Youths speak out on climate change; council prepares to seek public input

City Council heard strong words from two young people Monday on the subject of climate change and proposed “carbon price” legislation.

In the same meeting when council heard reports on stormwater management, oil railcar concerns, and housing and urban development concerns, the elected officials started by listening to pleas from two students asking them to adopt a statewide resolution that would call for charging a fee to businesses releasing carbons into the atmosphere.

“One of the great opportunities that we have in Hood River is our community that is aware of what is happening to the earth,” said Charley Boonstra, a junior at Hood River Valley High School.

“I am here to ask you to approve the Carbon Tax resolution for the State of Oregon because it has become necessary to discourage the release of carbon into the environment and encourage the use and development of alternative energy,” said Dae Dahlquist, who is 10.

“The carbon tax is designed to bring in $2.1 to 2.2 billion a year into the state and is therefore budget positive. With the tax being graduated, initial compliance is not overwhelming to businesses,” Dae said. “However, with the tax increasing to strict levels, organizations will be forced to release less carbon and therefore seek out alternative energy.” (See page A5 for the remainder of Dae’s statement.)

The council, which had started the process of looking at the resolution last month, took no action Monday. A council subcommittee had recommended changes to a draft of the resolution, and advised in the document, “it would be wise if we took the time to ensure that we have let the public weigh in on the resolution. When using the bully pulpit we should first invite the community to tell us what they think.”

On Monday, the council discussed gaining additional public input. Mayor Paul Blackburn said, “We’d like to hear from our constituents, pro and con, before acting.”

Blackburn and City Manager Steve Wheeler will be in Salem Thursday and plan to discuss the proposal with State legislators Sen. Chuck Thomsen and Rep. Mark Johnson, and convene a public comment period at a March council meeting.

The Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 306 (SB306) during its 2013 Regular Session, which directed the Legislature to conduct a study of the economic and greenhouse gas emissions impacts of implementing a carbon tax in Oregon. The final study, by the Northwest Economic Research Center, was released in December 2014.

The study concluded that imposing a price on carbon would have “relatively small impacts on the economy and would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the draft resolution.

The draft resolution states, in part, that “the council … is compelled by the scientific consensus that a carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of global climate change, and agrees that climate change is a crisis demanding immediate measures to reduce the negative effects … the city finds that climate change is a threat to public health, national security, food security, and business supply chains. These societal costs of inaction are significant and outweigh the temporary economic impacts associated with the energy transition ... the city believes that assigning a cost to carbon dioxide emissions is one of the most efficient ways to discourage consumption of fossil fuels and encourage development of alternatives.

It states that the city calls on the Legislature to “craft legislation carefully to impose a carbon price, in the form of a tax, fee, or cap, relying on modeling described in the NERC report and experience of British Columbia and California, with special attention to mitigating impacts on low-income Oregonians.”

“We want to set an example of being a leading community that cares about our future,” said Boonstra, who is co-founder of the HRVHS Climate Club, formed this year.

“Passing this carbon pricing initiative is a direct statement saying that those people polluting the earth must pay, not profit, from pumping carbon into the atmosphere,” she said. “To pollute the earth should not be free. We all know that this is an issue of our conscience and we must follow that message.”

Boonstra said putting a price on carbon reduces emissions, protects or grows living wage jobs, and is “politically feasible and resilient, and non-regressive.”

Dae Dahlquist of Trout Lake told council, “Dr. Martin Luther King is famous for saying, ‘freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.’ The Earth cannot speak for itself. It is our responsibility to represent the Earth’s best interests,” said Dae, who researched and wrote his comments, with an assist from his mother, Bryn.

“Unfortunately, most of the population does not recognize how much carbon is being released into the environment and only has cursory knowledge of the effects which are caused from his malicious act. Fossil fuel companies and big polluters are not going to voluntarily give up their power and use of carbon. We must demand that they not only recognize, but pay for their crimes against the environment and our future.

“What do you want your legacy to be?” Dae said. “Do you want me to grow up in a place where I do not respect the earth? Do you want me to raise my children in a place with clean air? Do you want me to grow up in a place where salmon spawn in our rivers? Do you want me to be able to grow up in the shadow of mountains covered in snow? For all these reasons, please approve the carbon tax resolution for the State of Oregon. Please be responsible with my future.”

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