HB 2020 opposition sign

A homemade sign overlooking U.S. Highway 30 in Knappa relays local opposition to state House Bill 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs Bill.

Fort George Brewery is facing a local backlash over co-owner Jack Harris’ support of a controversial state House bill to lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Harris submitted a letter on behalf of Fort George in February in favor of the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, which would cap carbon emissions and require large industrial facilities, such as Georgia-Pacific’s Wauna Mill, to buy pollution allowances if they exceed the cap.

The bill, an attempt to counter climate change, passed the House on Monday night and now goes to the state Senate.

Fort George’s association with the bill led to a social media firestorm over the weekend after the Silver Salmon Grille announced on Facebook it would boycott the brewery’s products. The Astoria restaurant said it was standing behind truckers and the timber industry.

The Uptown Cafe in Warrenton posted on Facebook that the restaurant would also stop serving Fort George beers.

Harris said he has asked that his letter be removed from the official record. He also said he is apologizing to his co-workers. Fort George is no longer listed as a member of Oregon Business for Climate, a group of around 100 medium and large businesses advocating for the bill.

“I was completely out of line,” Harris said. “I broke company policy. I did not have (the right) to speak for Fort George’s 160 employees, let alone my business partner” Chris Nemlowill.

Oregon Business for Climate includes some of the state’s most popular business interests, from Deschutes Brewery and Dutch Bros. Coffee to Nike and the Portland Trail Blazers. But the backlash against Fort George, and the brewery’s swift retreat, shows how fraught it can be for businesses to get involved in divisive public policy debates.

The Clean Energy Jobs Bill aims to reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 to comply with a carbon reduction goal enacted in 2007.

The cap would begin at 25,000 metric tons per facility in 2021 and lower over time to the 2050 goal. Facilities emitting over the cap would buy an increasing amount of pollution allowances over time.

The state would sell many of the allowances at auction and invest the revenue in climate-friendly efforts such as renewable energy, public transit, weatherizing homes and thinning forest debris to lessen the severity of wildfires. Landowners would also be able to sell allowances from carbon-sequestering projects such as forest preserves.

Sawmills, where most of the carbon emissions are naturally influenced, would be exempt from the cap. Electric utilities like PacifiCorp would receive free allowances through 2030.

Trade-exposed businesses like the Wauna Mill would receive free allowances the first year. Georgia-Pacific would pay an estimated $123,000 worth of allowances in 2022, with the expense increasing as the pollution cap lowers.

Opponents argue the pollution caps will raise energy prices, create a competitive disadvantage and cause companies to relocate, all while doing little to address climate change. A state analysis found lowering carbon emission caps would raise gasoline prices 22 cents a gallon by 2021 and $3 a gallon by 2050.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, whose district includes several major industrial complexes, including the Wauna Mill, opposes the bill.

The United Steelworkers, a union representing more than 600 workers at the Wauna Mill, has raised fears the mill could close or relocate outside Oregon if the bill passes. Georgia-Pacific, owned by Koch Industries, has declined to comment.

Timber Unity, a group of regional loggers, millers, truckers and their families, formed to oppose the cap-and-trade legislation and state House Bill 2007, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by prohibiting the use of heavy-duty trucks with engines predating 2007 in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

Loren Hutnick, a trucker and spokesman for the group who opposed similar legislation in California, said the bills unfairly target rural areas. “We don’t make a bunch of money on our trucks, and we can’t afford another fuel tax,” he said.

Supporters argue the infusion of up to $700 million in allowances will provide a shot in the arm to fight climate change and create a more climate-friendly economy.

Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, D-Astoria, voted for the bill on Monday night. Rep. Brad Witt, from Clatskanie, and Rep. Caddy McKeown, from Coos Bay, were the only two Democrats who voted against the bill.

An independent analysis by Berkeley Economic Advising and Research found the state’s economy would grow by 2.5 percent and add 23,000 jobs by 2050 under the bill, outweighing any increase in energy prices.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

(5) comments

Jennifer Nightingale

I applaud Jack Harris even if he had to "walk it back". Perhaps he spoke out of turn per his company policy. You would think that all Oregonians would like to take action to mitigate the effects of Climate change. I am so disappointed in the Silver Salmon and the Uptown by their boycott of Fort George brewery. Why punish the 160 employees of Fort George? We are huge fans of the Uptown and huge fans of what Jack Harris has done for this town! Remember when the Coast Guard families didn't know when they would see a pay check. Fort George threw them a pizza party! Fort George has given back to our town in so many ways and Jack Harris should be applauded for supporting efforts for clean energy. I love Astoria and the many good people here. Why do we want to beat up on each other?

Slappy McFerrin

"An independent analysis by Berkeley Economic Advising and Research found the state’s economy would grow by 2.5 percent and add 23,000 jobs by 2050 under the bill, outweighing any increase in energy prices." Absurd. Berkely has no independent economists. It's the epitome of a highly motivated, leftist institution. They can't be taken seriously.

william furnish

Agree - probably a bunch of hippies still in the fog after an anti-Vietnam War march. Anyway, 2,5% growth and 23,000 jobs (which are wishful guesses) over 31 years is not impressive

Michael Jordan

Are you saying that only leftists are motivated to, what, manage air quality? I'm not a leftist, and certainly don't want air quality across the state to rival that of larger cities in the US and worldwide. Seems that we have to do something to stop that from occurring, no?

Slappy McFerrin

No. "Highly motivated" as in politically motivated, instead of politically neutral as any institution of higher education should be, especially one that's publicly funded. As for managing air quality, HB2020 isn't the way to do it. Carbon trading schemes are time tested. They've been tried across Europe since 1997 and more recently in California and Canada. Guess what? They don't reduce GHG emissions in any meaningful way. They do, however, make slippery "investors" like Al Gore filthy rich on the backs of working class consumers and tax payers. HB2020 is the worst idea Dems have come up with in a long time. And that's saying a lot.

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