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Boeing hits on emission option

TribTown • New technology allows withdrawal of unpopular plan to boost air pollutants

Faced with significant neighborhood opposition, the Boeing Co. has withdrawn its request to the state of Oregon to almost triple the amount of pollution it releases into the air at its airline-painting hangar at Portland International Airport.

The airplane manufacturer has a permit with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to emit 39 tons of volatile organic compounds - a significant contributor to air pollution - per year at its Portland hangar.

Company officials said the company plans to paint more aircraft in Portland - 80 a year compared with 27 now - to keep operations moving while the company remodels its painting facilities in Everett, Wash.

So Boeing had applied to the DEQ to raise its volatile organic compound limit to 99 tons per year.

But Boeing's plans were met with quick and significant resistance from the neighborhoods surrounding the airport. Representatives of Northeast Portland's Concordia University also voiced opposition.

'There's been a broad-based coalition that has been organizing on this issue - legislators, other area elected officials and community leaders,' said Robin Denburg, a resident of the Concordia neighborhood near the airport and co-chairman of a group that formed to oppose Boeing's plans.

'We have at least 500 people who have signed a petition saying they don't want these emissions by Boeing … because of human health and environmental and air-quality impacts,' he said.

Boeing withdrew its application to the state last month. Company officials had said earlier that the company's painting process in Portland would use the best available technology and would use solvents and paints that were lower in volatile organic compounds.

Boeing spokeswoman Debbie Heathers said last week that the company now plans to use more advanced emissions control technology, called 'end of stack control technology.'

'It's extremely expensive,' she said. Heathers also said Boeing's decision was influenced by neighborhood concerns.

'Oh, extremely,' she said. 'We listened to the community and were very responsive to them.'

But Denburg said Boeing still could capture more of its emissions than it will under the 39-ton limit.

'For Boeing to say that they are a good environmental steward by releasing 39 tons of volatile organic compounds into the environment, that doesn't fly,' he said.