Advocacy Group Fights for Clean Air in Columbia Gorge

An environmental advocacy group filed a complaint with the Oregon Court of Appeals saying that officials overseeing the Columbia Gorge are not doing enough to curb pollution and ensure high quality of air for years to come.

The Columbia River Gorge Commission recently released their air quality plan, but the advocacy group, dubbed Friends of the Columbia Gorge, said it does not do enough to eliminate additional air pollution in the future.

The gorge, which features a popular scenic area, stretches 85 miles, but is known for its high volume of air pollution with the air containing substances like organic carbon, nitrates and sulfates. One of the biggest sources for the pollution is an existing power plant located in Boardman, which is not far from the scenic area.

In the commission's plan, it states that thousands of trains could potentially pass through the area shipping coal from one port to another. To facilitate this, the gorge would need significant renovations to provide new tracks and other developments. The plan put forth by the commission does not, however, spell out how it will do this without adding to the air pollution.

The advocacy group also pointed out plans for two power plants to be possibly constructed not far from the scenic area. The commission has done nothing to control their emissions.

A leader of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge said the air quality plan that the commission proposed takes no active measures to ensure air pollution will not increase at the site for years to come.

The executive director of the commission, which spent 11 years drafting up the air quality plan, said the Department of Environmental Quality has the jurisdiction to control pollution in such cases.

Source: OregonLive.com, "Lawsuit says air quality plan fails to protect Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area," Eric Mortenson, Nov. 14, 2011

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