News Briefs: Eugene-Based OTA is Now Beyond Toxics | Forest Plans and County Funding Update | Council Likes Bike/Ped Plans | Climate Action on Freeways | Tar Sands Fight Goes On | Corvallis Commuter Options Add Vanpooling | Biz Beat | Early Deadline | Activist Alert | Lighten Up | Corrections/Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Saving the Butte
A strip mine is starting up in the middle of a small town
More traffic for Crest, big boxes out 30th?
EUGENE-BASED OTA IS NOW BEYOND TOXICS
“Our vision is a world beyond toxics,” says Lisa Arkin, executive director of the organization formerly known as Oregon Toxics Alliance. She says OTA’s new name, Beyond Toxics, reflects the environmental and social justice nonprofit’s “aspirational goals” to move the world to a new paradigm in which pesticides aren’t sprayed on roadsides where children wait for buses or in parks where they play, and toxic chemicals aren’t found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. Beyond Toxics will celebrate its name change at a “Holiday Cheer and Open House” from 4 to 6:30 pm Thursday, Dec. 1, at 1192 Lawrence St.
Arkin says the name change and new tag line — “Leadership for a clean and just Oregon” — more accurately reflects the group’s grassroots work with both urban and rural Oregonians and social justice work, and moves away from a mistaken impression that it represents the chemical industry. “Beyond Toxics reflects our enthusiasm for a healthy planet,” she says “not a goal of aligning toxics in the state of Oregon.”
Beyond Toxics will continue the campaigns that it worked on as OTA, including pesticide reform, safe public places, healthy air issues and social justice. Arkin says the group’s work aligns with the Occupy movement in some ways. “It’s not right that corporations say what’s safe for us and what exposures we can get,” she says. Arkin points out that many studies that claim exposures to chemicals are “safe” are done by the chemical industry itself.
The group has gotten grants for its work with Centro LatinoAmericano in the polluted west Eugene industrial corridor — affected by industries such as the Seneca biomass burning plant — to both study how toxics affect the populations there and to do outreach among affected neighbors. The goal is to improve living and health conditions in the area. Arkin says that while EPA, Meyer Memorial Trust and other grants help Beyond Toxics in its capacity building and environmental studies, it’s the donations from individual donors that allow it do “edgy pesticide work.”
Beyond Toxics will also be rolling out a new website, as well as a new logo, which Arkin says shows the nonprofit’s work in the Willamette Valley, as well as its focus on air quality, a focus that along with its social justice work has made Beyond Toxics unique in Oregon. — Camilla Mortensen
FOREST PLANS AND COUNTY FUNDING UPDATE
The timber trust plan that Congressman Peter DeFazio has been talking about has been causing consternation among those in town more prone to hugging trees than cutting them down.
DeFazio has said, “The bottom line is: How can we get counties adequate funding for essential public services?” But Chandra LeGue of Oregon Wild says, “There’s other things that can be done rather than recoupling timber harvests and county payments.”
O&C lands are BLM lands, which amount to about 2.4 million acres in Oregon, that came from a land grant given to build the Oregon & California Railroad, and later taken back. The 1937 O&C Lands Act tied logging on these lands to county revenues, but as logging has decreased, so has the money. The gap has been filled in with funding from the Secure Rural Schools Act, but that money has come to an end, leaving Lane and other counties with a large amount of federal land hurting for money for essential services.
LeGue says, “No one likes to talk about taxes in these economic times.” But she points out rather than just focusing on increasing logging, an export tax on raw logs could generate over $200 million every year, a lot of which would come to O&C counties.
DeFazio says his plan would be to split the lands between conservation and logging and have each of the two sections managed by a board of trustees creating a conservation trust and a timber trust. The congressman’s office has been waiting on a land inventory of the area in question before coming up with legislation. The lands inventory is reportedly being done by The Nature Conservancy.
LeGue says she thinks about one million acres could be given over to logging under the DeFazio plan. “What I think those maps will show is when you look at all the values for this land in context, there’s no way you can find a million acres that can be sacrificed,” she says.
“Some of it will be political because we are talking about funding counties, and county funding trumps science,” she adds.
LeGue says there have been rumors that the DeFazio trust plan will be added into a separate House proposal called the National Forest County Revenue, Schools and Jobs Act of 2011, which seeks to increase commercial timber harvests on national forests as a way of replacing the expired federal county payments.
