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A challenge to Global's neighborliness; not sold on Port Westward rezone; wary of St. Helens urban renewal

FILE PHOTO - Letters this week: Global Partners LP is not a good neighobr; Port Westward has high-quality farmland and should not be rezoned for industrial use; wary of St. Helens urban renewal plan

Despite letter, Global is not neighborly, not transparent

A few weeks ago, Global Partners LP Vice President of Terminal Operations (and also Deputy General Counsel) Dylan Remley wrote a letter stating that Global "prides itself in transparency and being a good neighbor." 

Global is not a neighbor. It is not a human. It is a business whose goal is to create profit.

I have been paying close attention to Global's activities for four years and its officials seem to be neither transparent nor "neighborly." It struck me as odd that a top lawyer of a Fortune 500 company living in Massachusetts would be writing to us, wanting to be "neighborly." 

Hmmm?

Global violated its Oregon Department of Environmental Quality permit for a year by running way too many crude oil trains through Columbia County and was fined $117,000. In Albany, New York, where my brother is a county legislator, Global also has an oil terminal.  They are currently being sued for operating without a valid permit. In addition, they are being sued federally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for "intentionally under-reported air emissions to almost quadruple…" 

Clearly, they have a history of flagrant violations of their permits. When Global expanded its crude oil operations in Albany, the county executive tried to help the residents of the Ezra Prentice housing development next door. Global's response was to send a bunch of lawyers to threaten him. 

Mr. Remley's letter reminded us of Global's limit of 38 trains per month, as set by the Port of St. Helens. He did not tell you that the port can easily lift that maximum cap in a single meeting. He did not tell you Global has a history of exceeding its limits. He did not tell you that Global's DEQ permit, on page 33, states, the "Annual Unrestricted Throughput: 9,198,000 kgal/yr." This is about 3,280 long unit trains per year (and the same number returning empty, which averages to nine per day, each way). 

He did not tell you about efforts to maximize this goal with increased storage capacity, a huge new dock, massive rail improvements, etc. He certainly did not tell us if Global is thinking of expanding into the adjacent Port land if the county commissioners approve the rezoning. 

Global officials have repeatedly stated that they will transport ethanol (and not crude oil) "for the forseeable future." Oddly, their webpage states that the Clatskanie terminal handles only crude oil. We all know that when the price of crude oil rises again, Global is likely to return to running unit trains of this explosive material through our county. 

The DEQ application for 3,280 unit trains a year clearly implies the goal of a major expansion. They stand to make huge profits, provide very few jobs, and leave taxpayers to bear all the risk if there is a calamity.

 None of this seems transparent or "neighborly" to me.  

Columbia County residents deserve better.  Urge our Columbia County commissioners to vote "no" on the rezoning of the Port Westward property.

Annie Christensen

Columbia City

No compelling reason for Port Westward rezone

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners will soon vote on whether to again pursue rezoning agricultural land for industrial use at Port Westward near Clatskanie. There are several reasons why a rezone is a poor idea.

First, the Port of St. Helens doesn't have a prospective client for that site. Once the rezone is done, the county loses much leverage on any eventual development. Most uses the Port has proposed involve bulk transport of huge volumes of various commodities by rail through all of south county and Rainier for Columbia River shipping. Some, like oil, are quite dangerous. And the social and economic disruption along the rail line would be profound.

Second, and equally important to our collective future, is that agricultural land in Columbia County will only become more important as the climate changes. Northwest Oregon's agriculture will fare better than most areas in the West as temperatures warm. This parcel has excellent irrigation water rights, unique Class II and III soils that are designated for protection in the state land-use classification system, and a long history of high-value agricultural use. There is no compelling reason to give away land of this quality for uncertain and problematic development.

The public hearing on the proposed rezone is at 6 p.m. on Aug. 2 at the Clatskanie High School auditorium, where public testimony will be accepted. Chip Bubl Warren

Wary of St. Helens urban renewal plan

On July 19, in the St. Helens City Council chambers just before the regular council meeting, a presentation was made describing what constitutes an urban renewal plan. The presentation was very good on describing how the plan works, from a legal point of view. Indeed, St. Helens greatly needs a method to finance development of the waterfront property.

The meeting was billed as a public hearing, and that is where the overall problem starts. This total hearing was given a fixed time limit and the public was limited to only a five-minute time period, per person. With most of the presentation time consumed by the city's presenters, I didn't perceive it as an open hearing, in a true sense. While the operational method of how the urban renewal plan works was stated, the specific details of the plan were not. The urban renewal plan has a time limit — about 25 years — fixed goals, a fixed amount of debt, and a fixed tax base from which to gain finances from. The plan indicates that the increase in taxable entities will provide the revenue to repay monies diverted from the present taxable entities.

A presented map that showed the location of taxable entities include the waterfront property (veneer plant property), the industrial site (the Nob Hill Nature Park), and the paper mill property. Sixty-two million dollars was the desired amount of money identified in this St. Helens urban renewal plan. Against the recommendations of the city planning staff and the planning committee, the City Council recently reduced the building height to satisfy a few members of the Nob Hill neighborhood, hence reducing the amount of money collected from just the permit fee by $22 million. The City Council has also removed the industrial site by turning it into an official park at an estimated loss in permit fees of $28 million. The cooling pond, sewer plant and paper plant are being considered for a toxic waste dump for the city of Portland by the St. Helens City Council in return for an undisclosed amount of money, removing a major portion of the renewal area for development as shown on the urban renewal map as industrial area. One of the more alarming features of this is that the toxic waste project would take 20 years to complete. Even if the waste is harmless, this property cannot add any taxable property to the urban renew area until after the urban renew project is done.

The questions about how a toxic waste facility would affect property values of the waterfront project and the surrounding area are unanswered. A point was brought up that the City Council is not only the overseer of these renewal projects, it is also the designer, and is not a stockholder in the taxable properties involved.

As the speaker put it, "the fox is guarding the hen house." It is not a good idea. The track record of the City Council being the designer, the user and the approver of these city projects, while basically ignoring the desires of the city residents, does not inspire confidence is this project.

Stephen Topaz

St. Helens

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