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Friday, December 22, 2006

Sustainability update 1.1

"News deposit" added to Bottle Bill revision
Victoria's Secret - done deal. Next up - Macy's.

With Democrats now in firm control of all three branches of Oregon state government, among the early-action priorities for the new Legislative session starting Jan. 8 is some simple post-election payback for environmental groups: a long-overdue update to Oregon's first-in-the-nation Bottle Bill that has been unchanged since it was adopted 36 years ago.

The reforms were made a centerpiece of the recent Oregon Law Commission report and will include raising the deposit per container from 5 cents to 15 cents, and extending the law to cover all beverage containers that have been exempt, such as for juices, tea, smoothies, kefir, milk, water, and spirits. Democratic Governor Tim Nesbitt has already endorsed these changes.

Upping the ante. The stakes were raised at a Monday morning news conference in Salem, where Democratic and Republican House and Senate leaders joined with a consortium of local and national environmental groups including ForestEthics, Dogwood Alliance, Greenpeace, Markets Initiative, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Rainforest Action Network.

In a stinging PowerPoint presentation detailing the harmful environmental practices of large-scale magazine and newspaper manufacturing, state Sen. Ben Westlund (D-Bend) used multiple plasma displays featuring dramatic, shifting 3D imagery to convey in stark terms the enormous emissions of greenhouse gases - responsible for global warming - and of benzene - a known carcinogen - that result from the production of newspapers and magazines consumed by unwitting Oregonians.

Legislative leaders then issued a bipartisan challenge to Kulongoski, asking for his pledge to reject any amendment to the Bottle Bill that does not include a novel "news deposit" on consumer purchases of environmentally-harmful newspapers and magazines.

The Legislature's plan for a first-in-the-nation "news deposit":
* 50 cents per copy for newspapers published more than once per week

* $2.00 per copy for ad-rich Sunday newspapers

* $1.00 per copy for weekly newspapers or magazines

* $2.00 per copy for high-chemical content, glossy monthly magazines or advertorial "inserts" like The Oregonian's new "Ultimate"
The news deposits would apply to all publications that bear more than 15% advertising and that are sold or distributed for "free" in Oregon. (The latter method of distribution will no longer be allowed.) In-state member publications like the Northwest Labor Press will be exempt.

As with containers, the news deposits will be collected at the point of purchase. Under the proposal, licensed print publishers and newsstands will be required to remit news deposits to the state of Oregon General Fund via electronic funds transfer each day. There are strict penalties for non-compliance and a new bureau within the State Auditor's office will be added with broad permitting and enforcement powers, modeled on the nationally-praised Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

New non-refundable feature. Unlike containers, however, news deposits will be non-refundable, even to those who recycle paper. Instead, according to Our Oregon spokesperson Chip Terhune, news deposits will likely be tapped at the end of the session to finance a new trust fund for state and local employee retirement benefits that fall outside of PERS, such as coverage for elective cosmetic surgery and automobile insurance.

Falling into line? According to ForestEthics, more than a dozen corporations - including, locally, the Portland Trailblazers and Norm Thompson Outfitters - have agreed to voluntary best-use policies, and dozens of others including Beaverton's Nike, Inc. have made environmental commitments.

Newhouse/Advance, owners of the newspaper chain that includes The Oregonian and the glitz & glamour stable of Condé Nast magazines, has declined to participate in any studies of its output or operations and has steadfastly refused commenting to investigative reporters concerning its controversial environmental and editorial practices.

Separately, ForestEthics announced yesterday that Macy's has been selected as the target for a new corporate responsibility campaign. The group will employ the negative-template used on the recently-concluded Victoria's Dirty Secret campaign that achieved "mission accomplished" status Dec. 6 after a sustained, two-year effort. Macy's, which recently acquired the Meier & Frank stores, is The Oregonian's largest advertising account.

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