Nearly 100 activists with Cascadia Forest Defenders and Earth First! converged on the Seneca Jones biomass plant today protesting the company's privatization of public lands in the Elliott State Forest in Oregon and ongoing pollution in West Eugene.
Several people locked themselves to equipment at the plant, halting a conveyor belt and blocking a "truck dump" where biomass is loaded into the incinerator, while dozens of protesters rallied outside the gates. A banner was dropped off of a tower reading: “Seneca Jones: Privatizing the coast range, polluting West Eugene.” After police extracted the blockaders, three were taken to Lane County Jail and are facing several charges, including misdemeanor criminal mischief and felony burglary.
The activists brought attention to Seneca Jones Timber's role in privatizing the Elliott State Forest. This month Seneca closed on their purchase of 788 acres in the Elliott, called East Hakki Ridge. Co-owner of Seneca Kathy Jones recently expressed the company's intention to clearcut East Hakki and replace it with Douglas fir plantation.
Cascadia Forest Defender Richard Haley commented, “However Kathy Jones paints it, her company is a bad neighbor everywhere it operates. Here in Eugene, Seneca pollutes. In the Elliott, Seneca clearcuts and puts up 'no trespassing' signs in pristine, never before logged forest. East Hakki is no longer a place where locals can go hunt, fish, hike, camp or watch birds. Now it is corporate property.”
Coos Bay citizen science group Coast Range Forest Watch documented Marbled Murrelet nesting behavior in East Hakki Ridge in May. The bird is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits actions that injure or kill threatened species, including destruction of habitat. A month after Marbled Murrelets were found in East Hakki, conservation law organizations filed to sue Seneca Jones in the event of logging in the timber sale. Murrelets were also found in two timber sales purchased by timber company Roseburg Forest Products. Another parcel is up for sale this fall, and the State Land Board is considering privatizing the entire forest.
Despite Seneca's claim of being sustainable, the biomass plant failed its first Environmental Protection Agency air pollution test in 2011 but still requested more state funds to offset its production costs. In spite of its high impact on local air quality, Seneca receives $10 million in tax credits from the state of Oregon under the Business Energy Tax Credit Program.
“The plant has had a bad reputation in this community since its opening,” said West Eugene resident Matthew Hawks. “It's marketing itself as a 'green' solution in my neighborhood, but is actually harming the environment around us, especially the air we breathe.”
The plant, which only employs 11 people, releases an estimated 17,900 pounds of air toxins into West Eugene Neighborhoods annually, in addition to the 73,000 pounds released each year from the mill itself. There are three schools within three miles of the Seneca biomass facility.
“While clearcutting and privatization in the Elliott State Forest is done in the name of public schools, this irresponsible company is taking millions of public dollars and impacting the health and safety of school children in their own neighborhood. It feels really twisted,” said Cascadia Forest Defender Cordelia Finley.
The Eugene-based Cascadia Forest Defenders carried out this action with activists from across the U.S. following an annual Earth First! camp-out in the woods of Southern Oregon, called the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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