News Briefs: Seneca Seeks Air Permit | Trapper Sale Fight Revived | County Has Boundary Issues | ALEC Targets Oregon Laws | Artistic Bike Corrals | UO Law Students Go Local | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lighten Up |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Ten years past the Twin Towers attack
Would delayed bike projects have saved a life?
SENECA SEEKS AIR PERMIT
Seneca Sustainable Energy, the Eugene biomass cogeneration plant under fire from social justice and environmental advocates for air pollution and logging issues, has filed for another air contaminant discharge permit with the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency. The new permit claims the biomass facility and the sawmill are a single source of hazardous air pollutants, while another permit with LRAPA for criteria pollutants has the biomass plant and the sawmill as separate facilities.
According to an LRAPA review report, the reason for the new permit is that the agency issued a notice of noncompliance to Seneca Sawmill in April 2011 for failing to submit a timely renewal application for its permit that expired Jan. 25. That notice of noncompliance was one of four noncompliance notices the facility has received. In addition to renewing its permit, Seneca is also applying to add a new dry kiln.
In the LRAPA staff report, the agency says that the biomass plant and the sawmill are a single source for hazardous air pollutants under Title III of the Clean Air Act because the facilities are “contiguous” and “under common ownership or control” and “are therefore are a single source under the definition of ‘stationary source’ in LRAPA’s Title 12.”
However, when it comes to criteria pollutants such as particulate matter, the sawmill and the biomass plant are permitted as two separate facilities because they do not share the same two-digit standard industrial classifications (SIC) codes.
The question arises of whether Seneca could be the subject of a citizen lawsuit under the Clean Air Act. Some have speculated that under the act the biomass incinerator is in fact a support facility for the mill, and the combined facilities emit enough particulate matter to trigger a new source review under the Clean Air Act.
If the facilities were considered the same stationary source for particulate matter, it which would put them over the 15 ton increase that would trigger a new source review and significantly stricter standards.
Merlyn Hough of LRAPA says, “The different titles of the federal 1990 Clean Air Act (and subsequent case law and guidance) consider adjacent contiguous sources a single source for purposes of regulating hazardous air pollutants even if they are required to be separate sources for purposes of regulating criteria air pollutants.”
He says, “The SIC classification is one of multiple tests for determining if the facilities are two sources for criteria pollutant regulation purposes.”
Hough adds that for permitting purposes, the application of the series of tests (including SICs) resulted in a determination that two permits were appropriate.
According to information Oregon Toxics Alliance, which has fought the biomass plant, gleaned from the permits, the plant will release 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 185.61 tons of nitrogen oxides, 200.89 tons of carbon monoxide, 1.7 tons of formaldehyde and more than 13 tons each of PM 10 and PM 2.5 (particulate matter) over the course of a year. Seneca is just outside Eugene’s city limits and is not subject to the Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know ordinance.
There will be a public hearing on the Seneca permit 5:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 15 at the LRAPA Meeting Room. All written comments must be received by 5 pm on September 16 by email to Colleen Wagstaff at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by letter to LRAPA, 1010 Main Street, Springfield, Oregon 97477. For more info go to http://wkly.ws/13s — Camilla Mortensen
TRAPPER SALE FIGHT REVIVED
After years of protests and court battles, the Trapper timber sale in the McKenzie River watershed was stopped by a U.S. District Court decision on May 24, but the saga of the fight over the 155 acres of pristine old-growth trees has not ended.
Seneca Jones Timber fought to log the trees, and groups including Cascadia Wildlands, Cascadia Forest Defenders and Oregon Wild fought back. The sale was first proposed in 1998 and sold to Seneca in 2003. Seneca was offered an alternative volume of timber by the Forest Service at one point, but refused.
Federal Judge Thomas Coffin wrote in his May ruling, “Central decisions affecting the analysis and approval of the Trapper timber sale were based on a factual inaccuracy and the public has yet to be informed of the actual findings.” He wrote that the public is entitled to be accurately informed of the impact of the proposed logging on endangered species listed northern spotted owls and be given “meaningful opportunity” to weigh in.
The Forest Service filed a notice of intent to appeal Coffin’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands says that the Forest Service has now withdrawn that notice of intent, giving conservation groups hope that the trees will be left standing. “They have exhausted their legal recourse,” Laughlin says.
But he says that the Forest Service could still proceed with a new Environmental Assessment that would fix the deficiencies in the previous attempt. “We are encouraging them greatly not to go down that road,” Laughlin says.
Laughlin says the Forest Service has started contract surveys for red tree voles, the food of choice for northern spotted owls. “As we know from 2006,” Laughlin says, “the place is chock full of red tree voles.”
