Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Planning for Sprawl
Staff study betrays bias for unbridled development
Frankenfood in the Valley
GM sugar beets pose contamination threat to organic produce
Happening People: Micheal Sunanda
BIOMASS VS. ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ISSUES
As the extended deadline for public comments on Seneca’s proposed biomass cogeneration plant grows closer, so does the possibility of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) organizing a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss environmental justice issues related to the plant’s proposed toxics release.
Despite being within Eugene’s Urban Growth Boundary, the plant is outside of city limits and therefore will not be required to report to the Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know program, says Lisa Arkin of Oregon Toxics Alliance. The proposed plant is near several Eugene neighborhoods that, according to mapping done by the OTA have high minority, disabled and low-income populations.
Arkin says the issue of environmental justice arises with populations that have fewer resources and less political access. The neighborhoods are already home to industrial and Superfund sites like the Union Pacific Railyard and JH Baxter, she says. The proposed plant will release 500 tons of pollution a year to neighborhoods within five miles that have an 11 to 31 percent minority population. Eugene’s average minority population is 5 percent, she says. Downwind neighborhoods such as Trainsong are also among the lowest income levels in Eugene, according to OTA’s maps.
Arkin says a 1994 Presidential Executive Order calls on all federal agencies, including the EPA, to make environmental justice part of their mission. An EPA document, “Air Toxic Emissions in the City,” says, “The cumulative impact of multiple emission sources on minority populations and low income populations in urban areas is of special concern.” She says because the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) is the agency that enforces the EPA’s policies, LRAPA must address environmental justice.
Arkin says OTA, Centro Latin Americo and county and city officials, including Commissioner Rob Handy, have requested the EPA instigate a stakeholders’ meeting to deal with the environmental justice issue, a process the EPA calls Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Arkin says, “Whether or not the EPA has the resources to assist the neighborhoods in west Eugene, it is our hope that the stakeholders will come to the table because it is necessary to discuss Seneca’s impact on these communities of concern.”
OTA is calling for Seneca and the city and county to place ambient air monitors in west Eugene and for Seneca to place the strictest and most effective pollution controls on the plant.
The EPA is in the convening stage and is doing an assessment “to determine if it is ripe for mediation by a neutral party.”
“Thinking outside the box — isn’t that what we want to do in Eugene?” says Arkin.
Comments on the proposed Seneca biomass plant are due to LRAPA by 5 pm Friday, Aug. 28. See www.lrapa.org for more information. — Camilla Mortensen
PANEL PANS SENECA PLAN
The Lane County Health Advisory Committee (HAC) spent several months interviewing, researching and discussing biomass plants and has concluded that, “Biomass plants would add to our already overburdened air pollution problem in Eugene.” The panel’s recommendation to not support Seneca’s application for a biomass power plant was sent to Lane County commissioners last week.
“Biomass cogeneration at Seneca will produce much more pollution than its current mill processes,” reads the report. “Their application proposes adding over 500 tons of airborne pollutants to the airshed including 26 tons of specifically hazardous compounds such as benzene, dioxin, furans, mercury, styrene and lead.”
The report goes on to say that cleaner air is associated with better health and longevity; not all “renewable” sources are automatically of public benefit; and “the best use of America’s forests is to maintain them for recreational use while they continue their most beneficial aspect of removing CO2 from the air.”
Looking at health affects, HAC says people with asthma and chronic pulmonary diseases are “particularly vulnerable to micro-pollutants. Micro-particles less than 2.5 microns are known to be particularly hazardous to health because they lodge deep in the lungs. Lane County already holds a ‘D’ rating from the American Lung Association for air quality.”
The report says Lane County has the highest asthma rate in Oregon (11 percent). “The mechanism for this increase is not clearly understood but it is felt to relate to modern industrial pollutants.”
HAC notes that Seneca’s proposed technology involves “state of the art smokestack precipitators for removing particulate matter, [but] the resulting soot itself becomes a toxic product for landfills.” — Ted Taylor
WELC BASH CELEBRATES BURN BAN
|Charlie Tebbutt and Ed King
|Dan & Debbie Galpern
|Ed King of King Estate
|Rep. Paul Holvey
The 2009 Oregon Legislature finally put an end to most field burning in Oregon by passing SB 528, thanks in large part to the work of the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC). About 250 people showed up at King Estate Winery Wednesday, Aug. 12, to help WELC celebrate the victory and honor all those involved. The event raised more than $3,000 in donations to help support the nonprofit public interest law firm’s work around the Western U.S.
