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No more topping off

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.

We agree.

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.

Letter to the editor for December 17, 2008

Federal grant is money well spent

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 of cynics.

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 far.

That’s no Sunday drive

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.

Letter to the editor for December 15, 2008

Oregon cleans up on poker, and other matters involving hands

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.

Letter to the editor for December 12, 2008

Looking to the future, minus the haze

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.

Letter to the editor for December 11, 2008

Merkley’s rhetoric

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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