News Briefs: Seneca Air Pollution Hearing | Gates Arrest Could Happen in Eugene | Gates Case Compared to Gainer | Brown Pans Police Move | Dogs Get Poisoned | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Weather or Not?
Age discrimination gets harder to prove
City set to move police across river
SENECA AIR POLLUTION HEARING
Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA)is holding a public hearing on the controversial proposed Seneca biomass plant on Thursday, July 30. Concerned Eugeneans are encouraged to come give comment on the plant’s air pollution permit.
While some see biomass cogeneration as the new clean energy, others say a wood burning plant within city limits is not only polluting to the air Eugeneans breathe but could have other, unforeseen, repercussions on the environment.
Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA) executive director Lisa Arkin said the proposed plant will “emit more than 500 tons of pollutants into west Eugene’s air every year.” According to OTA’s data, the plant would be Eugene’s largest source of the carcinogens styrene, acetaldehyde, and napthalene as well as hydrogen chloride, which Arkin said causes respiratory illnesses. It would be Eugene’s third largest source of formaldehyde, also a carcinogen, she said.
Of particular concern, Arkin said, is that the proposed plant would be in west Eugene. “That’s a lot to put on those neighborhoods that have a high incidence of lung cancer,” she said.
Arkin added that the plant would also emit 212,000 tons of the global warming contributor carbon dioxide each year, as well as other direct and indirect greenhouse gases.
OTA is asking that the permit require Seneca to use the most stringent pollution controls to reduce greenhouse emissions; use continuous “stack” monitoring for as many pollutants as possible; report to the Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know program; and fund an ambient air toxics monitor in West Eugene to monitor the air there.
Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild questioned the public subsidies the plant qualifies for as an alternative energy project because, he said “reducing the production costs of industrial clearcutters is not really a redeeming activity that furthers the public interest, and there are better uses of those scarce public resources.”
According to OTA’s analysis of the permit, the plant will require 32 tons of wood an hour to generate electricity. Heiken said this wood will be the by-product of clearcutting — slash, made up of small trees and limbs too small to be economically useful as lumber. Heiken said, “By subsidizing the disposal of Seneca’s slash piles and helping to heat Seneca’s lumber kilns, we are essentially subsidizing their clearcuts by paying them for slash disposal and kiln heating that used to cost them money.”
A press release from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) on July 28 said there has been a decline in timber harvests, with specifically a decline this year of private timberlands harvesting, such as Seneca’s. “This reduction in lumber and plywood mills across Oregon also means there are less mill residuals available for biomass energy and paper products” according to a ODF economist.
According to Heiken, one consequence of building a slash-burning plant like the one Seneca proposes is: “When the day finally comes to reform Oregon’s antiquated clearcutting policies, will we hear crazy excuses like, ‘We can’t stop clearcutting or it will limit our supply of renewable energy obtained from slash piles’?”
Merlyn Hough, LRAPA executive director said the agency welcomes comments both at the Thursday meeting and in writing. The most useful comments, he said, are the ones “directly relating to the permits — have we applied the our rules correctly?” Comments on areas such as environmental justice and forest practices have been educational for the LRAPA staff — “We see the whole spectrum,” he said — but have to be referred to other experts.
Hough said there will be an informational meeting at 5:30 pm, followed by recorded public comments at 6:30 pm. If there are a large number of comments, they will be limited to three minutes each. The meeting is at Harris Hall at 125 East 8th. For those who can’t attend or who want to go into greater depth, LRAPA will take written comments through 5 pm Aug. 14. Send to LRAPA Permit Coordinator, 1010 Main St., Springfield 97477 or email firstname.lastname@example.org — Camilla Mortensen
Gates Arrest Could Happen in Eugene
President Obama’s comment that Cambridge police behaved “stupidly” in arresting an African-American Harvard scholar has made national news. Could such police conduct happen here?