“We established certain ground rules at our first meeting of this campaign,” WELC attorney Dan Galpern told the crowd. “We agreed that we would be guided by the science, that we would tell the truth, that we would not exaggerate or embellish the evidence; that we would be fair to the opposition; that we would take the high road without fail. Tonight, we can reflect that we honored those principles at every juncture, and that it worked.”
|Sen. Floyd Prozanski and Rep. Paul Holvey
Galpern and Charlie Tebbutt of WELC crafted the legal arguments, with help from UO law students Drew Johnson, Paul Tassin, Drew Stillman, and several others. Tebbutt’s “indefatigable spirit and rare optimism emboldened us to carry our argument to every corner, from the EQC, to the Legislature, to the county, to the city, to the media, and, again and again and again, to the governor,” said Galpern.
Elected officials also got involved, including Sen. Floyd Prozanski, former Sen. Vicki Walker, Rep. Paul Holvey, Rep. Chris Edwards, Rep. Nancy Nathanson, Mayor Kitty Piercy, and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson.
The media played an important role in both educating the public and swaying a reluctant governor, said Tebbutt, citing a series of editorials by The Oregonian, and two cover stories by Eugene Weekly.
Maya Leonard-Cahn of WELC coordinated the campaign. Galpern and Tebbut also credited the work of physicians Robert Carolan, Frank Turner, Carla Hervert, RN, The Lane County Medical Society, and Stephanie and Damian Jorgenson. Lisa Arkin and David Monk of Oregon Toxics Alliance were honored, along with Holly Higgins and many others who joined the campaign.
“It took a Herculean effort to get this bill passed,” said Tebbutt. “This is an incredibly important public health victory for both rural and urban Oregonians.”
The family and friends of the deadly 1988 freeway pileup caused by field burning were remembered. A letter was read from Matt du Aime, writing from France:
A couple days ago was the 21st anniversary of the huge accident on I-5 in which my sister Kate, her husband, Bill, and their daughters Mia and Dayiel died, along with three others and all the wounded and scarred.
Although these Aug. 3rd anniversaries are always hard this one had more sweet than bitter. I must admit that along with the election of Barack Obama the success of the recent legislation has given me renewed hope in mankind.
It is such a joy for me to see the huge financial and political interests of the grass seed Industry in Oregon finally put in their place. The habit of grass seed burning has been a blight on the ecological and social conscience of [Oregon] long enough.
WELC is continuing to raise money to cover its expenses in this years-long legal battle. See www.westernlaw.org for more information about the campaign and how to contribute. Find more photos from the celebration at www.eugeneweekly.com — Ted Taylor
MOCK TRIALS COMING UP
The Pitchfork Rebellion is planning a rally at 2 pm Saturday, Aug. 29, outside the old Federal Building at 211 E. 7th Ave. in Eugene. They plan to have a free concert and put on mock trials for what they describe on their website (www.pitchforkrebellion.com) as the “forest-raping, climate-changing, corporate eco-terrorists, and the government agencies that are under their thumb.” The same federal agents that oversaw the May 2008 rally that ended with the Tasing of UO student Ian Van Ornum will monitor the rally.
The Pitchfork Rebellion, a movement that began in February 2005, say they are a band of small, organic farmers fighting big agriculture and timber businesses and their practices of clear-cutting trees and using pesticides. They call themselves the Pitchfork Rebellion because at their first rally many of the attendees brought pitchforks and other farm paraphernalia such as goats and chickens to show they were concerned farmers and not big city environmentalists. The Department of Homeland Security has in the past monitored the group’s activities.
The Oregon Department of Forestry, the Pesticide Division of the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Monsanto, a corporation that sells herbicides and pesticides like Round-Up and Yieldgard, will all be put on trial as defendants. Day Owen of the Pitchfork Rebellion says that other members of the movement will testify against these groups: “There will also be people dressed up as a bear and a salmon providing testimony. There will be real children who have been hit with pesticides from helicopters, and they will be testifying.”
