Environmentalists and business people squared off before the Eugene City Council on Monday, arguing either for or against a proposed expansion in the city's hazardous chemical reporting law.
EUGENE, Oregon Environmentalists and business people squared off before the Eugene City Council on Monday, arguing either for or against a proposed expansion in the city's hazardous chemical reporting law.
The council heard several supporters of the city's toxics right-to-know-law ask to broaden the reporting program to include dry cleaners, gas stations, auto body shops and seven other types of nonmanufacturing businesses that use toxic chemicals.
Adding the businesses is intended to spread the cost of the reporting program among more firms and reduce the annual fees the city now charges some small manufacturers. The fees in 2004 were $31.65 per employee with a business paying a maximum of $2,000.
Currently, 40 manufacturers must report details of their chemical use and pay fees to the city, which catalogs and publishes the data. Another 33 smaller manufacturers do not report chemical use, but they must pay fees to help run the $100,000-a-year program. Expanding the program would add 170 businesses.
Gas stations and auto body shops, for example, produce "enormous amounts of benzene," which are harmful, particularly to children, said Steve Johnson, a right-to-know advocate on the city's Toxics Advisory Board.
Residents would benefit from knowing how much benzene and other chemicals are released from businesses that would be added to the reporting list, he said.
"These things are not harmless, even at shops that I love and services that I use," Johnson said.
Dianne Lobes said she favored expanding the program to the other types of businesses because "it's entirely fair for any company that uses toxic chemicals, even in small amounts, to help pay for the program."
But several business owners protested the possible expansion, saying it would add to the city's reputation for being unfriendly to business.
Patricia McConnell, owner of the Old Dominion Carstar auto body shop, said her business already is regulated by the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state fire marshal.
McConnell said her business strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible by recycling everything from paper and glass to sheet metal and paint thinner.
"This proposal would add another burden to small businesses like mine that want to stay in Eugene, but find it very difficult to deal with the additional requirements like this ordinance," she said.
Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce President Dave Hauser said the council could lower the fees it charges small manufacturers by reducing the expenses related to the program.
The council took no action on the proposal. Councilors are scheduled to vote on the proposal March 7.
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