A 2002 study for the Eugene police gathered data on 18,000 traffic stops and found that local police were far more likely to stop and search minorities. Police stopped African-American drivers at a rate 2.3 times higher than white drivers. Latino male drivers were stopped at a 22 percent higher rate and searched at a rate 2.6 times higher than whites. The studies found that minorities were no more likely to be carrying contraband.
The study produced no apparent reform by the Eugene Police Department. EPD officials denied that they racially profiled minorities and never publicly released racial profiling data again.
The police union, which resisted the racial profiling study, later blamed a rape spree by a union member, officer Roger Magaña, on hiring Hispanics. The union ignored the many white officers who had failed to investigate years of complaints against their coworker.
A decade ago, an EPD study found significant resistance to diversity in a police department “that has yet to fully accept diversity.” The public study was never repeated.
In Cambridge, police charged Henry Louis Gates Jr. with disorderly conduct in his own home after the professor accused an officer of racial profiling. The police later dropped the charge.
Short of inciting a riot, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives people a right to verbally protest arrests, many legal experts agree. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers.”
But police here and elsewhere apparently don’t agree with the Constitution. This month the deputy Eugene police auditor found that an officer falsely arrested a woman last summer for verbally protesting an arrest at a post-college age party. “That’s exactly what the [Oregon] Supreme Court has overruled,” Dawn Reynolds said.
Citizens Review Board (CRB) chair Rick Brissenden, a municipal court judge outside Eugene, agreed. Arresting someone for interfering with a police officer or similar charges has to involve some sort of physical action by the accused, according to Brissenden. “Saying something the officer doesn’t like” isn’t a crime, the judge said.
But EPD Capt. Steve Swenson disagreed. “The behavior of one person,” he told the CRB and auditor, “could incite others.” Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns, City Manager Jon Ruiz and the mayor and City Council ignored the independent auditor and CRB member recommendations on the case. — Alan Pittman
GATES CASE COMPARED TO GAINER
The arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as a burglary suspect at his own home in Cambridge, Mass., was a painful reminder for one former UO professor, Ajuan Mance, now an associate professor of English at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., and a scholar of black history and literature.
In her blog BlackOnCampus.com Mance recounts her short time in Eugene, “a city with a tiny black population (less than 2 percent of the overall population.” She writes that “an African-American faculty member — the director of the gospel choir — was harassed by the police twice, each time after being reported as a black man behaving suspiciously by white neighbors and residents. Eventually this kind and talented gentleman who was beloved by students left his job and the area. He no longer felt safe or welcome in the community.”
She was writing about John Gainer, who left Eugene to move to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000, due in part to confrontations with Eugene police officers. Gainer founded the gospel choir and was its director for 17 years, beginning in 1983. — Ted Taylor
BROWN PANS POLICE MOVE
Calling it “bad policy,” Eugene City Councilor George Brown has voiced his opposition to the proposed police facility on Country Club Road in a letter July 22 to fellow councilors and the mayor.
“Viewed in total isolation of every other consideration, I fully understand why this proposal is attractive to its supporters,” he wrote. “However, as you know, there is currently only $22 million in the Facility Reserve Fund, which was created to help build a new City Hall and maintain existing structures. If we spend $16 million to move the police, that would leave only $6 million in reserve.”
Brown says it would cost $8 million to seismically retrofit City Hall to “essential” standards, “meaning not only would everyone survive, but the building could still function.”
“Other city-owned buildings are well below ‘life-safety’ standards, including the airport terminal, the Overpark and the Atrium,” he wrote. “There would be no money left to address their needs, and they house city and federal staff, travelers, shoppers, renters, and downtown employees.”
Brown said merely moving the police station does nothing to improve public safety: “It doesn’t hire one new cop, open one new jail bed, etc. The current police staffing level would only occupy slightly over half the building. At our current rate of adding FTEs to police, the building would be fully occupied in 30 years or so.”