The Rebellion has five goals in mind with this rally, says Owen: An end to a financial conflict of interest on the Board of Forestry, a clear and efficient replacement plan for the Western Oregon Plan Revisions, a quarter-mile aerial pesticide spray buffer zone around homes and schools, government structural changes to prevent pesticide CEOs from heading up environmental government programs, and an end to clear-cutting in the Elliot State Forest.
“One of the interesting aspects of this rally is the location. The U.S. Courthouse, most people don’t realize, is where Homeland Security is located,” says Owen. “We purposely wanted to bring this rally to their front door,” he says. “Our reason for having the rally at this location is to show that we weren’t intimidated by their previous actions.”
He says that despite the presence of the federal agents whose call to the EPD led to Van Ornum’s Tasing, he still expects this to be a peaceful, legal rally. “We think that they are going to go out of their way because they got bad publicity last time,” he said. — Shaun O’Dell
• The Green Mind Film Series is showing The Doctor Who Hears Voices at 6:30 pm Tuesday, Aug. 25, at the Eugene Public Library Bascom-Tykeson Room. Following the free film will be a moderated discussion with a panel including psychiatric survivors and mental health professionals.
• City Club of Eugene is on summer break and is planning an informal gathering to collect input, feedback and suggestions. The free, no-host event is open to anyone interested in City Club, and begins at 6 pm Thursday, Aug. 27, at High Street Brewery and Café, 1243 High St. To get on City Club’s mailing list, send a note to email@example.com
• Looking Glass Youth and Family Services CEO Craig Opperman and County Commissioner Rob Handy will host a County Commission community outreach meeting at 6 pm Tuesday, Aug. 25, at the Looking Glass Riverfront School, 1475 Franklin Blvd. Focus will be on the services provided by Looking Glass and other organizations involved in child, youth and family services.
• A health options town hall with Councilor Betty Taylor and Mayor Kitty Piercy will be from 7 to 9 pm Wednesday, Aug. 26, in the City Council Chambers. Also on the panel will be County Commissioner Pete Sorenson, Dr. Paul Hochfeld (on single payer), Larry Scott (on Canadian health care), and Val Hoyle. An hour or more will be available for audience members to express opinions and ask questions.
• A community reception for Eugene’s new Police Auditor Mark Gissiner will be from 4 to 6 pm Thursday, Aug. 27, in the McNutt Room at City Hall.
• Common Cause Oregon is once again active, focusing on improving voter participation. The nonprofit has a new office in Portland led by Janice Thompson, former executive director of Democracy Reform Oregon. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (503) 283-1922.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Oregon Forest Management Services (896-3757) will foliar (apply to foliage) and/or “hack and squirt” spray 131 acres for Giustina Land & Timber Company (345-2301) with Garlon 4, Arsenal, Escort, Chopper, and Foresters herbicides near Fox Hollow and Camas Swale Roads starting Aug. 21 (#50469), and also will foliar spray 357 acres near Gillespie Corners and Lorane areas starting Aug. 26 (#50470). Giustina is targeting hardwoods, blackberries and Scotch broom.
• It’s ironic that as we celebrate an end to most field burning in Oregon, we see something perhaps as bad, if not worse, being shoved down our lungs by biomass-burning projects locally and all over the state, all being subsidized as “alternative energy.” The deadline for public input into the proposed Seneca plant has been extended (see our News Briefs), but is the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency going to rule against the plant because of deadly emissions? Don’t hold your breath. LRAPA’s mandate is to make sure Seneca conforms to the rules and regulations. It might take federal action to stop Seneca, based on issues of environmental justice. It appears that just downwind of the proposed burner are neighborhoods with high minority populations.
• We cringe to see The Register-Guard this week announcing another painful round of layoffs. The local daily, after many decades of high profits, has been hit hard by falling ad revenues and print readers. The paper racked up a $5 million loss in 2008, according to one union official. More big losses have followed in 2009. The last “black Monday” was in early June when 13 full-time and eight part-time staffers were let go, and other unfilled positions were eliminated. This time it’s nearly 6 percent of the daily’s workforce, or the equivalent of about 18 full-time positions. Some familiar bylines will be going away, and more are expected as the company pushes early retirement packages.