In 2005 the Eugene City Council passed a resolution asking the Forest Service not to log old-growth forests in the McKenzie River watershed, the source of Eugene’s drinking water. — Camilla Mortensen
COUNTY HAS BOUNDARY ISSUES
Every 10 years, following the U.S. Census, Lane County redraws voting districts. The process is often contentious with accusations of gerrymandering — altering voting districts to advantage one group over another — and this year’s redistricting, which is to be done in time for the November 2011 election, is no different.
The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office requires district boundaries to be contiguous, utilize existing geographic or political boundaries, not divide communities of common interest and be connected by transportation links. Districts must be of equal population. They cannot favor any political party, incumbent elected official or other person and cannot be “drawn for the purpose of diluting the voting strength of any language or ethnic minority group.”
Scott Bartlett, a member of the redistricting committee, says the committee was told in a memo from Bill Clingman, a senior GIS analyst with the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG), “that the existing population figures are less than 1 percent deviation and therefore in absolute compliance for redistricting.” Bartlett asks, “So why are we doing anything at all?”
The redistricting brouhaha originally started with the county’s purchase of Eugene-based Moonshadow Mobile’s “Borderline,” a software product that can be used for redistricting. Mike Clark, a conservative city councilor who is contemplating running against Rob Handy for his North Eugene commissioner’s seat, was listed as a company vice president. A recent R-G business story now calls Clark “an independent contractor” who promotes and sells its products.
Bartlett says when the county purchased the software, County Administrator Liane Richardson directed that the redistricting committee not be give access to the product’s “Labels and Lists” component that comes with no added cost. Labels and Lists contains voter-related information. After a prickly discussion, the committee voted Sept. 1 to add Labels and Lists back to the software.
Commissioner Jay Bozievich says, “The county did not purchase access to that database to try and keep the process nonpartisan for determining districts for nonpartisan offices.” He adds, “The secretary of state does not mention voter registration as a criteria, but she does not exclude it either. The important things are communities of interest and geographic boundaries both natural and manmade.”
Bozievich presented some Borderline-based redistricting scenarios at an Aug. 25 committee meeting.
Bartlett objected to Bozievich’s involvement in the “citizen’s committee business” at the meeting, and the commissioner agreed that he should no longer participate in committee discussions, though he is happy to continue to provide technical assistance.
“Mr. Bozievich proposes to dump highly progressive and Democratic areas in Whiteaker and in west of downtown,” says Bartlett, and “take all those ethnically and racially diverse and progressive people and cram those residents that are in the North Eugene High School area and shove those into South Eugene.”
He says the scenarios remove many Democrats from North Eugene and move them to South Eugene, already a liberal district. Bartlett adds, “Some would say to make it easier for Republican candidates easier to win this.”
Bozievich says, “I want to make clear, I have no idea what the voter registration breakdown is for any of the trial scenarios.”
Bartlett is concerned he says that some members of the committee are “pushing to get this wrapped up.” He says, “Let’s not go headlong into reckless or unverified scenarios that could include gerrymandering agendas.” — Camilla Mortensen
ALEC TARGETS OREGON LAWS
Oregon lawmakers are having some success in helping spread the national anti-government, anti-labor agenda by pushing boilerplate legislation written in Washington, D.C.
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) claims to be non-partisan but is primarily a right-wing organization with 2,000 legislative and 300 corporate members. Model bills written nationally by ALEC are taken back to their states to be introduced in their legislatures. John Nichols, writing in The Nation, notes these “bills are drawn up by ALEC’s elite task force of lawmakers and corporate representatives.” Texas columnist Jim Hightower has written that around 1,000 bills are introduced around the country each year, and 200 of them pass.
The Nation’s recent study of many of ALEC’s bills found that they included bills to shrink the size of government by making it difficult for the state to raise revenue, privatization bills, bills to destroy unions’ power, bills to make sure that insurance companies still profit heavily from our health care industry, bills to privatize public education and several bills to require voter ID.
ALEC member Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sun River) said, “I do not believe ALEC corporations influence legislation any more than corporations attending NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) and CSG (Council of State Governments) influence these organizations’ decisions.”
Hightower has written that ALEC takes $6 million in corporate money (the Koch brothers being one of the organizations largest donors with an amount that likely exceeds $1 million).
