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October 2, 2012 10:25 AM

The controversial coal train issue is coming before the Board of Lane County Commissioners tomorrow (10/3), according to an agenda item buried under "County Administration." Though the issue has been in the news and is a source of debate among Lane County and Eugene residents, it appears no effort was made by the county to publicize the vote. The upcoming 10/8 Eugene City Council vote on the issue has been a source of controversy and of news stories in the R-G and EW for months.

The county's vote will take place tomorrow at the Public Service Building, 125 East 8th Avenue, and public comments can be made at the beginning of the meeting, which starts at 9 am. Commissioners can also be contacted via phone or email through the county's website.

Click the image to view the agenda on the county's website.

Though as of Tuesday morning, one day before the vote, the  "view materials" link still does not have the information about the vote, EW obtained the supporting documents on the "Port of Coos Bay Bulk Terminal Support" issue (See below). One of them (Exhibit D) is a  white paper summary of the coal controversy and the other (Attachment D) is a resolution that specifically mentions the shipping of coal and  concludes:

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Lane County Board recognizes the responsible development activities of the Port of Coos Bay related to increasing its ability to deliver, store, and transfer bulk commodities to the global marketplace.

ADOPTED this ______ day of October, 2012

 EW has contacted County Administrator Liane Richardson, Board Chair Sid Leiken, Intergovernmental Relations Manager Alex Cuyler, who is scheduled to bring up the issue, and the county public information officer for more information on the coal train vote and its scheduling.

The white paper that accompanies the resolution says:

Coal dust contains heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, benzene, mercury, and lead.  Project developers say they would use a “surfactant,” a sticky spray on top of the rail cars, to limit coal dust.  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway conducted extensive testing on 1,633 coal trains and found that sealants sprayed on loaded coal cars dramatically reduced coal dust – in some cases to zero.  Increased train traffic also means increased diesel exhaust.  In Oregon, over 130 doctors have asked Governor Kitzhaber to order a comprehensive “health impact assessment.”  Physicians opposing coal export are primarily concerned with the effect of diesel particulates on pulmonary and neurological functions.

In Eugene, the Trainsong, River Road, Bethel, and Whiteaker neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable.  Other health and safety concerns include noise pollution, increased railroad mortality, and obstruction of emergency vehicle access.  In addition, the accumulation of coal dust could damage crops, contaminate water, pollute the air, and poison the wildlife.  Coal dust also corrodes and undermines rail infrastructure, so coal trains have a high risk of derailment.  Five coal trains derailed in the U.S. during the summer of 2012, one just outside the Columbia River Gorge in Washington.

But according to the county's proposed resolution, this is mitigated because:

WHEREAS, the Port has clearly stipulated delivery standards that will minimize or eliminate fugitive dust emissions escape from rail cars …

Beyond Toxics, Cascadia Wildlands and other local groups have weighed into to object to coal trains and will likly speak at tomorrow's commissioners meeting.

UPDATE: The county says the documents supporting the Coos Bay Terminal agenda item are now up on the website.

October 2, 2012 06:42 PM

Local coal train opponentswere a little surprised to discover that the Lane County Board Commissioners will be voting on Wednesday Oct. 3 on supporting the Coos Bay Bulk Terminal development and the accompanying planned coal trains. It's a pretty a hot topic, one the public has had a lot of opinions on, and the upcoming Oct. 8 Eugene City Council vote on the issue has been well-publicized. Lane County buried the vote on the planned resolution in an agenda item

EW asked Intergovernmental Relations Manager (or as he says on his Twitter profile, lobbyist) about tomorrow's resolution. Cuyler preferred to respond by email, so here's our questions and his answers.

What significance does the county commission vote have, either by supporting or not supporting the Coos Bay Terminal proposal? 

The County Board of Commissioner will take action on a resolution, which expresses their opinion, but does not carry the same weight as an order.  A resolution is non-binding and unenforcible statement.  The Port may use it as they seek to advance their operations.  As a partner to the Port, the Board has signed a number of letters of support for specific, and more general funding opportunities.  In August 2008, Lane County was at the Surface Transportation Board hearing on transferring ownership (actually the hearing was on opposing the petition of the previous operator to dismantle the line) of the short line railroad to the Port. The Board’s agenda setting team is aware the Eugene City Council will be taking up a related issue on October 8.

The resolution as worded on the website is in favor of support how was that decision made and by whom?

The Lane County Legislative Committee examined the white paper last week. Discussions at that meeting informed the content of the resolution.  For example, staff asked whether the resolution should address coal trains, Coos County’s economic condition, or the Port.  The committee’s focus was on the Port’s bulk terminal expansion proposal.  As with most resolutions and orders, staff drafted the language for the full Board to consider.  Tomorrow, the Board may choose to modify it, abandon it, or adopt it as written.

The resolution mentions things put into place to restrict the coal dust, but has there been anything ensuring that can and will be done? I believe [Congressman Peter] DeFazio said that might have to be done legislatively?

