Commentary by Karl Zweifel, vice president of Tillamook County Farm Bureau
Like many of you, I wrote my legislators, testified, and fought against the cap and trade proposals in front of the Oregon Legislature in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
As a custom farmer in Tillamook and chair of the Oregon Farm Bureau Ag Production Committee, I knew that my operation and many farms and ranches around the state could not afford the fuel cost increases that were inevitable under the program. It would be one more in a long line of poor policy decisions coming out of Salem that make it harder to stay farming in Oregon.
After it was defeated in Salem three times, I was floored when I learned last year that the governor had issued an Executive Order directing the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to move forward with the program via rule. I watched over the last several months as the agency ignored data about the impacts of the program, created sweetheart deals for investment in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and failed to analyze the impact of cost increases in fuel, natural gas, and propane on Oregonians under the program.
The agency is now slated to adopt the final rules for what it is now calling the “Climate Protection Program” (CPP) on December 16, with the program coming into effect after the first of the year.
While DEQ opted to ignore the cost impacts of this rule on working families and the agricultural sector, it is clear that the program will increase the price of natural gas, propane, and transportation fuels. For a governor who has built her administration on promises of transparency, concealing the impacts of such a significant program to Oregonians is unacceptable.
Because DEQ failed to consider how the fuel sector would come into compliance with the program, it’s highly likely that we will see fuels rationed in the state after the credits run out. I never thought I would see fuel rationed again in my lifetime, especially due to a regulatory burden created by our state.
For propane and natural gas, the goal is to eliminate those fuels completely. That approach totally ignores the needs of rural Oregon and is yet another impractical and out-of-touch policy pushed on us by a Portland-based governor who doesn’t understand our needs.
In drafting the rules, DEQ totally ignored the impact the rules will have on the Oregon economy, particularly those industries that are trade dependent, like agriculture. Eighty percent of the goods produced by farmers and ranchers are exported out of the state, and the CPP rules will render many farm families uncompetitive in the global marketplace because we will be priced out.
On the investment side, DEQ decided to only allow investments that would result in direct carbon reductions, ignoring the potential for working lands sequestration programs. The only reason I can think DEQ would do this is to penalize rural Oregon for our strong opposition to cap and trade as it worked through the Legislature.
Further, those community groups and NGOs who get funding do not have to demonstrate actual carbon reduction, just give a rough estimate of what they expect to accomplish. This is unacceptable and just creates a slush fund for environmental groups with no accountability.
The worst part about the program is that it will increase the cost of fuels for farm families and rural Oregonians who can least afford it — but it will have no impact on global climate change. It’s simply a “feel good” piece for progressive Democrats, once again put largely on the backs of rural Oregonians.
Rural Oregon is tired of bearing the brunt of policies that do not accomplish what they set out to do, but instead have real costs for our communities.
The Oregon Farm Bureau and other business groups are planning to revive their prior challenge to the Executive Order if the rules are adopted, but I sincerely hope DEQ comes to its senses. I hope it realizes that Oregonian families cannot afford a new program that would increase fuel prices and home heating costs — at a time of staggering inflation — just to make progressive Democrats feel good about taking action.
Karl is a custom farmer growing corn and chop grass sileage in Tillamook. He is vice president of Tillamook County Farm Bureau.