Every journalist, journalism professor and pundit has his or her theory about why the mainstream newspaper industry is crashing. Most are superficial and end with a shrug. One stands out. Bill Wyman, former arts editor at NPR and Salon, leaves no turn unstoned in his long, two-part analysis at www.splicetoday.com Look for “Politics + Media,” then “Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers are Failing.” You might recognize EW and the R-G in Wyman’s analysis of what papers are doing right and wrong.
• How are we faring in these crazy times? EW is cranking along surprisingly well. Our staff is stabilized at 17 people, down from our all-time high of 20, and our page counts are a bit lower this year. But we are still debt-free, still print nearly 40,000 papers a week (our audited readership in Lane County is holding steady at 88,600), and our web traffic is booming. We’re still dedicated to investigative reporting and excellence in arts coverage. And we’re happy to report that advertising sales this week are the best we’ve ever seen in mid-August. Are we on the verge of a turnaround? A big thank-you goes out to all our loyal advertisers, and everyone else who supports what we do, week after week.
• We’ll be chasing rumors about the 2010 Oregon governor race until five minutes before the filing deadline next spring. Latest is that former Sen. Gordon Smith is inching toward candidacy on the R side. Several months ago he adamantly denied any intention of running for governor, but big pressure probably is coming from both state and national Republican organizations who see him as their strongest candidate. So who does that embolden or frighten on the D side? You tell us.
• Big “roast and toast” coming up Oct. 15 in Portland to thank Jonathan Poisner for the 12 years he has relentlessly dedicated to greening Oregon’s state and local governments. This fall, Poisner is leaving his job as executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, turning over his desk to Jon Isaacs, recently state director in the office of Sen. Merkley, after managing Merkley’s successful campaign in 2008. Isaacs also was director of FuturePAC, political committee for the Oregon house Democrats, plus filling other political positions in Oregon and D.C. During Poisner’s tenure, OLCV’s annual budget has grown from $200,000 to $1.1 million and the county chapters, including Lane, have helped grow a powerful political force working at the grassroots for the environment. We’re grateful for Jonathan, hopeful for Jon.
• The Cash for Clunkers program is very popular, but we can’t help but raise our collective eyebrows. Some real junk heaps are getting recycled, but a lot of perfectly good vehicles that get decent mileage are also being crushed — vehicles that could be donated to nonprofits such as St. Vinny’s, creating jobs. Let’s not forget how much energy and resources go into building new cars and trucks. We heard from one local landscaper who told us he’d love to buy one of the thousands of crusher-bound Ford F150 pickup trucks that get 20 MPG on the highway — better mileage and less pollution than his real clunker. We’re also hearing about shifty car dealers who are jacking up compact car prices a few thousand dollars figuring some eager customers with clunkers won’t notice. Buyer beware!
We checked in with Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office to see if the program might be improved. “The idea behind this program was to spur new car sales while getting polluting cars off the road,” says Merkley aide Mike Westling. “Because it has been so successful thus far both economically and in raising the gas mileage of cars on the road, we don’t expect it to be amended in the short term.”
A grad of Benson High in Portland, Micheal Sunanda started out at the UO but “got kicked out for adolescent rebellion,” he says. “I broke all kinds of rules.” He finished up at PSU with a degree in PE and taught grade school for two years, then dropped out for a life of meditation. “I had three visions in the forest,” says Sunanda, who returned to the UO in 1971 for a MA in Dreikurs family counseling: cooperative parenting, and subsequently practiced “hippie family counseling” in several communes. He moved to Hawaii in 1988, got into the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms movement and WWOOFed his way around the islands as a pemaculture apprentice through the ’90s. After taking a permaculture course in Australia in 2000, he visited 100 permacultulture sites throughout the Americas before returning to Oregon in 2006. Since the ’70s, Sunanda has been self-publishing booklets on topics ranging from holistic parenting to ecoforestry. His recent writings can be found on his website: efn.org/~ecozma. He is currently looking for a permaculture farm where he can locate his eight-foot dome-home in return for farm work. “I’m tring to get WWOOFing started in Eugene,” he says.