The Port’s documents are clear environmental considerations were one of three “top weighted” issues.  While the Port does not regulate coal dust standards, it appears contractually and operationally, they have committed to minimizing fugitive emissions.  For example, the site design for the bulk terminal involves covered loading/unloading.  The rail car’s being proposed are “rotary dump” with the bottom of the car being completely solid (at one of their early briefings with us, I learned that most “dust” comes from the bottom of a traditional, bottom unloading car).

It’s a pretty controversial issue, why was the public not notified? The agenda item doesn't mention coal trains, though the white paper and the actual resolution do.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners routinely considers controversial issues at its regular, publicly noticed meetings.  The issue at hand is the bulk handling terminal.  The white paper and resolution reference the materials to be handled, including coal.

October 2, 2012 08:15 PM

News about the Bandon, Ore. man that was eaten by his 700-pound pigs has been getting some traction since it broke yesterday. It actually happened last Wednesday, but the folks at the Coos Bay District Attorney's office didn't release the news til it began to leak and they realized , "Wow, people are kind of freaking out."

How did this happen?

DA Paul Frasier tells The Eugene Register-Guard. "For all we know, it was a horrific accident, but it’s so doggone weird that we have to look at all possibilities,” 

The details are little Stephen King-ish.

First, the family member found Garner’s dentures on the ground. He then noticed pieces of Garner’s body scattered throughout the enclosure, Frasier said.

While investigators are certain that the hogs consumed most of Garner’s body, they do not know how he died. An investigation is continuing.

 

Any time someone dies I think it's tragic, but there are so many things ever so wrong with this incident. Vegans might disagree; they might think being eaten by a 700-pound pig is karmic payback for bacon. Or more precisely for the upcoming bacon shortage that was caused by folks going hog-wild and slaughtering their pigs early  thanks to the drought in much of the U.S. and in Europe. 

Let's start with the 700-pound pig thing; that, as the spider writes in the web in everyone's favorite childhood book about a cheerful and plucky swine, is "some pig."

I bet Wilbur would NEVER eat a farmer.

The R-G reports:

John Killefer, who heads the Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department at Oregon State University in Corvallis, called the incident involving Terry Garner both “very unfortunate” and highly unusual.

Although domestic hogs are not typically known to be as aggressive as their feral cousins, “there is some degree of danger associated with any animal,” Killefer said. He added that pigs “are more omnivorous than other farm animals, (such as) cows.”

Killefer said 700-pound pigs such as the ones that Garner kept at his farm for breeding purposes are abnormally large.

And just what was the unfortunate Mr. Garner doing with the 700-pound pigs? According to the news story, he had a boar named Teddy and several rather large sows, and he bred them to sell to 4-H kids. Yup, there are kids in rural, coastal Oregon raising Wilburs of their own, that are descended from Teddy and his fellow human-eating sows. No word in the story as to what to happen to Teddy and his crew, but let's just saying making THOSE particular pigs into pork would be so, so wrong. 

October 1, 2012 05:00 PM

I don't know why all the marijuana videos keep finding their way to my screen, y'all, but this video is ticking up in the page views and the pro-Measure 80 folks would probably like you to see it before you vote.

September 30, 2012 02:59 PM

And here is the latest in kitten videos. The makers swear no kitties were harmed (see below).

Before you go all crazy on me for "hurting" cats, you should know that the cats were handled with GREAT care. We decided to keep the shot tight on the cats so that they did not need to be airborne very long. The cats were tossed a few feet into an enormous and ultra soft sheepskin blanket. The cats were treated like royalty. They were fed gourmet cat food and lots of water. We took many breaks where the kittens rested and played in the shade. They were full of energy the entire shoot which lasted a mere one hour. This video was shot six months ago and the cats are alive and in perfect health today. I love cats and would never even consider harming them...so please stop sending me death threats. Anyways..

September 27, 2012 09:48 AM

EcoSalon released its list of 2012's top 10 most ridiculous quotes about women, and they're SO ridiculous that Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's comment about rape and pregnancy didn't even make the list (though maybe it should have). In case you've been living under a rock, here's what he said, possibly confusing human women with ducks:

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Rush Limbaugh also had a gem or two that didn't make the list:

"So Miss Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

I wonder what EcoSalon and I missed? We probably don't want to know. Barf.

September 26, 2012 04:20 PM

 

Cascadia Forest Defenders are probably most know for  tree sits and occupying government offices — most recently over logging in the Elliott State Forest, but when it comes to logging, mills and biomass plants are a part of the equation, so today CFD is occupying a billboard near the Seneca Sawmill/Seneca Sustainable energy plant. Here is the press release:

ACTIVISTS OCCUPY BILLBOARD OUTSIDE EUGENE POLLUTER SENECA SAWMILL

Eugene, OR- This afternoon members of Cascadia Forest Defenders occupied a billboard outside of the West Eugene Seneca Sawmill with a banner that read, “SENECA JONES: BAILOUTS, CLEARCUTS, & POLLUTING WEST EUGENE”.

