July 6, 2019 — In June, the Oregon house and Senate were in the midst of trying to pass a controversial cap-and-trade bill with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission levels to 80 percent below what they were in 1990 by 2050. This would be done by essentially charging corporations for polluting in the state, as well as raising gasoline prices in an effort to transition Oregonians to renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. These changes would have affected rural Oregonians more, as farmers, truckers and loggers would have to pay more for the gasoline that goes in their equipment.
R&R King Logging has been part of the Florence community for more than 50 years. Started by her grandfather and father, Jennifer Waggoner is now the partial owner of R&R. Both she and her husband are multi-generational logging families and, currently, R&R works with large industrial landowners for logging around Oregon.
“It’s as much a business as it is a culture,” Waggoner said.
According to the Oregon Forest Resource Institute, Oregon is the country’s number one producer of softwood lumber, which is wood from coniferous trees used mainly in furniture, structural framing, beams and other construction.
For Waggoner, logging is — and has always been — a lifestyle. That’s why, on June 27, she and her 13-year old daughter, Cait, attended the Timber United rally at the state capitol in Salem, which included loggers, truckers, road construction and agriculture workers showing their support for the Republican senators who walked out of the capitol and left the state on June 20 after House Bill 2020 came before the Oregon senate.
“We started driving into the capital and we had tears, because people were so proud of what they do for a business and the product they provide, and to be able to link arm to arm with other people that share those values and contributions to our community,” Waggoner said. “The trucks kept coming around the corner and it was so moving. People made a lot of sacrifices to be there.”
In an effort to curb the rapidly warming climate, HB 2020 intended to commit Oregon to a cap-and-trade system, setting caps on the total greenhouse gas emissions allowed for industries around the state in an effort to lower emissions over time. With a Democratic majority in the Senate, HB 2020 likely would have passed if put to a vote. However, Oregon law requires a minimum of 20 senators to vote on any bill that comes to the senate floor — so with Republicans out of the state and unwilling to vote, HB 2020 was stalled until right before the time limit for the current Legislative Session.
HB 2020 also included a rise in gas prices, starting at an increase of approximately 19 to 72 cents per gallon, and would continue to rise with time, in an effort to transition away from fossil fuels.
“Fuel is our life blood because we have to drive so far to get to our jobs. We have fuel that takes our logs to the mills in trucks, we fuel our equipment. But the fuel increase would affect all Oregonians that already have struggles,” Waggoner said.
Senate Bill 1051, proposed as a companion bill to HB 2020, offered rebates to loggers and farmers to help offset the rise in fuel prices, but Waggoner says those who already live week-to-week wouldn’t benefit from this.
“The fuel increases, and the restrictions that are put on businesses like ours, we knew were very dangerous. We have four log trucks, dump trucks, shop trucks and rigs that take crews to the woods, so the fuel cost alone would be the most dramatic. We felt like we wouldn’t be able to do business in Oregon,” Waggoner said.
Transportation is the largest contributor to Oregon greenhouse gasses, but Waggoner says the logging industry is also producing a clean product that helps offset carbon emissions.
“Wood is carbon catching. At the rally someone said, ‘We as the logging community do stuff every day to reduce carbon because we replant our trees, we are always advancing in making our equipment more environmentally friendly and then the products we produce are carbon storing. Somehow, we are really one of the few people who are actually doing things to minimize the carbon footprint, but somehow we are the bad guys’ — and I said ‘Yes, you’re right!’” she said.
R&R employs 65 to 70 employees at a time, and Waggoner said if HB 2020 passed, she might not be able to continue operating in the state, adding it felt like the proposed bills attacked her way-of-life.
“I knew we had to fight this,” Waggoner said. “Other people’s voices weren’t heard. Rural Oregon makes up a lot of the state geographically, and we are an important part of the state because of the economic portion we provide, so I’m really proud of the senators for what they did.”
House Bill 2007, also on the senate floor, aimed to phase out diesel engines in trucks that were made before 2007, as engines made post 2007 filter out particulate pollutants.
Local resident Gary Foglio of Foglio Trucking said he also sent trucks up to the Salem rally to support the senators who left the state over HB 2020.
“It would be financially impossible to upgrade all of my equipment to the new standards,” he said.
Ultimately, HB 2007 was passed, but amended to only apply in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.
Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger said in a statement released June 28 following the Timber United rally, “Cap-and-Trade is dead. We couldn’t have won the fight against HB 2020 without the incredible grassroots support. Loggers, farmers, truckers, concerned mothers and many others came together, spoke up and were able to send a strong message that the egregious policy of HB 2020 will not be allowed to hurt their families.”
“To take a stand with people who think and feel like you was great,” Waggoner said, adding she felt it was important to go to Salem to represent the coast as a community, to represent R&R’s employees, and to support the culture of hands-on hardworking families that she says make up the logging community. “The hardest impact it has is on these great employees and their families. These are some of the hardest working people around, and they sacrifice a lot to do the jobs they do.”
It isn’t as though the loggers do not care about the environment or efforts to decrease pollution, according to Waggoner, who said the environment is important to both her business and the workers.
“We are always proud of the job we do,” she said. “The guys that work for us love the outdoors. They hunt, they fish, they hike. They love the outdoors and they love the jobs they do. They want it to be here for perpetuity, and they want it to be here for their families. At their core they care about the environment in the job they do every day.”
The logging industry also looks at ways to reduce erosion, utilize wood products fully and replant forests sustainably.
“As an industry, we look at ways there can be less soil compaction with the equipment we buy. That’s an ever-evolving science,” Waggoner said.
Soil compaction is the process of stress being applied to the soil, which causes the soil pores to be reduced, lessening water infiltration and drainage, ultimately making the land more susceptible to runoff and erosion.
“Also, using more of the logs helps cut waste. With our new processing machines, they are digitized — they’re more precise in measuring log lengths so you’re using more of each log,” Waggoner said.
Oregon requires replanting after timber harvest, and new research from the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research in the U.K. shows that younger forests are better at sequestering carbon than older forests.
Waggoner says there is one way that a bill like HB 2020 would work for her business.
“Incentivizing is the key. That doesn’t have to mean giving people money, but giving them tax credits. If the goal is to reduce emissions and the carbon footprint, then incentivize it,” she suggested. “Are there more things we could do? Maybe, so show us what some of those things are. We want to know. I think that’s how you do things. You partner with business, and you don’t treat them like they’re the bad guy. You partner with them and say, ‘How can we do this to achieve what really is a shared goal?’”
HB 2020 ultimately did not pass.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown discussed the bill’s demise in an address to the public, saying, “The young people who stood in the senate chamber throughout the session and pleaded for their future, I will continue to fight for their futures. We must pass a cap-and-invest program that will achieve the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals at the least possible cost while continuing to grow our economy. Let me be clear, I am not backing down.”