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Capital Chatter: Future of carbon bill unclear

DEQ considers air quality permits renewals as Gov. Brown ponders executive action on carbon.

Boeing is in the global news for its now-grounded 737 Max aircraft. CEO Dennis Muilenburg will testify Oct. 30 at the fourth hearing of the U.S. House Transportation Committee on the aircraft crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people.

Committee chairman Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Springfield, also has asked Boeing engineers and the 737 chief pilot to appear.

In Oregon politics, Boeing also is known as the pivotal force that blocked passage of House Bill 2020, the carbon cap-and-trade legislation in this year's legislative session known by its supporters as Clean Energy Jobs. Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, wound up against the bill because Boeing, a major employer in her district, opposed it.

With many other senators lined up the bill, backers had counted on Monnes Anderson — wrongly — as the 16th vote needed for passage.

So I was intrigued by the announcement this week that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality proposes to renew the air pollution permit for The Boeing Company, 19000 NE Sandy Blvd., Gresham. The public has until 5 p.m. Nov. 4 to submit written comments, according to the 85-page announcement.

Greenhouse gas emissions would be limited to 74,000 tons a year. Other pollutants covered by the permit are particulates, small particulates, fine particulates, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. The DEQ says Boeing is not a major source of hazardous air pollutants, such as chromium and perchloroethylene.

The notice states that Boeing has made several facility improvements, including adding or replacing air pollution control equipment.

The rest of the technical information and scientific calculations exceed my understanding. (But I do know how to change a manual typewriter ribbon, if anyone cares. … )

My intrigue comes from Gov. Kate Brown's vow to use her executive authority to impose greenhouse gas limits and implement as much of the carbon cap-and-trade policy as possible if the Legislature fails to act. Thus, it will be interesting to see whether modifications proposed by supporters for next year's legislative session will mollify Monnes Anderson or other opponents.

By the way, the DEQ also is considering renewing the air quality permit for the Covanta Marion waste-to-energy facility in Brooks, which was wrapped up in the carbon cap-and-trade debate. The maximum greenhouse gas emissions would go from the current 107,100 tons per year to 214,400.

You can find these and other applications online at go.usa.gov/xEJf2.

Marion County officials have said the alternative to burning the county's residential and commercial waste in Brooks is trucking it through the Portland metro area up the Columbia River Gorge to Arlington. Others have suggested it could go to Corvallis' landfill.

No campaign help for PERS lawmakers: Another group of union workers is taking it out on legislators who this year passed SB 1049, which modified public employee pensions.

Oregon AFSCME Council 75, representing more than 26,000 public employees, will exclude those legislators from being considered for its political endorsements in the 2020 elections. Union endorsements can yield significant campaign contributions and volunteers.

"No interviews, no endorsement, no financial support. Our members generously donate their time and money to our political efforts to support legislators who fight for workers regardless of political party," President Jeff Klatke said. "Legislators that voted 'yes' turned around and told our members they were paid too much and the work they do is worthless. AFSCME members support those elected officials that support them and the work that they do."

So long, wildfires: At 9 a.m. Oct. 1, the 2019 wildfire season officially ended on the final batch of lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. ODF handled 923 fires this year, which is about average, but the acreage burned was less than half of normal.

At 99 days, this was the department's shortest fire season of the 21st century. Going into it, Gov. Brown said she had been warned that it would be bad. Either dry weather would intensify wildfires or wet weather would increase the amount of combustible fuel, or both.

But, as Brown told her Wildfire Response Council last week, there isn't really a single fire season anymore. Wildfire is a year-round threat.

The council is expected to make its final recommendations next month, including investing $4 billion in the coming years for wildfire prevention, suppression, smoke management and other work.

Related news from our southern neighbor: Wildfires and their related problems have caused nearly two-thirds of the lost instructional days in California schools since 2002, according to CalMatters.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Everywhere I go, no matter what issue I'm reporting on, I run into people who have experienced domestic violence. They include Gov. Brown.

Statistics show that domestic violence is an epidemic across Oregon. So do the human stories.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As someone who has written extensively on this issue, I invite you to learn more by attending one of the many local events, such as the SurvivorCon Community Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the Beaverton City Park.

In you are in an abusive situation, please call 911 or a help hotline, such as the Center for Hope and Safety at 503-399-7722. The Center for Hope and Safety is a respected organization in Salem that helps survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking. They also welcome your call if you're a family member, friend or employer and want to help someone but don't know what to do.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or Twitter.com/DickHughes.