He called it a “bad policy” to move a major city department out of downtown, “an area we are trying to make more active, not less. We talk about sustainability, but now we are encouraged to embrace a strategy of abandonment, this time with the very real possibility for a new ‘pit’ covering a whole city block. Whatever happened to the idea of reuse, refit, recycle?”
As an alternative, Brown said the city should spend $8 million to retrofit City Hall, $2 million to create secure police parking across 8th Avenue, $1 million to upgrade police locker rooms and $1 million to expand police into old Fire Station #1 at City Hall.
“This would leave around $10 million to address seismic problems at the airport, the Overpark and the Atrium,” he said. — Ted Taylor
DOGS GET POISONED
For decades, poisons have been used by farmers and state and federal officers to control predator populations by killing coyotes, wolves and other predators that might attack livestock. Unfortunately these poisons don’t always kill just the predators; they can kill family pets.
M44 cyanide ejectors are one of the most deadly poisons commonly used to kill predators. These poisons are usually set as traps on farms near livestock pens and fences. According to Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, these poison traps are sometimes found on public lands where people and their dogs regularly hike. “I’ve dealt with too many situations where people are in these idyllic settings. And the irony is there are no livestock around,” Fahy said.
Part of the danger of M44 ejectors is they are usually accompanied by a smelly bait that is especially attractive to canines. When they investigate it, it ejects the poison forcefully into their faces — up to five feet into the air.
Another problem with M44 ejectors, Fahy says, is that they aren’t always marked with posted signs, especially on public lands like state parks.
Compound 1080, or sodium fluoroacetate, is colorless, odorless, tasteless and dissolves easily in water. A single teaspoon could kill 100 people, according to Predator Defense’s website. Compound 1080, which is usually hung around the necks of livestock in balloons or laced into carcasses, can kill an animal in anywhere from 10 to 18 minutes. M44 ejector sodium cyanide can take anywhere from a few minutes to many hours for an animal to die. The EPA lists sodium cyanide and sodium fluoroacetate as Category 1 toxicants — the deadliest known to humans.
Several dogs in Oregon have died as a result of encounters with the toxins. Predator Defense has worked with Congressman Peter DeFazio to introduce legislation put an end to these poisons. Earlier this year, DeFazio offered an amendment to HR 2997, the agriculture, rural development, and FDA appropriations bill, that would have denied funding for purchase of those poisons to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,. The amendment died in committee.
Fahy says that if a dog returns from a hike with symptoms such as seizures or an inability to stop urinating or defecating, owners should immediately contact an emergency veterinarian. Sometimes a veterinarian will be able to give the animal charcoal to absorb the poison.
But Fahy warns that even immediate action might not work: “Once your animal gets into these poisons, there’s not a lot you can do. This happens a lot more than people realize.” — Shaun O’Dell
• The monthly joint meeting of the local chapters of Health Care For All-Oregon and the Archimedes Movement will be from 6:30 pm to 8 pm Wednesday, Aug. 5, at the EWEB Community Room, 500 E. 4th Ave. Topic of discussion will the federal health care legislation. To get on the HCAO mailing list, email email@example.com
• A Hiroshima-Nagasaki Comm-emoration is planned for 7 pm to 9:30 pm Thursday, Aug. 6, at Alton Baker Park’s small shelter, near the park entrance. A 7 pm community potluck will be followed by a 8 pm program featuring Bob Watada, Mayor Kitty Piercy and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s Eugene staffer Dan Whelan speaking about nuclear weapons abolition. The event will also feature poetry and Japanese Koto music, Taiko drumming and Obon dancing. The event will close at dusk with the floating of candle lanterns on the duck pond. Call CALC at 485-1755 for more information.
