Oregon Releases Draft Air Program Rules for Public Comment
Public comment open until December 22
Submit comments here: http://bit.ly/2zIGdwE
WHAT CLEANER AIR OREGON COULD BE: A bold program that drives industry innovation in emission controls by setting clear health standards, prioritizing authentic community engagement, and driving accelerated action with meaningful deadlines, ensuring all communities have healthy clean safe air.
WHAT THE DRAFT CURRENTLY IS: Oregon’s new program proposal requires significantly more from industry with regard to reporting emissions, and that’s good. However, if history serves us, its emphasis on regulating a small subset of polluting companies coupled with allowances for high risk levels for cancer and other diseases–and its reliance on fully agency-resourced analysis and implementation–ensures that effective pollution reduction will be slow, and potentially elusive altogether. In the current draft, the question of adequate funding for the Department of Environmental Quality continues to be the political juggernaut that will ultimately determine success or failure of CAO.
Governor Kate Brown responded quickly to the revelations about Portland’s air toxins by creating Cleaner Air Oregon, a rigorous program that would fundamentally shift Oregon’s regulations from technology based rules to health based standards. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) staff brought visionary ideas to the table that made us confident that Oregon could indeed embark on an innovative effort to clean up our air. Under successful pressure from industry, however, the program was watered down from the promised ambitious, health-based program with well-defined and strong health standards, to one that instead prioritizes the profit margins of regulated facilities. In this way the program replicates current technology-based standards as opposed to establishing innovative mechanisms for protecting public health. We continue to be committed to ensuring that Cleaner Air Oregon is a visionary program that would set a national standard on air quality and environmental stewardship.
Returning to the earlier work of DEQ/OHA staff, there are some alterations from the original program that, if restored, could also restore the faith of the public in the public health protectiveness of the CAO.
- Existing facilities should have the same health standards as proposed new facilities. The different standards between existing and new facilities shifts the focus away from public health. The public is affected by toxic emissions regardless of a facility’s age.
- The program currently proposes a hard cap of 500 cancer deaths per million people per facility, beyond which permits will not be granted. This does not support or encourage innovation or improvement, and is essentially the same as no cap, potentially allowing an offending industry to avoid mitigation or curtailment.
- The area cap program was the most innovative idea that came out of the early research. It originally included consideration of community sources, such as diesel and construction-related emissions, as well as multiple industrial sources impacting one community. These community sources pose a significant public health risk in many neighborhoods, and if the area cap program is to protect those most vulnerable to air pollution, these sources must be taken into consideration. Just because these emissions are not associated with industrial facilities does not mean we should be allowing further polluting industry to be sited there, where residents are already vulnerable to air pollution and its attendant health impacts.
- CAO should apply to all companies upon adoption, require immediate action, and not be artificially restricted by agency funding and resources. Any restrictions to implementation are a resource question to be determined ultimately by the state legislature’s allocation of funds, but are inappropriate to be included in the rules themselves. We oppose the agencies including a cap on the maximum number of facilities under regulatory consideration as that number should be based on agency resources and not included in the rulemaking itself. We are committed to advocating for full CAO funding and trust that the agencies will enforce these rules.
- CAO requires meaningful public participation. Effective public engagement throughout this process also requires prioritization of the areas most impacted by air pollution, dissemination of all information in accessible language, and advance notification for community members. Language translation is critical for spoken and printed material along with childcare services, food, and transportation assistance for those who need it. As an environmental justice principle, it is our responsibility to bring the information to the community for their meaningful input and not vice versa.
DEQ and OHA were responsive to community requests for multiple public hearings in Portland, so now there will be two opportunities for community members to testify in public instead of one:
Wednesday Nov. 29, 2017, 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
PCC SE Campus, Community Hall, 2305 SE 82nd
Portland, OR 97216
Saturday Dec. 2, 2017, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Portland, OR 97232
There will be additional hearings throughout the state:
Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, 5:30-8:00 PM
Walnut Community Room – 4950 NW Fair Oaks Drive
Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, 5:30-7:30 PM
Pendleton Library – 502 SW Dorion Avenue
The following organizations are advocating for healthy air in our communities, and are able to offer additional resources to community members who want to be engaged in the fight to clean up our air:
Neighbors for Clean Air
Tori Cole, Project Manager
Adam Brunelle, Program Coordinator
OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
María Hernández Segoviano, Advocacy Coordinator
Eastside Portland Air Coalition
Cully Air Action Team
Member of the Oregon Environmental Justice Task Force