(503) 823-4288 coalition@nwnw.org

Commissioner Fritz Declines to Move Forward with Noise Changes

by Stanley Penkin

Proponents Express Disappointment

Following the Noise Review Board’s (NRB) unanimous decision last month rejecting  pile driving noise policy changes proposed by Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s office, the Commissioner issued a letter to Noise Task Force members and interested parties that she will not pursue policy change. Although not bound by the NRB decision, the Commissioner stated, “I heard from both the Task Force and the Noise Review Board, as well as from the pile driver union members and representatives who attended the March Noise Review Board meeting, an overarching concern that a variance process would not deter the use of impact hammer pile driving equipment.”

Proponents for change expressed disappointment with the Commissioner’s stance and feel that this decision is a failure in government’s basic responsibility to protect the health and well being of the public, a concern that had been extensively described in various testimony, discussed during the task force hearings and is a commonly held precept in the safety and health community across the country.

In an email to the Commissioner’s office, Stan Penkin stated, “The crux of the issue at hand is a simple one that has been unduly complicated: prohibit impact hammer pile driving except in situations where it is duly certified that other, quieter methods are geo-technically unfeasible. The issues of variance and fees etc. are ancillary to that basic premise and could easily be determined, barring undo resistance from some in the construction and development communities who might have other self interests.”

In another email to the Commissioner, David Mitchell, a member of the Pearl District’s Livability Committee wrote, “From where I sit, Commissioner Fritz’s decision not to recommend changes in this arena is a complete slap in the face of those of us who took time to participate in Noise Review Board deliberations and who promoted a very reasonable proposal, modeled after the provisions adopted in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg, requiring geological justification for impact pile driving over alternative and less intrusive approaches.”

Commissioner Fritz further stated in her letter that she would work with Noise Office Staff to explore ways to enforce notification requirements and that ONI staff will work on a project, as time allows, to study on-site mitigation and strategies utilized in other cities such as NY.

Proponents have called upon the Commissioner to sit down, face to face, for further discussion with those who have been directly engaged in this issue.

The public may submit comments to noise@portlandoregon.gov  and to Commissioner Fritz Amanda@portlandoregon.gov