• “Clear Skies: A Community Celebration of the End of Field Burning” is being planned for 6pm to 8 pm Wednesday, Aug. 12, at King Estate, 80854 Territorial Road. The free event (donations welcome) is being organized by the Western Environmental Law Center and those attending are asked to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 485-2471, ext. 100 by Aug. 7. See details at www.westernlaw.org
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Weyerhaeuser (744-4600) will aerially spray 672 acres: near Low Pass, Horton, Blachly, Triangle Lake, Greenleaf, Deadwood, and Lorane near Long Tom, Conrad, Hayes, Poodle, Fish, Lobster, Lake and Crow creeks with herbicides; Accord XRT, Accord Concentrate, Oust XP, Oust Extra, Chopper, Escort, Arsenal, Garlon 3A and Garlon 4, Garlon XRT Ultra, Transline, Tahoe, and with adjuvants; Activator 90, Induce, Support, methylated seed oil, and silicone adjuvants to kill ferns, salal, vine maple, big leaf maple, hazel, snowberry, etc. starting Aug. 11 (notification #2009-781-50427).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• Local Dems are huddling this week to nominate three to five contenders to fill the state Senate District 7 position being vacated by Vicki Walker, and they have some good choices. All things considered, we favor Rep. Chris Edwards. He’s made an impressive showing in the House and was effective in pushing through the field burning ban, saving the Metolius, and working on other environmental issues. He’s also good on GLBT issues. We can see him taking a leadership role in the Senate, which could use an injection of reliable progressive energy.
The Democratic Party of Lane County convenes at 6:30 pm Thursday, July 30, at the Oregon Community Credit Union, 2880 Chad Dr.
• Judge Gregory Foote really stuck it in his mouth. Foote last week blamed a rape not on only the rapist, but on the Lane County Board of Commissioners. Did the commissioners rape someone? No. They just didn’t give the sheriff as much money as the judge wanted. In Foote’s reasoning, the crime committed by a person released from the jail is the fault of “the irresponsible actions of a group of politicians,” some of whom weren’t even in office at the time. In this case he’s not focusing on the criminal, the jail officials who chose to release the criminal over less violent offenders or the deputy union that demands big salaries for work requiring only a GED. If a homeless person freezes to death or a mentally ill person turns to suicide due to lack of services, who should we then blame for pushing to spend all the county’s money on the jail?
• Mary Leighton is talking up a fine idea for downtown Eugene. The enthusiastic director of the Network Charter School, she hopes to move her 120 kids plus staff into 858 Pearl St., the city-owned building now for sale. It probably would be tough to buy the building in one gulp, but with Leighton’s savvy supporters, a lease-purchase arrangement seems plausible. The city staff should support this effort at least as strenuously as they have traditionally supported big developers. The life and energy of the Network Charter School certainly would boost the park blocks, exactly what we need to do in downtown Eugene.
• Move the cops to Country Club Drive? We’ve opposed this absurd and illogical idea from the beginning. Now it looks like the City Council will give it a nod this week. The will of the people is being ignored in this decision process. City staffers know very well that this plan would be about as popular on the ballot as wicker furniture at a nudist retreat.
• We hear EWEB’s General Manager Randy Berggren is talking about retiring in June 2010 but might stick around part-time as a consultant after he cleans out his desk. The rules are changing on PERS benefits, and a lot of public sector people near retirement age are wrestling with the math.
• This week’s heat has led to warnings from the Oregon DEQ, the Southwest Clean Air Agency (SWCAA) and the Lane Regional Air Protection agency. All are urging people to keep a close eye on the Air Quality Index (visit http://mdas.lrapa.org/DataSummary.aspx). The chronically poor air quality in Eugene and Springfield should be the major factor in any development decision, such as Seneca’s biomass generator or other polluting industries. No one will want to live or do business here if our air gets much dirtier.
• The search is on for a single hit that could put Eugene on the musical map, and EW’s The Next Big Thing is exceeding all expectations — even getting attention in the R-G. Last time we checked, 30 songs are posted on the website with bios and photos of the participating musicians. Check it out at http://nextbigthingeugene.com