Slant 7-11-2013

• On July 17 LRAPA is holding an informational meeting about Seneca Sustainable Energy biomass plant’s permit application to emit tons more particulate matter into west Eugene air. That’s more small particles that kids breathe into their lungs and more pollution into our airshed. Buying carbon credits  Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs or offsets) for PM10 from International Paper in Springfield doesn’t help the two elementary schools that are within two miles of the biomass burning. Go to the meeting; find out more. Make public comments on the permit. And let’s work to make the laws more stringent in Oregon to protect our air, lungs and forests. For more info on the meeting go to

• The Seneca Jones Timber Company and associated family enterprises are running a series of peculiar newspaper ads in the R-G and The Oregonian featuring Aaron Jones’ daughters Kathy, Jody and Becky out in the woods, being “connected to the land.” Why? Well, Seneca wants a permit to release more polluting particulates from its biomass plant in Eugene, and the company has a big public relations problem. While one of its ads tells people that accusing the timber company of logging old growth is “barking up the wrong tree,” it’s no secret the family’s millions were made from decades of clearcutting ancient forests on both private and public lands, and Seneca money has funded right-wing candidates and causes at the local, state and national levels. It’s a little late to talk about sustainability.

• Thought we were blowing smoke in our news briefs last week when we warned that oil trains in Oregon could derail and spill? The news of the oil train derailment and massive fire in a small town in Quebec, Canada, July 6 is horrifying. News reports say that 30 buildings were destroyed, including a crowded bar, and the death toll is still unclear with 13 known dead and 40 missing. The train was reportedly carrying fracked oil from the Bakken oil field of North Dakota. These types of trains are running through the Columbia Gorge, next to the river and the small towns along the way. They are running on the same tracks as the coal trains, which lose coal dust that can make the tracks unstable and trains more likely to derail. It’s time to stop Oregon from being a fossil fuel pipeline. Speak up about coal export, fracking and Big Oil. 

• Plans to expand the downtown Farmers Market taking over one lane of 8th Avenue for one block from South Park to Willamette this month have been shelved. It’s not been easy to hammer out an agreement between the Farmers Market, the Saturday Market and the city of Eugene, especially in this busy season. Grab your basket and visit the markets Saturday, Tuesday or Thursday. You’ll see why we all need to find more space for next year and beyond.

• Big announcement for us just out from Secretary Shaun Donovan of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Shelley Poticha, who grew up in Eugene and whose parents live here, is leaving HUD for the powerful environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council, to be the director of the Urban Solutions program. As director of the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities in HUD since 2009 in D.C., she has led “what has arguably been the largest planning effort in the nation since the mid 1970s,” Donovan says. NRDC is sure to be more nimble than the feds, a new adventure for the former Eugenean.

Last week in this column we asked if there were “any NDE [near-death experience] skeptics out there?” Coincidentally that was the same day (July 3) that Esquire magazine online published its long exposé on Dr. Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven and a recent speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene. Journalists are professional skeptics and Esquire writer Luke Dittrich finds several things to be skeptical about in his investigation (see our blog for a link to the story). We are reminded of director Ang Lee’s Life of Pi film in which the character Pi Patel, after telling two contradictory tales, asks, “Which story do you prefer?” Good storytelling takes us places we might not otherwise go.

• If journalism is going down the drain, as the press keeps telling us, why did the School of Journalism and Communication graduate more majors than any other UO program in June? One answer: The Oregonian recently quoted a study showing that students’ best return on college investment according to time of study needed for a degree, median compensation and the time it would take to repay student loans with 10 percent of salary going toward repayment is in — you guessed it — advertising, marketing and promotion. Students flock to the UO school for majors in advertising and PR — not really journalism, but certainly profitable.

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