A common criticism of ALEC is its utter lack of transparency. Hightower has written about the closed-door meetings between legislators and corporate representatives and the difficulty in finding out if a representative is an ALEC member. Until recently ALEC’s model bills were kept from public scrutiny. Eight hundred pages of ALEC’s model bills were recently leaked to The Nation. These bills and other material can be viewed along with analysis from the Center for Media and Democracy at alecexposed.org
An ALEC bill co-sponsored by Whisnant will become law in Oregon in January. HB 3484 establishes the Council on Efficient Government, and while the bill is not exactly the same as the ALEC model bill, it’s close enough to earn scrutiny by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
The Council on Efficient Government is at the heart of ALEC’s privation agenda. “This bill encourages privatization of public services by establishing a council that will consider whether a private outside vender can provide a good or service at lower cost than the public entity,” reports the CMD. “It builds an accounting framework and a set of institutions that make it easier for private entities to pursue and win contracts to provide services. It will promote greater outsourcing of services traditionally provided by public workers, which will have the effect of weakening or dismantling public employee unions. Consideration may be driven by economic concerns rather than what is in the public interest.”
These councils typically include representatives from the business sector.
The Council for Efficient Government is not the first ALEC bill to become law in Oregon. Whisnant was a co-sponsor of bill that passed in 2009 that was based upon ALEC model legislation supporting “taxpayers’ transparency.” Many other ALEC bills have been introduced in the Oregon House or Senate. Whisnant says, “Thus, I will continue to consider ALEC model legislation along with good state policy proposed legislation from other special interest groups.” — Philip Shackleton
ARTISTIC BIKE CORRALS
The city of Eugene plans to unveil two new sculptured, on-street bike corrals this week.
The city will inaugurate the first bike locking at a corral in front of the Morning Glory Café near the train station at 10:30 am Thursday, Sept. 8. The city will place another corral in front of the Kiva grocery store at 11th and Olive this week. A third corral is planned for in front of Cornucopia Bar & Burgers at 5th and Pearl, but the city hasn’t said when it will be installed.
City spokesperson Laura Hammond said that other businesses interested in bike corrals may contact city bike/ped coordinator Lee Shoemaker at email@example.com or 682-5471.
One of the corrals will include an outline sculpture of deer that cyclists can lock to. Another is a large bike wheel. The sculptures were created by LCC art instructor Lee Imonen and his students. A city committee chose the designs after public comments on displays in the downtown library. The city’s Public Art Plan last year called for integrating art into everyday objects and helped inspire the sculpture project.
In addition to the more than one thousand hours of volunteer time, the city contributed about $12,000 to build the three corrals.
Bike corrals can park a dozen bikes or more in the space taken by one parked car. Car parking garages cost up to $40,000 per space to build, with Eugene parking fees barely covering garage maintenance and paying none of the cost to build them.
Demand for bike parking has increased in Eugene with a doubling in the cycling rate over the last decade. Eugene’s 11 percent bike commuting rate is now the highest in the nation for a city its size or larger.
The city also has plans to place two on-street bike corrals on 13th Avenue near the UO to replace bike parking spaces lost when the city removed parking meter poles. —Alan Pittman
A version of this story first appeared at Eugenecycles.com
UO LAW STUDENTS GO LOCAL
The UO School of Law’s annual conference put on by the Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation has gone local this year. Symposium editor Andrea Bibee says not only does the conference, which runs from 8 am to 5 pm Friday, Sept. 9 have “The Local Revolution” as its theme, organizers tried to “live up to what we want to represent.” Most of the speakers are local, with the exception of three from the Bay Area, Bibee says, and local organic seasonal food will be served.
The conference will have four panels and two keynote speakers. The panels are on local food production and regulation, local energy production, local land use management and collaborative governance. Bibee says the speakers are “mostly young, fresh female attorneys” that are “innovative in their areas of law.”
The keynote speakers are Jenny Kassan and Janelle Orsi, co-founders of Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland, Calif., which facilitates the growth of sustainable, localized, and just economies, through legal research, professional training, resource development and education about practices like sharing, bartering, co-ops and local currencies.
Other speakers include UO law prof Adell Amos — who has spent the last two years working for the Obama administration for two years as deputy solicitor for Land and Water Resources in the Department of the Interior — as well as land use planners with the city of Eugene, local attorneys and EWEB representatives.
For more on “The Local Revolution: How Relationships and Legal Policies Are Helping Create Sustainable Communities Around the Country” and to register go to http://wkly.ws/13r
The symposium is free to the public. — Camilla Mortensen
• Reservations are due by Monday, Sept. 12, for Western Environmental Law Center’s “Breathing Easier” celebration and fundraiser from 4:30 to 7 pm Sunday, Sept. 18, at Rivers Turn Farm, 31139 Lanes Turn Road in Coburg. The event honors the successful campaign to end field burning in Oregon. Suggested donation is $30-$50. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 359-3240.
