Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Peralta Back to Business; Alerts Oregonians About Benzene

Falling a bit short against incumbent Donna Nelson in House District 24, Sal Peralta is not sitting around his house in despondency like that soft-toothed George Allen wondering where he went wrong, but is back trying to keep a vigilant eye on the remaining Republican power structure, which is still highly formidable at the executive level. As Carla noted Sunday, he made it clear in the Reg-Guard that his loss was not the end of his time in politics. And his first post-election issue should be one that crosses political lines in Oregon--who wants to deal with benzene poisoning? And why should Northwesterners uniquely have to deal with it so prevalently?
At issue is a rule change that will allow dirty refineries, such as those operating in the Pacific Northwest to purchase "benzine credits" from cleaner refineries, such as those in California and in the Gulf coast.

As the Eugene Register-Guard reports:
The EPA wants to cut average benzene levels in the nation's gasoline supply, but is willing to let some refineries - including those in the Pacific Northwest - keep producing gasoline with much-higher-than-average benzene content. The EPA says it has to balance the need for cleaner air against the cost of the fixes.

If the new rule is implemented as proposed in 2011, Oregon and Washington gasoline still would contain twice as much benzene as fuels produced in the East Coast states, including New York and New Jersey, the EPA estimates.
Oregonians in Portland, Eugene, and other parts of the Willamette Valley have 10-27x greater risk of getting cancer from Benzene exposure than people in other areas. If you live in Portland's upscale Pearl District, your exposure to Benzene is 200x higher than safe levels.

Oil and gas industry lobbyists oppose reducing Benzene levels in the Northwest, arguing that reducing benzene in Oregon gas is an expensive process that will result in higher gas prices.

Bill Becker, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials, disagrees:

Benzene is carcinogenic. It's cheap to regulate - less than a penny a gallon - and technologies exist to limit it substantially,

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has pledged to block the confirmation of Roger Martella to be general counsel of the EPA until the agency sets a minimum standard as proposed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Candidates like Peralta and Mike Caudle used DailyKos to good effect during the campaign; Peralta continues to be a user, and continues to advocate on behalf of the best interests of the state. And call me a happy dolt, but I had no idea benzene was such an issue for people in the Portland area, and that it was still being used in gasoline. Has The O reported on this before, or is this another area where they're getting waxed? Regardless, high praise to Peralta for picking himself off the canvas and immediately resuming the fight. Pow!