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Slant 11-25-2015

• The Seneca biomass incinerator is back in the news. EWEB President Steve Mital called the 2010 secret EWEB contract a “mistake” in his comments on the Register-Guard website last week. It seems Seneca locked in a long-term price for its electricity generation and now that energy costs have dropped, EWEB is losing money and you and I, the ratepayers, are subsidizing this wood-fired monstrosity. But the real cost in human health is more difficult to quantify. Seneca is just outside Eugene’s city limits and is not subject to the Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know reporting requirements, but according to permits, the plant releases about 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) each year. And the plant has been cited for noncompliance with permitted pollution levels. 

EWEB does not deserve all the blame for enabling this toxic facility. LRAPA, the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, signed off on the incinerator, despite strong warnings from local physicians and environmental advocates. Now we all pay in multiple ways. Time for a class-action suit based on violations of the Clean Air Act?

• Good to hear Eugene has adopted the Vision Zero goal of zero fatalities or serious injuries in our local transportation system. We wrote about this in Slant Oct. 1 noting that Vision Zero comes out of Sweden in response to the 1.2 million traffic fatalities around the world each year. This will not be a cheap and easy transition. The Vision Zero task force will be looking at, among other things, how to separate bike traffic from car traffic, and not just with lines on pavement. Find a video about this comprehensive approach to traffic safety on our blog at wkly.ws/22r.

• The day after Thanksgiving is always the kick-off for holiday gift shopping, and Black Friday is also an opportunity to remind people that excessive consumption is damaging to our ecosystem, and maybe even to our mental health. So while people are flocking to Valley River Center, Holiday Market at the Fairgrounds and just about every retail shop downtown and around the area, the Kindista Holiday Market is encouraging people to “buy nothing and share freely.” The Kindista event is from 10 am to 4 pm Friday at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 1300 Pearl Street. It’s a free celebration with a potluck and dance with live music. Everything there will be free, including Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. See kindista.org or email sky@kindista.org for more information. 

For those who are more traditional holiday shoppers, we always encourage gift-giving that supports our local and regional economy, such as local crafts or memberships in community supported agriculture (CSAs). Local ganja will be skunking up many a stocking this Christmas, but sometimes the most memorable gifts are experiences, such as music lessons or concert tickets, yoga sessions, massage, etc. And we can probably all use the gift of psychoanalysis this time of the year. 

• Speaking of the holidays and mental health, we notice Willamette Family Services is drawing awareness to how often alcohol and drugs are portrayed on TV as a normal and frequent method of dealing with stress. Characters on TV dramas from Gray’s Anatomy to House of Cards get drunk or stoned in response to difficulties. Such portrayals can be triggers for those dealing with addiction, and once you notice them, they are ubiquitous. Find Willamette Family’s services at wfts.org or call 762-4300.