That proposal didn’t address the O&C lands, though a press release for the legislation says it “provides for future inclusion of proposals to address other federal forest lands affected by declining timber production,” and references those lands.
According to Headwaters Economics, a nonpartisan research group, among other issues, “the cost of implementing the County Revenue Act would require significant new federal spending — from $1.8 billion to as much as $5.9 billion annually above current Secure Rural Schools appropriations — based on the current cost of preparing and administering timber sales.” — Camilla Mortensen
Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands will host an event called “Will Rep. DeFazio Sell Out Public Lands in Western Oregon” at 6pm Nov. 29 at the downtown library.
COUNCIL LIKES BIKE/PED PLANS
A plan to increase the city’s wealth, health and livability while saving the environment by doubling walking and biking got a warm reception from the Eugene City Council this week.
Eugene Councilor Pat Farr commended staff for the draft Eugene Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan. “It really gives me a lot of enthusiasm for the future of Eugene,” he said.
“Good work,” said Councilor Mike Clark, “It’s very important.”
“This is a great plan,” said Councilor Alan Zelenka.
The plan proposes hundreds of miles of new sidewalk and bike facilities to double walking and cycling rates over the next two decades. “It’s something we think is very achievable,” city bike/ped planner Reed Dunbar said of the goal.
Eugene’s current bike commute rate of about 11 percent is higher than any other city of its size or larger in the nation, according to the U.S. Census. Eugene’s walk commute rate is 7 percent. The city plans to respond to comments and finalize the draft plan in February.
Cycletracks physically separated from menacing car traffic will be a key part of the effort to increase biking in Eugene, according to Dunbar.
Dunbar pointed to Portland survey research indicating that about 1 percent of people will bike no matter how dangerous it is. About 7 percent are confident enough to bike next to traffic with bike lanes. But about 60 percent are interested in biking but are concerned that they’ll be hit by cars.
Safe cycletracks physically separated from menacing cars are needed to boost biking above existing levels, according to Dunbar. “This is going to be necessary if we’re attracting families and the 60 percent interested,” he said. Cycletracks are “important and something we need to embrace.”
Mayor Kitty Piercy agreed. “It seems to be the next place we really need to go to get everyone” from the committed to the interested, she said. “That’s where we are headed.”
Councilor Betty Taylor also backed the cycletrack focus. “We do need more bike paths that are separated from the road completely.”
But the new plan proposes only one major new cycletrack connecting the Amazon bike path to downtown and the riverfront trail system via High Street.
Dunbar said the city also may consider retrofitting a new two-way buffered bike lane on Alder Street near the UO with flexible bollards to convert it into a physically separated cycletrack. Without the bollards currently, some cars have been driving or parking in the lane and “ignoring all of our paint,” he said.
But the biggest deficit with the new plan may be how to pay for the roughly $50 million in new sidewalks and $40 million in new bike facilities proposed over the next two decades. Zelenka pointed out that at existing funding levels it could take the city roughly 75 years to build all the projects in the city plan.
Other councilors also cautioned that the current controversial system of charging neighboring houses for new sidewalks wouldn’t work. If the city is depending on such improvement district charges, “we’re dooming this to failure,” Clark said.
“We don’t really have any way of funding this great list of projects,” Zelenka said. “I encourage the council to look at a dedicated system of funding.”
Sue Wolling, a member of the GEARs bike advocacy group, urged the council to dedicate funding to active transportation to save money on expensive new roads. “If you could find a way to build a project that would reduce the need for road projects by 10 percent, wouldn’t you do it?” she asked, holding up the draft plan. “You can build every project in this book for the cost of one major roadway project.” — Alan Pittman
(A longer version of this story first appeared at EugeneCycles.com)
CLIMATE ACTION ON FREEWAYS?
A small chink in the dam between concerns about climate change and the region’s planning for massive freeway expansions has opened.
In 2009, the state Legislature passed House Bill 2001, a law requiring local planning to reduce greenhouse gases and the state’s first concrete action to fight climate change beyond simply stating aspirational goals. The Eugene City Council tied 4-4 on whether to oppose the bill, which was opposed by city staff and council conservatives. Mayor Kitty Piercy broke the tie in favor of taking action on global warming.
