Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: EPA


Arctic oil drilling looks increasingly risky

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The Arctic Ocean is believed to hold vast reserves of oil and gas, worth trillions of dollars. But can they be safely extracted and shipped?

Given recent events, experts are increasingly skeptical. The challenges posed by extreme weather and sea conditions of the far north appear – at least for now – to be beyond the abilities of the oil company seeking to drill there.

Two of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers – former Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner and John Podesta, who headed the president’s 2009 transition team – are saying they don’t see any way to safely drill for oil in the Arctic. Their concerns are echoed by departing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as well as a key insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, and the French oil company Total.
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We all have a stake in getting soot out of our air – and our lungs

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

When a burn ban notice appears on the front page of The News Tribune (under Today’s Weather), consider yourself warned. It’s not a polite suggestion; violation could mean a hefty fine – up to $1,000.

People once could routinely get away with violating burn bans. There wasn’t enough enforcement, or even much of a compelling reason to go after violators. If detected, they’d often just get a warning and told not to do it again.

But times have changed, and local governments have a big stake in locating those who are contributing to the single greatest source of air pollution in this region: wood burners. They’re cooperating with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to augment its corps of 12 inspectors; now about 60 people are available to target burn-ban violations in the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone.

That zone – which extends south and east from Tacoma to encompass Lakewood, University Place, Steilacoom, Spanaway, Puyallup and Edgewood – is out of compliance with federal air-quality standards during winter months when people are more likely to build fires.
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Way too much crackdown for a few days of bad air

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

On about 10 days a year, Tacoma and much of Pierce County fail to meet federal standards for “fine particulates.” That kind of air pollution is created by motor vehicles, as well as by burning wood in old, uncertified stoves, fireplaces and the open air – and it can pose a health threat for people with respiratory problems.

Those 10 or so days of poor air quality have given the region an unenviable distinction: It’s the state’s only “non-attainment area” for fine particulate standards.

Because the 10 days are most likely to fall during cold weather, when more people are burning wood to keep warm, wood-burning is the main target for regulators charged with improving the area’s air quality. The air police also know it’s easier to get people to burn less than to drive less.
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Pacific Avenue project presents opportunity, challenge

This editorial will appear in the Monday print edition.

A short distance from Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma is Thea Foss Waterway – a former Superfund site that the city spent $105 million cleaning up.

But untreated stormwater runoff from Pacific Avenue continues to drain dangerous toxins into the waterway, posing a threat to ongoing cleanup efforts. As environmental regulations regarding stormwater contamination tighten up, it becomes ever more incumbent on cities to seek solutions to their runoff problems.

It looks like Tacoma’s found one, and it promises to deliver aesthetic benefits in addition to environmental ones.

Plans are under way to retrofit Pacific Avenue between South Seventh and 17th streets with the latest in stormwater technologies, which may involve replacing curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The $8 million project will provide an opportunity to enhance the avenue with trees, water features and pervious pavement – all of which will help filter stormwater. Public input on the streetscaping part of the project is being sought (see box).

Some critics have suggested the city should give filling potholes a higher priority. But the city must address the polluted street runoff. Besides, much of the funding for Phase 1 of the project is federal money – a $1.5 million Environmental Protection Agency grant and $800,000 from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.
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Be reasonable about port fine, EPA

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

File this under “No good deed goes unpunished.”

In 2003, the Port of Tacoma bought a piece of property – the former Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. smelter site – that no one else wanted because it had hazardous waste issues. The port has spent more than $5 million cleaning up the property and hauling out tons of waste, planning to put the site to work generating jobs as a shipping terminal. It plans to spend up to another $5 million to complete the cleanup.

But because the port missed some paperwork deadlines involving a fraction of the property, it faces a hefty fine – it could be $231,600 and possibly much more – from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read more »