Transcript: Stephanie Hallock, director of Oregon DEQ, May 17 2006

Stephanie Hallock is the director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Portland Harbor Superfund Site.

Thom Hartmann interview with Stephanie Hallock 17 May 2006 on KPOJ

[Thom Hartmann] Stephanie Hallock is with us. Hey Stephanie, welcome to the program.

[Stephanie Hallock] Thank you Thom, glad to be here.

[Thom Hartmann] Stephanie is the director of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and a lot of challenges the DEQ is facing right now, or a lot of issues shall we say, and you're going out to the people tomorrow night to find out what they want you to be focusing your attention on, am I characterizing that correctly?

[Stephanie Hallock] That's exactly right. We're going to have a series of town hall meetings throughout the state and we do start tomorrow evening in Portland from 6 to 7:30 PM. We'll be at the Cascade Plaza which is 4134 N. Vancouver street.

[Thom Hartmann] That would be at the corner of Skidmore, right?

[Stephanie Hallock] It is, it is indeed. And we hope people will come out. We're in the process of updating our strategic plan. We want to hear from folks what's on their mind. And we will also have a member of the Environmental Quality Commission that governs DEQ with us, Bill Blosser. So we are anxious to hear from everybody and we hope folks will come out.

[Thom Hartmann] Today's Oregonian has an article by Alex Pulaski and Julie Sullivan about the DEQ and your announcement today of your plans to, excuse me, about the EPA's announcement [PDF] not your announcement. But I'm assuming you're involved in this in some way, with the Superfund Site?

[Stephanie Hallock] Absolutely. This is, we work in partnership with the federal U.S. EPA. This was their decision, their jurisdiction in this particular instance but we fully support their decision. They've done a very thorough analysis about what to do with these contaminated sediments. And as I'm sure you and your listeners know, there are no easy choices often on these environmental issues but this is a proven technology. I believe the story in the Oregonian refers to 5 sites in Washington State and some 40 sites in the Great Lakes where they have used this mechanism for dealing with the contaminated sediments. And so, I think it was a tough decision. I know there was some opposition. I'm sure probably at our town hall we'll hear some folks who are concerned about it. But I think EPA did a good job and we support this decision.

[Thom Hartmann] Right. What we're talking about here is cleaning up the Wilamette.

[Stephanie Hallock] That's correct.

[Thom Hartmann] And is that the last Superfund site that is part of the Wilamette and the Columbia in the region of Portland?

[Stephanie Hallock] No Thom. Actually it's about the beginning.

[Thom Hartmann] Oh really?

[Stephanie Hallock] Yeah. The whole Portland Harbor Superfund Site runs about from Ross Island just down past almost to the confluence, about 6 miles. And we at DEQ, the state DEQ are responsible for what are considered the upland sites; the sites that are in operation or have been closed. And our job is to keep more contamination out of the river. The EPA is responsible for the so-called in-water sites, hence their jurisdiction on this one. And so we work collaboratively with them and with a number of the parties who are along the banks of the river; referred to as the lower Wilamette group. And the Port of Portland is one of those, and so we have actively been working on this site, on the whole harbor, excuse me, for several years, and we will be doing so for several years more. And we do appreciate the Port of Portland stepping up to the plate and taking this tough action. They will be spending millions of dollars, as I think you saw in the paper.

[Heidi Tauber] Stephanie, we've been talking a little bit about air quality and how last summer there were so many air advisories, clean air advisory days when we had the hot weather midsummer. But we're getting it early now, here in the last couple of days 90 degrees. I'm wondering if there's any indication that we may have some clean air advisory days early?

[Stephanie Hallock] So far we have not needed to, as you will notice, as I did when I went out this morning, there's a fairly good breeze blowing and that always helps. Of course if that breeze goes away and the air just sits, then we will have to look at having some of those clean air advisories. But we certainly hope that we don't have to do that. We heard the governor earlier talking about alternative energy sources and so we're of course hopeful that folks will take that seriously in terms of the kind of vehicles that they choose to drive, and help to keep the air clean.

