During a digital town hall on Tuesday night, state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell answered a variety of questions from constituents, but her support for cap and trade took center stage.
The Astoria Democrat appeared via Facebook Live while in Salem for the short session of the Legislature. She addressed several concerns about the cap-and-trade bill — Senate Bill 1530 — including fears that it would hurt local industry and jobs.
The bill would place a cap on greenhouse gas emissions that would diminish over time to reach Oregon’s environmental goals. Industry would acquire allowances for emissions that could be bought and sold at market, creating an incentive for converting to cleaner energy.
Mitchell’s support for last year’s cap-and-trade bill — HB 2020 — prompted a backlash on the North Coast and led #TimberUnity to launch an unsuccessful recall drive against her.
She said the new version of the bill has grown out of negotiation.
“I support SB 1530 as an important element to combating global climate change and investing in more resilient communities. I sincerely hope that it passes this year, as climate scientists have overwhelmingly told us that we have a very limited time frame in which to take meaningful action,” Mitchell said in an email in response to questions from The Astorian.
“I believe this new version accommodates feedback from Oregonians who are concerned about impacts to local jobs and economies, while still beginning to take reasonable and urgent action to address the climate crisis that is already negatively impacting our communities.”
During the town hall, Mitchell said most of the concerns in House District 32 center around the Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill and the regulation of fuel.
Farming and forestry interests are exempt from the bill, she said, and fuel regulation in counties west of the Cascades would not start until 2025. She said Georgia-Pacific could qualify for some relief under the bill.
“The Wauna Mill has been very cooperative in this entire process, very open about what their specific hurdles and obstacles are,” Mitchell said.
Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, has said she would oppose the bill unless managers at the Wauna Mill tell her they are OK with the legislation.
Several people associated with #TimberUnity and the Clatsop County Republican Party challenged Mitchell during the town hall.
“We’ve called, emailed, blown horns ... you DO NOT listen,” Christal Kumpula, a leader of the county GOP, wrote in a live feed during the town hall on the representative’s Facebook page.
“I really do try to listen,” Mitchell said in response to the criticism. “I’m not always going to agree with everything that is said, but I will do my due diligence in making sure not only that I listen to you, but that I try to do as much research as I possibly can to verify information and to make sound decisions based off of that information — it’s the best and most that I can do.”
She told constituents that relations between Democrats and Republicans in Salem are not as adversarial as they appear, and that the vast majority of bills passed are by consensus.
“It tends to usually be some of these bigger issues that bring people out — climate change, gun control — that are usually those big things the media gloms on and political parties glom onto,” she said.
“But in truth … we’re all people. We all live here, and I think most of us really just want what is best for Oregon and the people who live here. We care about each other. We’re neighbors. It’s just sometimes we have different perspectives about that. At least most issues we’re all on the same page.
“It’s those big ones that I think are going to be the more problematic ones where we’re going to have to have those broader conversations,” Mitchell said.