Todd, like other organizers, will be en route to the state fairgrounds with an ETA of 6:30 a.m. From there, shuttles with take participants to the state capitol building in time for speeches around an 8 a.m. rally.

“It’s not our intention to go up there and gridlock the city or anything like that,” he adds. “We just want to make our point by being there” with the legislature in session and actively debating S.B. 1540 and other related bills.

The Oregon Department of Transportation issued notices for the following routes, where travelers of all kinds might expect some delays related to the convoys with “the heaviest congestion … around Salem” and given “a similar rally in 2019 involved hundreds of trucks and created traffic delays.”

The routes ODOT flagged:

  • The I-5 corridor generally.
  • I-5 to Salem Parkway (OR 99E) to downtown Salem.
  • U.S. 26 (from North Plains) to OR 217 in the Portland Metro area to I-5 to Salem.
  • OR 6 to U.S. 26 to OR 217 to I-5 to Salem.
  • U.S. 20 to OR 34 to I-5 to Salem.
  • OR 22 from Rickreal to Salem.
  • I-84 east to I-82/I-84 interchange to I-5 to Salem.
  • U.S. 20 (from Bend) to OR 22 to Salem.
  • U.S. 26 (from Prineville) to U.S. 97, to U.S. 20, to OR 22 to Salem.

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