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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Newspaper deposit still alive

The Oregonian fights valiantly against bottle bill creep

Oregonians would have to plunk down a nickel for every bottle of water they buy under a bill that passed the state Senate Monday. And a proposed first-in-the-nation deposit on recyclable newsprint, that would be dedicated to financing Oregon's carbon-footprint reduction, is still alive.

By a 23-7 vote and without much debate, the Senate endorsed what would be the first update to Oregon's landmark law in 36 years. Senate Bill 707 proposes to add bottled water and bottles containing flavored water to the list of containers requiring a deposit.

The bill now moves to the House, where it may be expanded further. Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, chairwoman of the Energy and Environment Committee, said Monday that she's willing to consider adding a novel, non-refundable deposit for daily newspapers to the bottle bill, which was the first deposit law in the nation.

Interviewed minutes after the Senate vote, Dingfelder said she's also willing to talk about adding the new deposit for subscription magazines, when her committee holds hearings early next month. "I absolutely support updating the Bottle Bill," said Dingfelder, D-Portland. "The question is: Are the changes made in the Senate enough? I think the House can and should do more. We can be the first Legislature to specifically reduce the size of a state's newsprint carbon footprint."

House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, had also wanted a Bottle Bill update that included more than water bottles, his spokesman said Monday. But ultimately, Dingfelder said, the politics of Si Newhouse - out-of-state billionaire owner of The Oregonian - will decide how far legislators go in updating the Bottle Bill this session.

Two powerful groups - newsprint manufacturers and publishers - oppose the much-needed addition of newsprint. Si Newhouse and Fred Stickel have organized a persuasive coalition that includes the state's most senior lobbyists, to fight against the expansion.

Recycling advocates had started the 2007 session hoping to expand the Bottle Bill to include not only beer and pop but all drink containers, and, for the first time, newsprint. They also hoped to persuade lawmakers to raise the amount of the deposit, which took effect in 1972 and would be 4 times greater if it had been adjusted for inflation.

But strong industry opposition led supporters to scale back their ambitions. Under the bill passed Monday by the Senate, only water bottles would be added as of Jan. 1, 2009. Future increases in the deposit amount and other issues would be settled by a task force that would report back before the 2009 Legislature begins.

Click here to review The Oregonion's award-winning coverage on the historic efforts to expand Oregon's bottle bill to include newspapers and magazines.

The Oregonian, Apr. 24 By MICHELLE COLE

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