Now, the local Metropolitan Planning Organization for Eugene-Springfield has begun to comply with the law. The MPO is beginning to create two or more land use and transportation scenarios that will reduce greenhouse gas pollution from cars. Eugene, Springfield and the county will then select one of those scenarios two years from now.
So will the selected scenario force the area to stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars on freeways and finally take on climate change? That’s still unclear. The bill was watered down and does not require actual action.
But the scenario could finally link global warming with local freeway planning and focus the attention of the community, planners and elected officials on the most controllable source of climate pollution. People will know what to do about climate change, but the question will remain whether local government will actually do it. — Alan Pittman
TAR SANDS FIGHT GOES ON
From the Northwest’s megaloads to last week’s White House protests and President Obama’s decision to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, the tar sands debate continues. The Canadian tar sands, also known as the oil sands, have been criticized for destroying Canada’s boreal forests, poisoning nearby populations, including native tribes, killing wildlife and for the extraction process’ contribution to climate change.
On Nov. 6, several thousand protesters, including participants from Oregon, rallied against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. They encircled the White House and demanded President Obama say no to the project. The $7 billion project would carry Canadian tar sands oil to U.S. refineries. The State Department had already cleared the way for the pipeline, which would run from Canada through the plains on the Midwest to the Gulf Coast.
Fourteen members of Congress, including Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, asked for an independent inquiry into the State Department’s review of the 1,700-mile pipeline, citing reports that there was a conflict of interest and the department allowed pipeline developer TransCanada to choose the company that prepared an assessment of the project’s environmental impact.
The assessment said the project would have only minimal environmental impact, despite the fact it would pass through one the Great Plains’ critical sources of water, the Ogallala Aquifer.
The letter says, “Given the significant economic, environmental, and public health implications of the proposed pipeline, we believe that it is critical that the State Department conduct thorough, unbiased reviews of the project.”
An Oregon company, Evraz Oregon Steel, would make pipes for the project.
On Nov. 10 Obama announced that he was sending the project back to the State Department for review in light of the fact the pipeline was slated to go through sensitive wetlands areas in Nebraska. Michael O’Leary an organizing consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council working on the tar sands issue out of Portland says, “The uproar of heretofore unorganized regular community members has really accomplished something enormous here in terms of stopping a multinational oil company and federal progress on something that everyone considered a done deal.”
Meanwhile the megaloads carrying tar sands equipment up the Columbia River and across highways and byways of the Northwest into Montana and then to Canada where they would be used to extract the tar sands oil are still embroiled in controversy.
Imperial Oil has been deconstructing some of its megaloads destined for the massive Kearl Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta due to the court battles that have held the shipments at bay. Imperial Oil has applied for permits to send 300 smaller, though still massive, loads on interstate highways instead of scenic U.S. 12.
The loads, some of which weigh up to 600,000 pounds, have faced opposition in Idaho from the group Fighting Goliath, and in Montana where Missoula County filed a case to keep the massive loads off its two-lane highways. Groups fighting the loads have cited the effects on highways, on local rural residents and on pristine rivers as well as the more global environmental issues with tar sands produced oil. — Camilla Mortensen
CORVALLIS COMMUTER OPTIONS ADD VANPOOLING
A vanpooling information meeting is being planned for noon to 1 pm Friday, Nov. 18, at the Student Sustainability Center on the OSU Campus. RSVP to Tracy Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org (682-6183) or Phil Warnock at email@example.com (924-8474).
Valley VanPool is a collaboration of Cascades West Rideshare, Cherriots Rideshare, and LTD’s point2point Solutions. Valley VanPool currently has 20 vanpools within the Willamette Valley accommodating about 240 commuters.
Valley VanPool and local commuters are looking for people who live in the Eugene/Springfield area and work in Corvallis, who are interested in forming a vanpool. Both vanpool drivers and riders are needed. The monthly fare would run approximately $125 - $150, depending on the number of riders in the van, according to organizers.
By comparison, commuters driving alone from Eugene/Springfield to Corvallis in a car averaging 21 mpg are paying about $450 a month for gas, tires, and maintenance, not including insurance, financing, depreciation and parking fees.
