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Local writers sound off on Zenith Energy's land-use compatibility, COVID-19 surge and climate change.

lettersThe controversy surrounding the Zenith Energy's terminal in Northwest Portland is more than a question of oil profits vs. critical local and global environmental hazards. Our culture requires the ongoing use of growing amounts of energy.

Developing economies want the basic necessities of our global warming world, food, shelter, air conditioners and computers. In the United States, the privileged take these things for granted while the working poor struggle and sometimes die of heat related causes working for these same goals. When we achieve "success," we get hooked into the American dream of a bigger house, more vacations and other fuel requiring goodies likes boats and motorhomes that get abysmal miles to the gallon.

We justify our purchases as earned through hard work, and maybe a sweet ride in the stock market. We are adding to the economy we tell ourselves, and that is good.

But not when it costs our children and the future of all children the opportunity for existence on a livable planet teeming with life.

The fight against Zenith Energy needs to take place not only in Portland City Hall and the state Capitol, it must also take place in the decisions we make on how we live our lives, and the courageous, compassionate conversations we have with each other.

It is time to revel in the joys of sharing plenty, rather the acquisition of more and bigger. Appreciate smaller vehicles, fewer airplane trips and more modest homes so that others can have what they need to survive in the growing harsher climate.

Burn less so that the need for Zenith Oil declines, and with it, the atmospheric CO2 that is driving our destruction.

Harriet Cooke

Southwest Portland

Zenith's plans are not compatible with city

Holding the word "compatible" along with Zenith Energy's proposed tar sands oil export terminal expansion makes my head spin. Zenith's use of the land is fully incompatible with our city's current and future needs, despite the existing fossil fuel infrastructure currently in place.

It's incompatible in so many ways:

Incompatible because it exposes the surrounding neighborhood to toxic fumes specific to the chemical cocktail used to thin tar sands oil.

Incompatible by enabling increased rail traffic through North Portland, Northeast Portland and the Columbia River Gorge, exposing residents, school children and local businesses to the extreme risk of a disastrous spill and/or fire. Portland Fire is unequipped for a worst-case scenario, nor should we expose our first responders to such high risk.

Incompatible because it increases the inherent danger from fossil fuel infrastructure in an earthquake zone. In the event of an earthquake, burning tar sands oil in tanks or rail cars would create a toxic plume that would spread over a broad area.

Incompatible with economic development goals, since most of the oil is shipped to overseas markets. The minimal number of jobs provided by Zenith is far outweighed by both the worker safety and public safety risks.

Incompatible with the city of Portland's Dec. 18, 2019, ordinance to restrict fossil fuel terminals.

Incompatible with the city of Portland's, Multnomah County's and the state of Oregon's climate action plans.

It's far past time for the city of Portland to put its residents' interests ahead of narrow business interests. No more fossil fuel infrastructure in the city of Portland. No more toxic tar sands oil transiting through Portland neighborhoods. No more yielding to corporate interests. No more delaying critical climate action.

City Council should deny Zenith Energy's Land Use Compatibility Statement.

Scott Shurtleff

Southwest Portland

Drug price controls do not hurt innovation

I was disheartened to read Curtis Fairman's July 14 letter, "Putting vaccine energy into curing MS."

Yes, it is really sad, with all the expertise demonstrated in the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, that the same has not been done to develop a cure for multiple sclerosis, MS, a cruel disease that robs too many of their independence in the prime of their lives.

But then I have to disagree on the causes for this failure. As a virologist and physician, I suspect that finding a cure for MS will be much more complex than the development of vaccines was.

But for certain, I take issue with Mr. Fairman's concern about "legislation being discussed that, through price setting mechanisms, may hamper future medical innovation and may lead to fewer cures being developed." Is that true? The reason that cures for many diseases have not been developed to date is that it is simply not so profitable for pharmaceutical companies to do so.

Americans pay much more for pharmaceutical drugs than do people in any other country. And contrary to what the industry would like us to believe, the majority of the money these companies earn does not go into research and development. It goes into promotion (advertising), salaries and profit. Most of the actual research and development is funded by the American taxpayer though research grants.

Even the COVID-19 vaccines were largely funded by the American taxpayer.

Drug companies concentrate on drugs for those conditions which reach large

markets of people with common conditions, because, as a famous bank robber once told us, "that's where the money is."

Price controls on pharmaceuticals will not change the absence of cures. Price controls will only make it possible for more of us to be able to afford the medications whose development we have already been funding for decades.

If we want to encourage the development of cures for less common diseases, perhaps we ought to consider a national health care system in which the government is more involved in ensuring that the care made available aligns more with people's needs than with financial markets.

Market-based health care, as we have seen in our country, especially during this COVID-19 epidemic, has been a colossal failure, and it is long past the time that we do something about that.

Diane Lucas, MD, PhD

Southeast Portland

Don't open door to COVID surge

I'm going to give up going to the coffee shop or grocery store, and burrow myself at home, as so many the frontline staff are going mask-free.

Something is wrong about the way we have interpreted the epidemic, because COVID-19 is by no means over.

