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Green Briefs

Tenants get low rents, utility bills

Reach Community Development Corp. will break ground this month on the nation’s largest multifamily housing project using Passive House standards, which rely on super-energy-efficient construction techniques.

The $14.6 million Hillsboro development, called Orchards at Orenco Phase 1, will provide 57 units of affordable housing, designed for working families earning $30,000 a year or less. The Passive House standards will boost construction costs an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent, Reach estimates. But that means tenants will be assured low energy costs to go with the affordable rents, which will range from $611 to $733 a month.

Decision on coal-barging delayed

The Oregon Department of State Lands delayed a permit decision until mid-summer on Ambre Energy’s proposal to barge coal exports through the Columbia River Gorge.

The agency faced a May 30 deadline to rule on Ambre Energy’s proposed removal-fill permit for a coal terminal at the Port of Morrow, but deferred it until Aug. 18. DSL says it needs more information about fisheries that could be affected by the terminal, as well as other information. The agency will take until June 30 to retrieve additional information. Ambre then has until Aug. 1 to respond to questions.

Ambre proposes to mine nearly 9 million tons of coal per year from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and ship it to Asia. After traveling by train to Port Morrow, the coal would be shipped on enclosed barges on the Columbia River to the Port Westward Industrial Park near St. Helens, where it would be transferred to oceangoing ships.

— Kate Stringer

Intel reaches accord with critics

Neighbors for Clean Air, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Intel Corp. reached a settlement agreement to resolve claims the company failed to obtain the proper air emissions permit for its new D1X expansion.

The agreement requires the company to comprehensively evaluate the community impact of its Hillsboro and Aloha chip plants.

“The community needs Intel to demonstrate not just compliance with regulations, but an ongoing commitment to practices and technology that protect public health,” says Linda Peters, former chairwoman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners and a leader of Neighbors for Clean Air.

The agreement commits Intel to:

n Establish an Air Quality Advisory Committee to oversee implementation of the agreement and negotiate a “good neighbor agreement” with Intel.

n Complete a risk assessment based on California’s rules. This will require Intel to complete an emissions inventory, including stack-testing above and beyond what is being required by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

n If the risk assessment indicates Intel presents an unacceptable risk (more than 25 excess cancers in every 1 million people), Intel will take further action to reduce pollution, and spend $150,000 for third-party ambient air monitoring.

“Intel’s commitment to meeting this stricter, more health-protective standard — in effect, going beyond the law in Oregon — underscores how underprotective the air emissions laws are in our state,” says Mark Riskedahl of Northwest Environmental Defense Center.

— Kathy Fuller

Superfund cleanup

put off

Cleanup of the long-polluted Portland Harbor won’t commence for at least three more years, after the Environmental Protection Agency announced another delay in completing its final action plan for the Superfund site.

The federal agency says the delays are caused by continuing disputes with “potentially responsible parties,” those companies and governmental entities suspected of polluting the Willamette River north of the Fremont Bridge. Portland city officials and some of those other parties say the latest delay was largely due to budget cuts and staff turnover at EPA.

EPA regional administrator Dennis McClerran told Portland city officials in May that the agency won’t complete its final Record of Decision for the 11-mile-long Superfund cleanup until 2017, and that’s a “soft target,” says Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.

Lori Cohen, deputy director for Superfund projects at the EPA’s regional office in Seattle, says the early-2017 target could be delayed further if there are continuing disputes among the various parties.

Wolf pups spotted

Wolf pups were spotted by biologists in early June in the Rogue River-Sikiyou National Forest in southwest Oregon, the first confirmed wolves born in the Oregon Cascades since the mid-1940s.

A wild wolf known as OR7, which migrated from northeast Oregon, was spotted earlier by remote cameras with a litter of wolf pups, and a black female wolf was spotted in the same area.

Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife returned to the area and observed two pups.

Biologists say it’s likely there are more pups, since wolf litters typically number four to six pups.