One of the most popular coffee companies in Douglas County found itself in some hot water with customers after the company’s name appeared on a letter supporting House Bill 2020, the carbon cap-and-trade bill which is dividing the state.
Dutch Bros., a Grants Pass-based coffee chain, was named as a member of the Oregon Business for Climate nonprofit, a non-partisan policy group, in a letter supporting the bill on June 17.
The company dropped its support after the letter praised legislators for voting for the cap-and-trade bill and listed all of the nonprofit’s members — about 100 companies in total. Dutch Bros. Founder Travis Boersma said in a press release the company’s neutrality was compromised with the letter.
“Dutch Bros. doesn’t take political stances,” Boersma said. “Our intention in joining Oregon Business for Climate was to collaborate with businesses to find solutions to environmental issues. We never intended for our name to be used in support of this, or any, bill. Our intention is to always take a neutral position in politics.”
Oregon Business for Climate was created two years ago with the “express purpose of providing a forum for businesses to weigh in on how to craft responsible carbon pricing in the state of Oregon,” organization Co-Director Nancy Hamilton said.
Hamilton said Dutch Bros. and Astoria-based Fort George Brewing, which also dropped its membership, were both good members and the organization respects their decisions to withdraw. She said most of the organization members are being harassed with hang-up calls, vulgar language and misinformation.
Jim Daniel wrote on the local Facebook page after the company withdrew its membership.
“Good Bye to you, Dunce Bros. I’ll use the free stuff (since) I have to end our relationship,” Daniel wrote. “Y’all gonna need to call George Soros for money, he still supports Socialism.”
Deb Perez Pike wrote on the same post calling on Dutch Bros. to pick a side.
“Dutch Bros.....put your big kid pants on and express yourself,” Perez Pike said. “Look at Penzey Spices, a thriving nation-wide business who does not hold back their opinions.”
Paige Fairfield, of Roseburg, gets her coffee on a regular basis from the kiosk at 770 NW Garden Valley Blvd. She said companies have a right to a neutral position, especially at Dutch Bros. where kiosks have individual owners. All seven locations in Douglas County are owned by Clayton Reinhart who could not be reached for comment Monday.
“I think neutrality is something that companies and individuals have a right to,” Fairfield said. “It can seem probably kind of wishy-washy, but not having an opinion sometimes is OK. There’s always going to be those people that fall in the middle.”
Hamilton said other member companies are facing similar reactions from their customers.
“It’s been a pretty dreadful week or so for many of our members,” Hamilton said. “They’re mostly holding strong and calling us trying to get information so they can respond thoughtfully to the relentless campaign of misinformation.”
The organization sent a letter to members explaining the bill and to respond to common complaints and arguments from upset consumers. Among them were that agriculture and forestry industries are exempt, marine fuels are exempt and the bill does not include older, diesel-fueled farm equipment.
The legislation sets an overall cap on greenhouse gas emissions and draws it steadily down, targeting 45% reduction from 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% reduction by 2050, according to the letter. The bill will affect about 100 companies that emit over 25,000 metric tons of emissions annually with free allowances and provisions for electricity and natural gas consumers.
“The goal is to have all businesses stay in Oregon and continue to thrive here,” the letter reads.
Hamilton said the climate crisis already costs the state close to $1 billion per year, pointing to smoke canceling the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, droughts, heat and stronger, more rampant fires. Approximately $500 million per year will be invested in every county in Oregon to increase energy efficiency projects, use of renewables and climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
“There’s this idea that it’s not costing us anything,” Hamilton said. “Climate change is here and the question before Oregonians today is how do we respond to that. We believe that we need to be responsible and respond to that. If you’re concerned about your paycheck, responding to this now is the least-cost opportunity you’re going to have.”