Seneca Biomass is a wood burning power plant in West Eugene that opened in the spring of 2011 amid public protest. Though the project has been marketed as “green energy,” Seneca Biomass failed its first EPA air pollution test last fall. The plant releases an estimated 17,900 pounds of air toxins into West Eugene Neighborhoods annually —t his in addition to the 73,000 pounds already released annually from the mill itself. There are three schools within three miles of the Seneca Biomass facility.

While there are many industrial polluters in West Eugene, it so happens that Seneca Jones receives public funding for its dirty energy project. Seneca currently receives 10 million dollars in tax credits from the state of Oregon under the Business Energy Tax Credit Program. Seneca is now suing the state for an additional one million to offset the production costs of their new plant.

They get paid, we get polluted,” says west Eugene resident and Cascadia Forest Defender Grace Warner. “It would be nice if the state would give that 11 million to helping schools-- not to polluting them.”

Seneca is also responsible for much of the clear-cut logging in Oregon public forests. Seneca is one of the top three purchasers of timber sales in the Elliott State Forest, where companies clear-cut up to 850 acres every year. While the State Land Board justifies the destruction of Oregon's last remnants of coastal temperate rainforest to benefit public schools, logging in the Elliott contributes to less than one percent of the State's annual school budget.

Oregon can do better. We demand that Seneca:

  1. Stop polluting West Eugene.
  2. Stop clear-cutting Oregon's ancient forests.
  3. Start paying taxes like the rest of us.
September 26, 2012 06:51 AM

Don't miss one of Austin, TX's finest, Shakey Graves, tonight at Sam Bond's!

 

Shakey Grave’s “stunning” (KUT-FM) one-man show has made him a hero in his hometown of Austin, TX, so much so that the Mayor of Austin gave him his own local holiday: February 9th is officially proclaimed “Shakey Graves Day” there.   

Shakey stomps out dusty rhythms on a hand-made kick drum built from an old suitcase on top of feverish finger picking that brings to mind Townes Van Zandt, Leo Kottke or Michael Hurley.

Maybe the single most buzzed-about new artist in Austin, his local residencies are the stuff of legend. KUT-FM picked him as one of the best new artists of 2012, The Austin Chronicle called his last album one of the year’s best, and he was chosen to warm up the crowd on the Railroad Revival Tour stop featuring Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Shakey Graves w/ He's My Brother, She's My Sister - Wednesday,September 26 @ Sam Bond's Garage, 9pm

September 25, 2012 03:57 PM

Better head down to Voodoo Doughnuts for that bacon doughnut now, because there's a bacon shortage being predicted for next year. A Chicago Tribune business story cited a Bloomberg report that the pig supply is dropping to record lows. The Tribune says:

Blame the drought conditions that blazed through the corn and soybean crop this year. Less feed led to herds declining across the European Union “at a significant rate,” according to the National Pig Assn. in Britain.

And the trend “is being mirrored around the world,” according to a release (hat tip to the Financial Times)

In U.S. warehouses, pork supply soared to a record last month, rising 31% to 580.8 million pounds at the end of August from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The surge came as farmers scaled down their herds as feeding the animals became increasingly expensive.

That's right, high feed prices mean that young pigs are being killed now and not saved for later bacon. (We will let the question of whether the pigs are being honored and apologized to before being slaughtered slide for another occaision. Bacon, like chicken is part of the circle of life, right?

Bloomberg reports in a story headlined "Pig Slaughter Shrinks Supply to 1975 Low in Drought":

U.S. hog farmers are slaughtering animals at the fastest pace since 2009 as a surge in feed costs spurs the biggest losses in 14 years, signaling smaller herds next year and a rebound in pork prices

Will there be hipster outrage? There are already despairing tweets about the Baconpocalypse. And it will no doubt put an end to things like "21 Things Made out of Tasty Bacon such as a bacon Kevin Bacon, bacon narwhale and bacon turtles.

September 24, 2012 06:51 PM

Sadly Bill Nye the Science Guy did NOT say and I quote the fake news story from The Daily Current

"Look, these people they're f*cking retarded. Rape can't cause pregnancy? Breastmilk cures homosexuality? I caused a hurricane by challenging creationism? Who can possibly take these people seriously anymore?"

"...Now they don't even believe in egg + sperm = baby. Where does Todd Akin think babies come from? Does he think there are separate storks for people who were raped and people who weren't? "

"Hey look at me! I'm the rape stork. I drop off all my babies directly at the orphanage."

"He's a f*cking idiot. Just a plain f*cking idiot. I'm sorry - I don't say that word very often - but it happens to fit in this case. He's just a f*cking idiot."

"So Todd I got an offer for you. You and me. Any time. Any place. Debating sciencemano-a-mano. I'll bring the facts, and you bring the Vaseline. Because your ass is gonna f*cking need it when I'm done whipping."

He DID post a video on YouTube saying parents shouldn't teach Creationism.

 

Even more fun, Nye appears in a Symphony of Science video on climate change with David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov.

 

 

For more science music autotuning go to http://www.symphonyofscience.com/ 

The Morgan Freeman one on on quantum physics is not to be missed. And I will leave you with DINOSAURS!!!

September 20, 2012 01:35 PM