• 1,749 U.S. troops killed* (1,742)
• 13,609 U.S. troops wounded in action (13,447)
• 887 U.S. contractors killed (887)
• $451.6 billion cost of war ($448.9 billion)
• $133.4 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($132.6 million)
• 4,421 U.S. troops killed (4,421)
• 31,921 U.S. troops wounded in action (31,921)
• 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)
• 1,542 U.S. contractors killed (1,542)
• 111,864 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (111,832)
• $794.1 billion cost of war ($793.1 billion)
• $234.5 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($234.2 million)
Through Sept. 6, 2011; sources: icasualties.org; defense.gov, U.S. Dept. of Labor
* highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate Iraqi civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
by Rafael Aldave
Obama has me so frustrated that I’m ready to vote for Rick Perry in 2012. Let’s face it, even a kick in the ass would be a step forward.
• Oregon’s public records laws allow journalists and citizens to keep an eye on our public officials and keep governments operating in the sunshine. So what, if anything, are folks at Lane County government trying to keep in the dark? EW asked the county for email records related to hiring Rick Dancer Media Services to produce a video series. In a time of severe budget cuts, County Administrator Liane Richardson hired Dancer for $40,800 for 12 videos. Another proposal for 12 videos for $14,640 by an award-winning videographer was passed over. Dancer didn’t want to talk about it and passed the buck to the county. Richardson said she was too busy for an interview. So EW submitted a public records request for emails related to the contract with Dancer and was told it would cost $200 per machine searched (later revised down to $140 to $150 per machine). Counties and cities across the nation, including Springfield, release such records for little or no cost. Under Oregon law, fees can be waived for public records that are in the public’s interest — isn’t it in the public’s interest to find out how the county is spending its money? The county government needs to be much more open with the citizens of Lane County about how it spends taxpayer money and how it conducts the business of our county.
• Should EWEB commissioners be paid? We hear it was Commissioner Rich Cunningham’s idea, but so far it has not been put on the agenda, along with his idea to have seven commissioners instead of five. Both would require a charter change. We haven’t heard all the arguments, but sounds like the timing is bad in this economy and with the mood of struggling rate-payers. Commissioners already get free meals at meetings, paid internet service and the loan of personal computers, and $2,000 to $3,000 a year to travel to and attend conferences.
• This week’s story on BRING Recycling points out the impact of the recession on the reuse and repurposing of materials. More people are thinking about reusing those old deck planks as sides for raised beds. That rusted out garbage can might become a worm bin. Better to fix up that old boat rather than buy a new one. Used coffee grounds make free soil amendments for rhodies. But will this mindset continue if and when our economy improves?
The old folks who suffered through the Great Depression tended to carry that “waste not, want not” mentality throughout their lives. Today’s Great Recession, as difficult and painful as it is for many families, is going to be with us for a while longer. We expect to see a new and more frugal lifestyle become part of our culture, and in terms of our impact on our environment, that’s a good thing. E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful rings true today more than ever, and examples of that philosophy manifested can be found in BRING’s unique Home and Garden Tour coming up Sept. 18.
• Local schools are back in session this week and many parents are sending their kids to new locations this year. One school that’s going through a major transformation is the Network Charter School (NCS), which has relocated from scattered classrooms around downtown to the old Temple Beth Israel site at 2550 Portland St. This move has been a broad community effort with donated time, money and materials from NextStep Recycling (34 computers), Pioneer Pacific College Phi Beta Lambda group, the Oregon Community Foundation, Friendly Neighbors, Altrusa of Eugene, Assistance League of Eugene and many others. NCS is recruiting new students. Call 344-1229 or email email@example.com
• How good is this Duck football program? EW’s Alabama sports writer suggests that Phil Knight stop buying uniforms and spend that money instead on steak and potatoes for those skinny kids. Another nasty suggestion from down South: Oregon should stay away from the SEC. True, the Ducks are 1-3 against top-20 non-conference teams over the last two seasons while rolling through the old PAC-10. Maybe the PAC-10 hasn’t been so good lately. Maybe the Duck season should have started this Saturday, at Autzen against Nevada, instead of waddling into the SEC. Maybe top coaches have figured out the Kelly offense. Maybe it’s time to hype down the program.
• Our cover photo this week is of a sculpture Jud Turner made for us and for BRING’s 40th anniversary. The creation is composed of five bike tire rims, a glass lens, clocks and various clock parts, gears, a serving platter, 40 pieces of metal and plastic construction hardware of unknown purpose, two stakes from solar yard lights, washers and paint. Turner tells us he managed to find 95 percent of his materials at BRING’s Planet Improvement Center in Glenwood. See our earlier story on Turner Aug. 4.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor at eugeneweekly dot com