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We need responsible, not reckless, oil transports

After the 2013 explosion in Lac-Megantic, Canada, it should’ve become immediately clear that Bakken crude was not like other crudes. Now we know it is because of the results of a most relevant test not required by industrial guidelines nor federal law. The test measures evaporation rate in pounds per square inch.

Mississippi crude creates 3.33 psi in evaporation, otherwise considered volatile vapor off-gassing. Arabian Extra Light is 4.72 psi. Bakken North Dakota sweet crude is at 8.56 psi, with up to a recorded 12 psi, according to a February article in the Wall Street Journal. This suggests that the space currently left in the tanks to allow for expansion during transit is in fact presenting a space for off-gassing, a most dangerous circumstance. Add that the black tank color heats up in the sun and the absence of baffles, which allow for sloshing, and it appears that we are no closer if at all to a solution.

With the greatest haste, industry and federal engineers should come up with a rubber bladder of a makeup impervious to the crude that could be inserted into the existing tankers creating a second tank; sealable, with no air pocket allowed within the bladder. Add a white paint to the tanks to minimize heat absorption and cattle guards at both ends to protect against the “mount up” in the case of derailment and you’ve taken the first steps towards safer rail transport.

U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, should collaborate immediately introducing a bill stepping up the insurance requirements of railroads handling Bakken crude to the billion dollar range. That is the written estimate suffered in the Lac-Megantic 1.2 mile-diameter blast.

The possibility of becoming less dependent on foreign oil, even becoming a net exporter, is certainly better then where we’ve been. But doing so recklessly is irresponsible.

Wayne Mayo

Scappoose

Disregard the funnel

Many testifying at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality hearing last week in Clatskanie left feeling frustrated and discouraged. The event was held to elicit public comments regarding the permit to allow Global Partners to increase the amount of air pollution it can discharge from oil transfer operations at Port Westward.

Thomas Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a community rights organization, says that citizen frustration results from what he terms the “regulatory funnel.” Far from protecting citizens’ rights, it actually serves to restrict citizens from any effective input in the process.

Imagine a funnel, very large at the top and very narrow at the bottom. Label the wide top of the funnel “Oil Operations in Columbia County.” That is a very broad issue involving community safety, health, jobs, local small businesses, environmental protection and sustainable agriculture, among others. But those broad community considerations are not allowed by the regulatory system. The system restricts public “input” to a very narrowly defined issue at the bottom of the funnel.

The DEQ hearing was a classic example of this. DEQ officials stated at the outset that the only issue they wanted the public to testify about was the allowable volume of air pollution Global would be permitted to discharge. Much to their credit, many speakers refused to obey this attempt to restrict their citizen rights and testified about the much broader community concerns at the top of the “funnel.”

We citizens in Columbia County can no longer trust DEQ, our local elected officials or Gov. John Kitzhaber to practice good stewardship of our communities. We must do it ourselves. The community rights movement is proving a very effective way to accomplish that all across this country. Please contact me to learn more.

Danner Christensen

Co-founder, Envision Columbia County

[Editor’s note: Danner Christensen can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ]

Cathleen Callahan has demonstrated service

It’s hard for ordinary citizens to know who to vote for in a judicial contest. We know all judicial candidates are at least smart enough to qualify for the Oregon State Bar. What more is needed to be an effective judge? My own choice for Position 1 judge is Cathleen Callahan, for the following reasons:

First, for many years I have served with Cathleen on the board of directors for Columbia County Legal Aid (CCLA), so I know how committed Cathleen is to helping local citizens navigate the court system. Cathleen helped ensure that Columbia County still has its own legal aid office, so that low-income citizens don’t have to drive to Portland or Hillsboro to get legal help. Neither Jean Martwick nor Jason Heym has chosen to participate in CCLA’s pro bono attorney program. Their lack of participation sets a bad example with the county’s generous attorney community. But Cathleen is always among the top local attorneys volunteering hours to serve the county’s needy. Columbia County would benefit from having a “helpful judge.”

Second, no other candidate for this position has lived, worked and volunteered in Columbia County as long and as actively as Cathleen. Of the candidates, only Cathleen has chosen to center her life in the county. Community involvement has given Cathleen a broad understanding of community culture, values and issues that will help inform her judicial decisions and allow her to craft successful remedies. Columbia County would benefit from having a judge with local knowledge and empathy.

Finally, and most importantly, Cathleen has a balanced temperament, being both a good listener and an incisive decision-maker. Columbia County would benefit from having a judge who is both sympathetic and decisive.

Maddy Sheehan

Scappoose

[Editor’s note: Maddy Sheehan is an elder law attorney practicing in Scappoose. She is also a director and past president of Columbia County Legal Aid.]

Spousal support

I am the proud wife of Jason Heym, candidate for Columbia County Circuit Court judge. We will be celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary this May and I would like to tell you about the man I call my husband and best friend.

Life started when we met. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for or what I wanted from life until I met Jason. It turns out I wanted a loving, considerate, thoughtful and fiercely loyal partner to help me raise our children. I received just that and more. He has always been there to take care of our children, my parents and me. Always quick with a joke, he keeps me laughing; his wit and humor have been the real joy of our relationship.

I can say unequivocally that I am a better woman, and a better person, because of Jason. He always accepts me as I am while challenging me to be a better version of myself. I have received unflinching support from him as I have made my way through life as a mother, woman and nurse. Jason is one of strongest people I know and I carry his strength with me everyday.

The man I know at home is the same man I see when among friends and colleagues. I know he will bring a level of dedication and service unmatched in Columbia County.

Mayland Heym

Scappoose

Going with Heimuller

I’m in agreement with Jack Cate, whose recent letter to The Spotlight indicates his preference for politicians of principle rather than party line. For this reason, I support Henry Heimuller for county commissioner.

A year or so ago I emailed the sitting county commissioners and asked each to give me his position on the two proposals to move coal through Columbia County, either by rail or by barge. Mr. Heimuller was the only one who answered my email at all, and he subsequently met with me and outlined his position on the issue.

I was impressed by his taking the time to meet with me, by his thoughtful explanation of his position, and by his obvious concern to do the right thing for his constituents in Columbia County. A while later, I sent a similar email request to the candidates running for Scappoose City Council. In this case, I again received only one reply from a candidate who responded but did not answer my questions.

Because Heimuller took the time to meet with me and to honestly give his opinion, he will have my vote for as long as he needs it. In addition to remembering Heimuller favorably in this election, I will remember those politicians who lack the courage to articulate their positions and who do not respond when they next ask for our votes.

Chuck Pease

Scappoose