by Pia K. Hansen
Java Aroma Taboo -- SPOKANE -- Some local coffee shops have had to put their bean-roasting dreams on hold because of air pollution regulations.
The Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority (SCAPCA) regulates emissions from coffee roasters as stringently as those of any other businesses.
There are many reasons local coffee shops venture into roasting their own beans. Some say it adds ambience to a cafe setting, others say that roasting onsite allows for the creation of special house blends.
So here's the problem: roasting coffee smells. To eliminate complaints from neighbors with sensitive olfactory nerves, coffee roasters are required to install a so-called afterburner on their roasting equipment. The price tag? Somewhere around $5,000 to fit a roaster that can handle five to seven pounds of coffee at a time.
"This is an odorous thing. Roasting coffee doesn't have a nice smell to it. It has more of a sweet, burned smell," says SCAPCA's Director Eric Skelton. "Many of the coffee houses are located in residential and congested areas, and they have short smokestacks."
But are there harmful agents in coffee smoke?
"No, we are coming at this from a nuisance management perspective," says Skelton. "In the past, we have received numerous complaints about the odor associated with coffee roasting."
Coffee roasters who do not comply with regulations may be fined.
The Answer, My Friends -- SPOKANE -- Avista Utilities is now offering all its customers the option of purchasing wind-generated power. The wind-generated power comes from the Stateline Wind Farm located near Walla Walla, Wash.
"This is a totally volunteer option," says Catherine Markson, communications manager for Avista Utilities. "[Our customers] wanted a simple program. That's how we came up with this Buck-a-Block idea."
The wind-generated power can be purchased in 55 kilowatt-hour (KWH) blocks. Each block is $1, in addition to the customer's normal rate.
"An average household uses about 1,000 KWH per month. People can go on-line and look at their historical power consumption, then sign up to purchase a number of blocks," says Markson.
But why the extra cost?
"Generating wind power is more expensive than other ways of generating power," says Markson. "This is a little like voting with your pocketbook. Now you can support wind power directly, if you think it's a good idea."
Windmills don't emit carbon dioxide -- a greenhouse gas -- like coal-fired power plants do, so utilizing wind power at a higher rate could cut down on air pollution. Avista expects somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of its customers to sign up for the new program. The extra premium is guaranteed to go toward the purchase of wind power.
"What you are doing is supporting that kind of energy," says Markson.
Sign up for the Buck-a-Block program at www.avistautilities.com or call 800-227-9187.
Reviving Downtown -- CHENEY, Wash. -- As students continue to pile onto Eastern Washington University's campus, the dorms have slowly but surely been filled to the brim. In the 1996-97 school year, 955 students called campus home -- today that number is 1,610 and growing.
To make room for students, the university has partnered with Spokane developer Rob Brewster on the construction of a new housing and retail development in downtown Cheney.
Located where the Bonanza Ford dealership used to be (on the corner of Second and F Streets) the proposed four-story brick building will house 140 students, a bookstore operated by EWU and a coffee shop run by a private party. It's expected to be ready by fall quarter.
"This is a fast-track project which addresses two important needs," says Rick Romeo, associate vice president for business services at EWU. "We need additional university housing to support the dramatic growth we have achieved in recent years, and the Cheney community is seeking to improve the downtown business core." EWU will pay $385,000 a year to lease the housing part of the building for 20 years.
Brewster has undertaken several restoration and development projects in Spokane, most notably the Holley Mason Building on South Howard.
"I hope this building benefits Eastern and its students and helps bolster the economy of Cheney," says Brewster. "It's a great public-private partnership, and I hope it becomes a catalyst for further development."