SALEM — Oregonians brought more than 2,000  trucks, tractors and other vehicles to the state Capitol this morning to protest climate bills and other legislation they say will threaten their livelihoods.

Trucks circled the Capitol, honking. The Capitol steps, mall and surrounding streets were thick with protesters.

Farmers, ranchers, loggers and others whose jobs are dependent on natural resources say the legislation — House Bill 2020, also known as cap and trade — will increase their fuel and energy costs while having a minimal impact on the climate.

“We’ve got climate problems to deal with, obviously,” said Mary Hewitt, 19, waving her sign among a group of other young protesters. Hewitt comes from a family of truckers, fishermen and other working-class people. “So many of my peers have come out supporting these bills. They think they’re fighting for the environment, and I get it. But this is not the way to help the earth. Ride a bike to work. Walk more. Recycle. But don’t crush me and my family. We’re people, too.”

Ellie Hilger, 30, from Tillamook, also showed up to protest with her family today.

"Tillamook is not just a tourist destination," Hilger said. "We work the land and take care of it. I come from a logging family. My dad runs a hay farm. This bill will destroy Tillamook industries." 

Leaders representing various industries that will be impacted by the legislation took turns speaking on the Capitol steps.

As Lane County Farm Bureau President Tiffany Harper took the podium, the crowd cheered, waving hats and signs in the air.

“There is an undeniable and noble calling to take care of the earth,” said Harper. “But this bill will not help the earth and only hurts all of us. I see fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers all around me. You all steward the natural world through farming, ranching and forestry. It’s time we stand up for each other and the earth.”

When Senate Republicans walked off the job June 20, aiming to block a cap on carbon emissions, their walkout made national news. This was the second time this session the Senate Republicans fled the state Capitol to deny Democrats a quorum. 

Republicans have now been absent from the statehouse more than a week, and the Capitol is at a standstill with just three days left in the legislative session. According to Gov. Kate Brown, dozens of crucial bills are still waiting for Senate approval.

Senate President Peter Courtney announced Tuesday that House Bill 2020 no longer has the support among Democrats needed to pass. In response, Brown issued a statement in which she appeared to acknowledge the bill was dead.

But GOP senators are not convinced that the bill is dead — and they aren’t coming back yet. They said in a statement Tuesday that because several Senate Democrats have vowed to push the cap-and-trade legislation through this session, “this signals that HB 2020 is not dead.”

The statement also said that GOP senators demand that Brown and the Senate Democrats must promise that any carbon bills must be referred to the state ballot so the people of Oregon can make the final decision on them.

Covering agricultural and rural news. Have a news tip? Contact me.

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