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Published: Friday, 12/13/2002

Oregon officials burn over removals

Oregon property owners irate over the destruction of trees by Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC came away from a public meeting last night with no concrete solutions.

Tom Hays, a city attorney, said the municipality could not represent the homeowners in court because it did not own any of the involved properties.

That left the upset property owners talking about filing a class-action lawsuit against the oil company or organizing a consumers' boycott of its products.

Normally cool Oregon officials were decidedly hot under the collar over the oil company's removal of nearly 1,000 trees, many of them hardwoods generations old, from a pipeline easement running through the city.

City Council President Mike Sheehy said Marathon had “raped the environment,” and described the destruction of the trees as “something expected of vandals and visigoths.”

Councilman Matt Szollosi painted a graphic verbal picture of the damage: “I saw a 25-foot path, marked out by pink flags, with nothing but stumps. It disgusted me. The arrogance of this company is astounding.”

Marathon representatives were no-shows at the meeting in the City Council chamber. Mayor Marge Brown said she had received a phone call at 5:30 p.m. telling her it would be inappropriate for them to discuss issues about particular rights-of-way.

Mayor Brown and others urged the 45 people in attendance to call top Marathon executives with their complaints.

Mayor Brown said company officials, at a meeting yesterday morning, declined her request to stop removing Oregon trees.

Marathon has said it is in the middle of a plan to clean up easements for the purpose of safety.

Denise McCroskey, one of the homeowners, said the federal Office of Pipeline Safety told her the U.S. government did not require removal of trees from pipeline rights-of-way.

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