Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission has decided you shouldn’t be
able to have your car’s fuel tank “topped off” at any service station
in the state.
Topping off, though a common practice, is a wholly unnecessary one.
Oregon’s a big state, sure, but it’s hardly the Gobi Desert.
The longest fuel-less stretch on Oregon’s highway system is about 70
miles — well within the range of the most voracious gas guzzler with a
tank that’s been filled but not topped off.
That extra half-gallon that the attendant can cram in after the pump’s
automatic flow shuts off equates to at most an extra 25 miles or so.
Government has a reputation for spending millions of dollars to try to
solve some social problem, only to have the problem persist.
Or get worse.
Sometimes that reputation is deserved.
The government’s lackluster progress over several decades of combating
poverty and drug abuse, for instance, lend credence to the criticisms
But in some cases the government’s habit of doling out dollars actually
achieves results more valuable than spawning a bureaucracy and giving
politicians fodder for campaign speeches.
The $2.5 million that the federal government will give to Baker, Union
and Wallowa counties over five years certainly isn’t going to waste so
The four-team Greater Oregon League is hardly an ideal situation for athletics.
But it’s far better than the idea that a committee from the Oregon School Activities Association might propose.
“Far” is the most relevant word in this case.
The committee has discussed doubling the GOL to eight teams starting in
the 2010-11 school year. The current contingent of Baker, La Grande,
Mac-Hi and Ontario would be joined by four schools from Central Oregon:
Crook County, LaPine, Madras and Sisters.
Except it seems silly to describe as “joined” two quartets of schools that are at least 210 miles apart.
Distance is why the committee’s proposal won’t work, and shouldn’t happen.
More specifically, adding thousands of miles to GOL teams’ travels each
year would cost schools thousands of dollars. At a time when many
districts, including Baker, are trying to trim costs, those extra
dollars aren’t readily available.
I’ve been aware for some years that the government harbors what seems to me an unhealthy fascination with my life.
And with yours.
(I mention this only to avoid implying that there’s anything special
about my life that has attracted the government’s attention. There
isn’t. My exploits are, in fact, rather routine.)
Still, I was taken aback to learn that the government’s curiosity about our habits extends even to the proper care of our hands.
This has got me a little worried.
I haven’t analyzed my lathering technique in a while, for instance.
And I’m pretty sure I don’t scrub with anything like the violence necessary to dislodge every germ.
We think the views around Baker County are pretty stunning now, but Oregon officials contend the vistas ought to be clearer.
Well, we won’t complain if that happens.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality believes it can happen.
The DEQ recently wrote a report that calls for cutting airborne
pollution by 80 percent in the next decade at Portland General
Electric’s coal-fired power plant in Boardman.
That, combined with a reduction in emissions as cleaner cars replace
less-efficient models, could rid parts of Oregon of the unhealthy haze
that casts a pall across the horizon.
We could notice a difference within 10 years at places such as Hells Canyon and the Columbia River Gorge, according to DEQ.
The agency’s longer-term goal is much more ambitious, though.
That goal is to eliminate manmade haze by 2065.
Sen. Gordon Smith’s campaign ads accusing Jeff Merkley of ignoring
rural Oregon weren’t persuasive enough to win Smith another term.
But the spots seem to have gotten Merkley’s attention.
Merkley, the Democratic Senator-elect who will replace Smith next
month, told The Associated Press last week that he will advocate for
two issues crucial to rural regions.
First, Merkley said he will draft legislation to continue the “county payments” program.
That program, which Ron Wyden, Merkley’s soon-to-be senatorial
colleague, helped to create eight years ago, supplies about half of
Baker County’s Road Department budget.
Second, Merkley told a reporter that he wants the federal government to
increase logging in publicly owned second-growth forests to sustain
what’s left of the timber industry and to reduce the risk of wildfires.
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