Remembering Andy Araneo

by Roz Keller 

Andy Areneo and Sid Dominitz at Pamplin Grove. Photo credit, Richard Salzman

Andy Araneo passed away peacefully on May 13, 2020 at age 76. He had lived in Eureka since 1983.

We remember Andy for his commitment and persistence in publicly challenging the North Coast United Air Quality Management District (NCUAQMD) to hold the Simpson Paper and Louisiana Pacific pulp mills responsible for complying with state emission standards. For more than 20 years, the pulp mills had operated essentially without oversight or accountability. In the early ’90s, frustrated by Eureka’s terrible air quality and inspired by local environmental activist Ida Honorof, Andy founded a California non-profit, the Clean Air Network, with the support of the Northcoast Environmental Center. The pulp mills had never been required to comply with legal emission limits as they were always granted “variances” or permission to exceed standards, by the NCUAQMD. As a non-profit, Andy was able to receive official reports from Sacramento describing the air quality regulations and the actual emissions from the pulp mills. He accessed information provided by federal right-to-know laws. 

From the US Congress report “Creative Ways of Using and Dissemination Federal Information, June 1991: Despite the inaccuracy of Louisiana Pacific’s emissions data, Andrew Araneo, Coordinator of the Clean Air Network, emphasized the importance of federal TRI (toxic release information) data in providing easy access to industry figures at a low cost: ”specifically for areas which do not have cooperative regulators… right-to-know gives us the facts we need.”

Andy educated himself on the chemistry of particulates and other technical details. When he attended variance hearings, he was able to challenge the industry lawyers on the discrepancies between their reports and the official emissions data. 

Andy also received the support of California’s Assistant Attorney General Richard Roos-Collins, whom Andy kept informed about his findings. Finally, at one fateful variance hearing, a letter from Roos-Collins to the air district was delivered during the meeting, expressing support for Andy’s efforts and encouraging the district to do its job. For the first time in its history, a Simpson variance was denied. In December, 1992 Simpson closed its pulp mill, citing “costly environmental demands”. (They had also lost a $5.8 M suit brought by the Surfrider Foundation in 1989.) Louisiana Pacific adopted a chlorine-free, less toxic pulp process. The air in Eureka was breathable once again.

During this time, Andy also wrote the monthly Clean Air News to keep his supporters updated and served as vice president on the Northcoast Environmental Center Board of Directors.

 

Additional thoughts from Larry Glass

From the ’60s through the ’80s, when you arrived at the south end of Eureka on most days you were greeted with an overwhelming stench of chlorine and other foul-smelling chemicals. The local Chamber of Commerce would tell complaining visitors that it was the “smell of money”. The timber industry was so powerful in those days that few would dare to speak up. In the eighties, it was becoming more obvious to residents that this was not just a bad odor problem, this was a public health issue. It was during this time working with one of my heroes, Ida Honorof, that I was introduced to Andy Araneo. Andy was tireless in his search for the facts on the toxic pulp mill emissions. He cultivated relationships with regulators and even some in the industry who began leaking him facts and clues to pursue. Amidst all the controversy a citizen advisory committee was formed and I was appointed to it to represent the Environmental groups. I worked closely with Andy to make sure all of our issues and concerns were addressed. Andy always briefed me before every meeting to make sure I had the latest information and understood all the technical terms being thrown out at these meetings. We became good friends through this process. Andy played a key role in the demise of these toxic sources of pollution.