The delta variant is more transmissible and is surging in many places. California "opened" up mid-June, and case counts are rising dramatically in Los Angeles. The United Kingdom has had a reasonably successful vaccine roll-out, but both case and fatality rates remain high.

Christopher Murray, a leading University of Washington epidemic expert, indicates that the delta variant can be spread by the vaccinated. Dr. James Lawler, of the University of Nebraska, warns that what is happening in the UK is a preview of what is coming here.

As an immune-compromised individual, it makes no sense for me to be served by an unmasked individual. Auto-immune disease means both that the vaccine may be less effective and also an exposure is more likely to cause severe disease.

Also, the family members of the immune-compromised also are affected by how we are carrying out business, if they want to avoid passing the infection along.

Please, frontline staff: think of those customers who want you to wear a mask. Please, please, play your part in making a new surge in Oregon less likely.

Nancy Hedrick

North Portland

Climate change demands lawmakers' action

Oregon is home to thousands of refugees, in our classrooms, relying on the help of a stranger, or owning their own businesses.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, the World Bank estimates that in 2021, we will see the first rise in global extreme poverty in 20 years. The impacts of COVID-19 are expected to cause between 143 million and 163 million people to fall into poverty just this year. Oregon will feel the effects of this rising catastrophe.

Now is the time for our Oregon senators to advocate for an increase in international poverty-reducing development and humanitarian assistance in fiscal year 2022. The innovative programs that this funding supports can help ensure that decades of development gains are not lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot ignore the plight of refugees.

The U.S. spends less than one half of 1% of the total budget for poverty-reducing development and humanitarian aid. These funds support programs working to end world hunger and malnutrition. We have seen the positive effects of funding for vital humanitarian programs.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, take the lead in securing additional aid for these essential life-saving programs.

Matt Cato

Southwest Portland

Don't limit innovation to lower care costs

As your June 30 article, "Wyden: New legislation must hold drug prices in check," detailed, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is going to play an important role in any federal legislation intended to lower health care costs.

First, I appreciate those efforts. Americans pay too much for health care. A holistic solution is needed and decision-makers take extra care to minimize the negative impacts of any bill they hope to pass. It is great that the senator recognized the importance of innovation in medicine, but I would not be so quick to dismiss the legitimate concerns about how legislation if done without care, may act as a break on medical innovation.

Millions of residents across Oregon — and the entire country — rely on treatments and cures to lead happy, healthy lives. We need affordable health care, but we also need access to treatments. For proof, look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic. It's safe to say that without the work of our doctors this past year, we'd probably still battling the worst of this virus.

Price setting policies without holistically addressing the real problem would harm the very innovation we've all benefited from. Countless studies have shown that these policies without additional support can stifle the future development of drugs.

Also, research only brings more research. Although the COVID-19 vaccines were delivered in record time, these shots were built upon years of previous science. If we put up roadblocks on the road to medical innovation, who knows what kinds of life-saving treatments we could be forgoing?

For the sake of patients everywhere, I encourage Sen. Wyden to continue the important work of addressing health care costs without impeding medical innovation.

Marianne Ritchie

Southwest Portland

Hot weather shows need for clean energy laws

I dearly hope we can all get behind the Clean Energy for America Act which simplifies the existing patchwork of 40 energy incentives into a technology-neutral, performance-based framework to improve our electricity, transportation and efficiency.

June's temperatures reached 112 degrees in Portland — much more than the average high of 72 — and I worry about the welfare of my 86-year-old mom living in a historic building that does not allow window-unit air conditioning.

This unnatural heat wave that is breaking records demands that we pass sensible legislation urgently, that we act on climate change while the conditions are still livable.

This legislation is on the wonky side and, oddly, that bland approach may serve us well by not offering red meat to political divisions, allowing legislators to do the right thing. Thanks to the leadership of our U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, the 28 members of the Senate Finance Committee (including those from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wyoming) were able to advance this proposal.

The recently proposed bipartisan infrastructure plan is a stripped down version of President Biden's American Jobs Plan, omitting most of its leverage upon climate change. That is what makes passing the Clean Energy for America Act even more important.

We praise resilience in individuals — well, this is what building resilience looks like at a national level. It means electrifying and modernizing our economy, and in so doing, acting as better stewards of this planet or as some of us would say, His Creation.

By creating the demand for these modern technologies, we create new jobs and improve our country's competitiveness internationally as we face an uncertain future.

Think about your loved ones' resilience like I'm thinking about my mom in her hot apartment. Let's support Sen. Wyden and do what we can to get this ratified by Congress.

James Lung

Northeast Portland

Please clean up your drug paraphernalia

I've lived in downtown Portland for four years. While there's always been some discarded paraphernalia on the street in my neighborhood, when drugs became virtually legal, there was a substantial increase in the amount of discarded paraphernalia.

I know drug addiction is a disease and, yeah, it sucks, for nobody worse than it does for the addict. But while walking my dog, when I bent to pick up his poo, I stabbed myself on a syringe, uncapped, hidden in the grass.

Come on, the city bends over backwards catering to drug addicts and homeless, with exchanges and what not.

If you are going to do drugs, can you at least be responsible about it?

James Slebos

Southwest Portland


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