Letters: Council must act now to stop oil trains
On July 15, I attended the City Council meeting at the University of Portland focused on the approval of permits for Zenith Energy to expand its facilities.
If approved, the terminal will greatly increase the amount of tar sands crude and other toxic oil products exported through Portland.
Beyond the high environmental cost of extracting and shipping tar sands crude, more oil trains through the city would burden vulnerable communities with toxic pollution, as well as the constant threat of an accident like the 2016 spills in Mosier. Portland emergency services are not adequately equipped to deal with a similar catastrophic spill in Portland or along the Willamette river.
These issues were passionately voiced by concerned neighbors and public health experts at the meeting. The auditorium was packed with over 400 people, with more waiting to get in. Everyone in the crowd was demanding that the City Council deny the permits and force Zenith to halt expansion of the terminal, which is already underway. Yet at the end of the session, when asked how long it would take to act, the mayor and commissioners would not answer.
Zenith already has the rights to an expansion, and officials cited concerns about whether denying the permits could withstand a court challenge. In short, City Hall did not appear willing to stand between Zenith and its expansion plans.
Once again, it is vital that the mayor and City Council do whatever it takes to stop this project. Let Zenith take its challenge to court, using its own time and resources. By the time it is settled, the legal policies will be in place to block the terminal permanently.
In the meantime, we cannot allow more oil trains to threaten our city, and we must not allow the expansion of a terminal to accommodate them.
WES may be a failure now, but not in the future
John Charles presents data showing egg on the faces of some TriMet spokespeople in regard to ridership on the Westside Express train.
After reading his July 18 opinion piece, I thought about its missing heart: What would be a better way to plan transit for our near future?
Having read a lot of Charles' opinions, which all seem to be sharp criticisms, I really wanted to see his positive ideas on how to deal with Oregon's energy future, so I looked up his website, cascadepolicy.org. What did I find? Zilch. He isn't concerned with our energy future. His thinking is all grounded in the present ... or more like the late 20th century.
He says: "Climate change alarmists just make stuff up to scare the public."
Hmmm. Has anyone been paying attention to trends in global temperature, sea level, ocean acidity, glacier melt, droughts and atmospheric chemistry? If you have, you probably agree that an ostrich like John Charles has little or nothing to contribute to the discussion of Oregon's transit planning.
In 15 or 20 years, we need to be getting where we need to go without using fossil fuels much at all. Electric cars, fewer car trips, much better mass transit running on electricity, that electricity being generated carbon-neutrally. The WES does look like a misstep right now, but with some changes (e.g., conversion to a MAX line connecting at both ends?) it might turn out to have been a step in the right direction.
The prescient financial manager Jeremy Grantham says his working assumption is that in 15 or 20 years there will be a hefty carbon tax. (That will do wonders for mass transit ridership numbers.) Logically, he points out, either there will be one or there won't, and if there won't, today's investment choices (e.g., his hedge funds, or our urban planning) won't matter anyway.
While "hefty tax" may sound daunting, likely versions such as the bipartisan Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act would pay the proceeds to all people equally, rather than the government keeping them.
How about parks as a solution to homelessness?
Having read the article in the July 17 edition of Willamette Week on the state of our Portland parks and community centers, it occurred to me that maybe the city could designate one or two larger parks as a temporary camping ground for the homeless. Parks with functioning and open restrooms, picnic tables, benches, etc. Some folks are camping in them anyway, so why not set up a system where some type of control and reasonable organization is maintained? Most parks are within easy range of bus or MAX service, and some are close to agencies providing resources to help these folks improve their lives.
Your recent article showcasing the new Blackburn Center in East Portland was informative and represents a nice model for centralizing services in one building. We need more facilities like this. However, not everyone is going to qualify for a spot in the Blackburn Center.
So if we sweep people off downtown sidewalks and doorways, we could give them that option to go to one of the parks where, hopefully, they could feel a degree of safety. Otherwise, they simply move to some other area and then return.
It's a precarious balancing act, confronting the homelessness issue, virtually impossible to appease all parties concerned. I'd like to see more positivity from our city and county leaders ... why a building or piece of land will work instead of why it won't.
Mark L. Brown
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