A number of new laws took effect Jan. 1. Among them is a change in recycling rules that will result in changes to your grocery bill.
The California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, adds a large number of containers to the list of those requiring a California Redemption Value (CRV) charge at the cash register. The flip side is that when you take your bottles and cans in for recycling, you should get more cash back.
According to Brian Sollom of Humboldt Sanitation and Recycling Center in McKinleyville, the intent of the new program is a good one: to reduce the amount of recyclable materials that makes it into our land fills. But, he added, the changes already have consumers confused.
"It's going to be a tough educational process," he said, in part because the new law allows bottlers to wait until next year to alter labeling indicating CRV charges.
Sollom said the major change is in the addition of many noncarbonated beverages to the CRV program. Juices, sport drinks, bottled tea and coffee drinks, and noncarbonated water were previously excluded from deposit even though the containers were made from the same materials as their carbonated counterparts.
To add to the confusion, water sold in plastic jugs has a CRV added while milk sold in the identical containers does not. Besides milk, the beverages excluded from the new program include juice sold in containers 46 ounces or larger, infant formula, distilled spirits and wine.
Louisiana-Pacific Corp.'s particle board plant in Arcata resumed operations Sunday after a closure that began Dec. 17. A press release sent to local media suggested that the temporary closure was tied to ongoing negotiations with the Humboldt County District Attorney's office concerning violations of Department of Fish and Game regulations.
According to L-P Media Relations Coordinator David Dugan, speaking from the company's corporate affairs office in Portland, Ore., "We closed the facility because we were uncomfortable with the fact that we might incur additional charges down the road if we continued to operate. We've taken a variety of actions, invested more than $300,000 in facility modifications, and we need to find out what additional measures, in their perception, would bring us under compliance."
District Attorney Terry Farmer confirmed that his office is involved in negotiations with L-P in connection with alleged pollution of Janes Creek.
"Two misdemeanor violations were filed last spring alleging regulatory violations of Fish and Game laws by L-P," Farmer said. "Investigation into that continued, and we recently amended the complaint to allege in excess of 400 violations. It has become apparent to the community-at-large that we are involved in a significant regulatory action."
According to Farmer, there are confidential discussions underway with the company to resolve the violations, but he was surprised at the suggestion that the plant closure was somehow connected with those talks.
"Frankly when I read about that in the Times-Standard, the comments attributed to some people from L-P took me by surprise," he said. "Nothing that we had done mandated that action."
L-P's press release mentions the fact that the plant employs 116 people and ties their layoff to the negotiations stating, "We are forced to cease operations until the parties can reach an agreement."
For years the Arcata plant has routinely shut down over the holidays for maintenance. This year during the temporary closure some work was done on the sanders, the bags in the bag house were changed and there was a general clean-up. But there was no additional equipment installed to deal with sawdust emissions or any other measures taken that dealt directly with potential violations of the Fish and Game regulations.
"I'm not aware of anything other than regular maintenance and clean-up that occurred," said Dugan.
"In my opinion they are attempting to sway public opinion with threats of layoffs," said Tim McKay of the Northcoast Environmental Center. McKay pointed out the fact that the company has had serious trouble in recent years connected with violations of environmental law.
In 1998 Louisiana-Pacific agreed to a $37 million settlement to satisfy pollution charges in Colorado. U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock accepted a plea bargain negotiated by the Justice Department that included five years of probation where any violations of federal, state or local laws could result in the company being barred from doing business with the federal government including buying timber from the U.S. Forest Service.
Arcata plant manager Ken Cole said that he did not think the company's current situation applied to that case. But he said, "Bottom line, we are sensitive to environmental law."
Cole said while L-P did not make modifications to the plant, the shut-down was longer than the usual one-week holiday closure and was in direct response to additional charges levied by the D.A. just before the closure. He said the plant has reopened despite the lack of a settlement agreement because company officials felt that talks progressed sufficiently during the closure.
The Pacific Lumber Co. will receive a two-year timber operator license from the California Department of Forestry after a dramatic decrease in law violations in 1999.
Typically, California timber harvest licenses run for a year, but starting this year they run for two years.
There are special conditions imposed on this license such as frequent inspections and a requirement that the company hire its own compliance team to prevent further violations. The compliance team is required to stop any logging operation that is violating the law, assign foresters to inspect all roads at least twice a month and provide CDF inspectors access to all of the company's timberlands.
In 1997 Pacific Lumber's license was temporarily revoked for repeated violations and in 1998 there were additional restrictions put on the license because of further illegalities.
In 1997 the company had 126 violations, in 1998 there were 48, and in 1999 there were 12.
Mary Bullwinkel, director of public relations for Pacific Lumber, said cooperation led to the decrease in violations over the past three years.
"It was a cooperative effort between the forest and logging departments, the forest practice compliance team and the CDF," Bullwinkel said. "All activities on the property are being reviewed and closely monitored from start to finish."
Bullwinkel also said the CDF chief Andrea Tuttle recently complimented Pacific Lumber on "an excellent job of improving compliance.
"If things continue to run as they have, we are hopeful that the restrictions may be lifted in 2001."
The Humboldt Waste Management Authority and the Waste Solutions Group are calling on North Coast artists to submit proposals to design and construct permanent art for the new Waste Transfer and Recycling Station that is set to open Nov. 1.
The artwork, however, will be made up of recycled material.
The artists will be constructing art to serve as the gates and fences and to enhance the design and appearance of the entire facility.
David Gavrich, president of the Waste Solutions Group, worked alongside Gerald Kindsfather, general manager of the Humboldt Waste Management Authority, for the idea to use area artists and recycled material for the project.
"I was working down in San Francisco at the time and I thought that it was a great idea for the new facility," Gavrich said.
The gates include eight panels on the gates and 500-700 feet of fencing.
"We envision the concept of the art weaving through the gates and the fence," Gavrich said. "It will be a continuous flow of art."
The artists are required to include in their proposals their experience and qualifications, their use of recycled materials, a design concept for the project and a cost that is affordable in the construction budget.
"We are giving the artists a lot of room for their ideas," Gavrich said. "We are really open to hear their ideas."
Submissions will be accepted until Feb. 15, and then a jury will select the artist or artists to complete the project. The jury will be composed of members from the Humboldt Waste Management Authority, the Waste Solutions group, a North Coast business leader and a North Coast leader in the art community.
"We do not want the jury to get too big, but we want it to be a well-rounded group so that we do not get off track with the project," Gavrich said.
The entire project is estimated to cost $3.5 million and funding for the permanent gate art was allotted in the construction budget. Artists may use material from scrap yards, the waste-drain site and other possible sites, as long as the material has been previously used.
--reported by Amanda Lang and Bob Doran