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July 4th, 2012 WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs
 

Murmurs: EPA Smacks Lower Willamette Group

Portland harbor companies face penalties.

murmur_superfundfish_3835ILLUSTRATION: Ben Mollica
  • Companies on the hook for cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund site are facing civil penalties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the companies used “incorrect or misleading information” in a report on the risk people face by eating contaminated Willamette River fish. EPA officials said in a June 22 letter that portions of the report from the Lower Willamette Group (made up of 12 harbor companies) were so confusing that the feds had to rewrite them. The EPA says the penalties—from $500 to $5,000 a day—will add up unless the companies produce a report of “acceptable quality.” The Lower Willamette Group replied June 29 it believes the report is fine but it will need more time to address the EPA’s concerns. Read the letters at wweek.com.
  • Despite the lawsuits piling up over the Columbia River Crossing, the next mayor of Portland might play an even bigger role in the fate of the $3.5 billion project than backers acknowledge. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed last week that Metro lacked authority to grant land-use approval of the bridge, which is outside the urban growth boundary. Metro had tried to jam approval through anyway. The final land-use decision could fall to the Portland City Council. Mayoral candidate Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-Portland) opposes the CRC. Former City Commissioner Charlie Hales, while less definitive, wants a smaller project.
  • The chief petitioner for an initiative to legalize marijuana is fighting a $65,000 civil penalty levied by Secretary of State Kate Brown over signature-gathering violations. Robert Wolfe says he gave testimony in the civil case against him unaware that the Oregon Department of Justice had launched a parallel criminal case. He says the state should have told him about the investigation and allowed him to assert his right against self-incrimination. Instead, Wolfe learned about the case from a June 28 report on wweek.com, which noted that Wolfe’s pot-legalization group, Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, bought $53,000 in radio ads to help elect Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, whose office is conducting the criminal case.
  • U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio wants to end conflicts of interests among directors of Federal Reserve banks—which bailed out private banks with more than $1 trillion in taxpayer-guaranteed loans from 2007 to 2010. An October 2011 Government Accountability Office report found 18 reserve bank directors—more than one in four—were affiliated with banks that took the government bailouts. DeFazio’s bill mirrors one by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to forbid Federal Reserve employees or board members from holding any investment in any company they regulate, “without exception.”
 
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