The Smart-Ups Pub Talk this month will be from 5 to 8 pm Thursday, Nov. 17, at the new Broadway Commerce Center in downtown Eugene. Speakers include Christian Fox, David Bong and Jonathan Malsin. Register at http://wkly.ws/14v
NextStep Recycling will be celebrating the grand re-opening of its expanded Eugene reuse store with a ribbon-cutting at 11 am Friday, Nov. 18, at 980 McKinley St. in west Eugene. The store opens for sales of its inventory, which now includes office furniture, at 10 am Saturday, Nov. 19. Call 868-0904.
Blac Sheep Coffee Co. has opened a drive-through shop at the corner of 6th Avenue and Monroe in the parking lot of Gray’s Garden Center. Daniel Helfland says he and his partner use Cascade Estates as their local roaster, Mountain Rose Herbs for tea, and Umpqua Dairy for milk. Call 485-1052.
Viva!, aka Hummingbird Wholesale, is the 1940s-era warehouse that was once used by Down to Earth and has been renovated by Nir Pearlson Architect with abundant green features. The two-story building at 150 Shelton-McMurphey Blvd. now houses a mix of businesses including Not Your Mom’s Sandwich Shop and will be open for a public tour from noon to 1 pm Tuesday, Nov. 29. Free for members of Cascadia Green Building Council, $5 for non-members. RSVP by phone at 682-5541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Holiday Market vendors are setting up at the Fairgrounds Friday afternoon, Nov. 18, for the first day open to the public Saturday, Nov. 19. Call 521-7125.
Joey Jacinto is the new personal trainer at Snap Fitness at Woodfield Station, 28th and Willamette. Jacinto has a degree in physical education from North Arizona University and has a background in gym management, personal training and massage therapy. He recently relocated here from Phoenix. Call 225-4943.
Send suggestions for Biz Beat items to email@example.com and please put “Biz Beat” in the subject line.
EW offices will be closed Thursday and Friday for the long Thanksgiving weekend, and EW will publish on Wednesday next week, a day earlier than usual. The early deadline to reserve display ad space for our Nov. 23 issue is 5 pm Thursday, Nov. 17. Questions? Call 484-0519.
• The Egan Warming Center with a half-dozen locations around the area is preparing to open between this week and March 31 when temperatures drop below 30 degrees. More volunteers and donations are needed. Volunteers are required to attend a training session. See http://eganwarmingcenter.com or contact Tracyplank@comcast.net
• Middle East expert Ellis Goldberg will speak on “Armies, Democracy and a Suggestion for U.S. Policy in the Middle East” at 1 pm Thursday, Nov. 17, at the LCC Center for Meeting and Learning. Later, at 5:30 pm, he will speak on “Egyptian Spring: Desperately Seeking Revolution,” at the same location. Contact Lane Peace Center, 463-5820, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Marion-Polk Move To Amend is planning a “We Are the 99%” demonstration at 4 pm Thursday, Nov. 17, on the state Capitol steps in Salem. All are invited. The action is part of a nationwide MoveOn campaign in opposition to Republicans on the Super Committee calling for $500 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Contact email@example.com
• Oregon WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions) will be holding its monthly program meeting from 6:45 to 8 pm Thursday, Nov. 17, at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene. Speaker will be Pat Hoover on the topic of Hanford radiation releases and their impact on those downwind. See www.wandoregon.org or call 683-1350.
• Economist and political scientist Barry Eichengreen of UC-Berkeley will deliver a lecture on the “Europe’s Never-Ending Crisis” at 7:30 pm Thursday, Nov. 17, at 100 Willamette Hall, 1371 E. 13th Ave. on campus. Free.
• Lane County Democrats’ next monthly meeting is at 6:30 pm Thursday, Nov. 17, at EWEB, 500 E. 4th Ave. in Eugene. See www.dpo.org or call Matt Davis at 484-5099.
• Bob Gould, M.D., national board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, will speak on “Nuclear Weapons: The Ultimate Health Threat,” at 7 pm Friday, Nov. 18, at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene. See www.wandoregon.org or call CALC 485-1755.
If we live in a world where we can be against torture and yet support waterboarding — as Herman Cain does — why do I have no luck finding vegetarian pizza with pepperoni?
We heard from Bobby Jones, one of the Eugene occupiers, that the website we cited in our cover story last week was incorrect. It should be www.occupyeugenemedia.org Jones also tells us the camp is only between 6th and 7th between Washington and Jefferson. “We do not occupy between 1st and 5th,” he says. Washington-Jefferson Park itself runs from 1st through 7th.
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