[Thom Hartmann] We're talking with Stephanie Hallock. She's the director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the DEQ. Director Hallock, what do you see... I know you're just beginning tonight, or tomorrow night, rather, in Portland at Cascade Plaza, corner of Vancouver and Skidmore, 6PM, your round of public hearings where you're hearing from the public about what are the issues that they want the DEQ to be focusing on. But I assume, having the job that you have, being the place where you are, that you have some sense of the issues that are going to be brought up. What do you see as the major environmental issues that are facing the State of Oregon and how might we be addressing these?

[Stephanie Hallock] For the State as a whole, I think the primary issue of concern is water; not only the quality of our water but the quantity of our water. And with climate change and the reduction in the glaciers, with the change in the weather pattern, concerns about over-allocation of some of our rivers and streams, I think we need to think forward, and figure out how we're going to have enough water to do what we need to do in the North West to support our agricultural practices as well as the needs of the cities and communities. So I would say water is a concern for all of us and of course having enough for the fish as well.

[Thom Hartmann] Is this, for example I live on the Wilamette and one of the things that I've heard is that because the glaciers, for example on Mount Hood, are shrinking as a consequence of global warming, that that means ultimately that the spring and summer melt will be less and the winter rains, the flooding will be greater and so the variation in the Wilamette, it will be more intense in the winter and lower in the summer than typically. Is that the kind of thing you're talking about?

[Stephanie Hallock] I have heard that as well and what that would mean for all of us is to figure out new and different ways to manage the water if our patterns are going to be different than they have been in the past and to figure out how to store it; that sort of thing.

[Thom Hartmann] Right. OK. We have about 2 minutes left here. You said you had other priorities as well?

[Stephanie Hallock] Yes. Well obviously air quality is of concern. We have some new challenges, There's a new requirement coming from EPA for particulate matter. A little tighter standard that has to do with burning woodstove dust, that sort of thing. We have continuing concern in the Portland area that we meet all standards, and that's going to be up to all of us, using our lawnmowers. You hear people joke about this sort of thing, but really the air pollution from some of the smaller engines is a challenge for us and so we encourage good practices with those as well. So air and water is always. And finally we referred to the Harbor clean up. Managing our waste. We have new challenges with electronic waste. Those are always on the front burner in terms of what we have to deal with.

[Thom Hartmann] What's electronic waste?

[Stephanie Hallock] Well, our computers, our cell phones, our televisions.

[Thom Hartmann] Oh, the waste of electronic, yeah, OK.

[Stephanie Hallock] Absolutely.

[Thom Hartmann] Toxic metals in them.

[Stephanie Hallock] Right. As it becomes more advanced every day, then what do you do with the products that are obsolete? And unfortunately a lot of those go to the landfill.

[Thom Hartmann] Yeah. I thought perhaps for a minute there you were talking about low frequency radiation and things.

[Stephanie Hallock] No.

[Thom Hartmann] That's a whole different area.

[Stephanie Hallock] That's a whole different area, right.

[Thom Hartmann] So, the first meeting tomorrow night, 6 PM, Cascade Plaza at the corner of Vancouver and Skidmore, north Portland. And then from there you're going out in through the rest of the state?

[Stephanie Hallock] We are indeed. We will have a meeting in Medford and we will have a meeting in Pendleton, and those are coming on later on. And we will also have a meeting in the Eugene area.

[Thom Hartmann] Great. Stephanie Hallock. She's the director of the Department of Environmental Quality, and its absolutely great that you're getting out and talking with the people, Stephanie. Thank you so much for being with us today.

[Stephanie Hallock] Well, thank you for having me and we look forward to hearing from everybody.

[Thom Hartmann] Thanks. And keep up the great work you're doing.

[Heidi Tauber] I bet there are a few husbands out there who are thrilled that they may not have to run the lawn mowers this summer.

[Paul Pimentel ] Get an electric!

[Heidi Tauber] Yeah, exactly. Just get an electric.

[Thom Hartmann] Got to do my job! No, I'd just say let it grow. Put labels on the weeds and call it a tangled garden.

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