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White City Company Pleads Guilty to Two Felony Counts in Jackson County Circuit Court
06/02/2008
Senior Trooper Craig Ball
OSP Special Investigations Unit
Office: (503) 934-0334
 
Leah Koss
DEQ Compliance & Enforcement - Portland
Office: (503) 229-6408
 
Anna Kemmerer
DEQ Air Quality - Medford
Office: (541) 776-6010

Panel Products to pay $100,000, receives 18 month probation
 
On May 23, 2008, the Jackson County Circuit Court sentenced Panel Products, LLC, owner and operator of a plywood mill in White City, to pay $100,000 in restitution and 18 months probation for felonies involving supplying false information to an agency.  The sentence of $100,000 is the maximum monetary penalty allowed under law for the two Class C felony counts against a corporation.
 
Panel Products operates a plywood manufacturing facility under an Air Contaminant Discharge Permit (ACDP), issued by DEQ, which allows the company to dry certain species of wood.  The permit expressly prohibits the drying of pine wood due to the amount of volatile organic compounds that are emitted from this type of wood and the lack of emission controls at the plant. 
 
In 2005 and 2006, Oregon State Police (OSP) Senior Trooper Craig Ball investigated irregularities in the required monitoring reports Panel Products submitted to DEQ.  The investigation revealed that the company had taken at least 190 deliveries of pine to the White City Facility in 2005.  Although the company had not reported the drying of pine in its required permit monitoring reports, Ball discovered that Panel Products concealed that it was drying pine by labeling it as “mixed” wood in its reports.
 
“They were (drying pine) at night, hiding pine when officials came by and destroying records,” said Deputy District Attorney Karen Loomis who prosecuted the case for Jackson County.  “Eventually, they got caught.”
 
The process used in drying any type of veneer, including pine, results in the release of fumes and vapors, or VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that contribute to ozone in the atmosphere. VOCs can damage soil and groundwater and poses a threat to human health by causing respiratory problems. Pine is less expensive than fir but emits approximately ten times more VOCs.
 
Panel Products’ White City facility is located in the Medford/Ashland Air Quality Maintenance Area, which is specially regulated for ozone pollution and VOC emissions.  Because of its status as an Air Quality Maintenance Area, VOCs need to be closely accounted for in the Medford/Ashland Area.  Due to the false reports submitted, the DEQ has no way of knowing exactly what was emitted into the air from Panel Products’ facility during that time.
 
Senior Trooper Ball is assigned to the OSP Fish & Wildlife Division’s Special Investigations Unit as an environmental investigator.  OSP and DEQ have a collaborative partnership for conducting criminal investigations regarding environmental law-related activity in Oregon.
 
Payment of the $100,000 penalty will be dispersed to three entities. The Governor’s Fund for the Environment will receive $80,000; the Western State’s Project, which trains state and local environmental regulators, will receive $10,000 and $10,000 will go to the state general fund.