Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality has been working for the past year on a set of rules, known as Cleaner Air Oregon, aimed at regulating emissions produced by industrial facilities.
The new regulations have been drafted and are being presented for community discussion throughout the state. Thursday night, the DEQ met with concerned Coos County residents and industry representatives to take into consideration public comments for the final draft of these new regulations. Around 50 residents showed up for the Thursday meeting to take part in the discussion of new emission regulations.
Many industries, including the lumber industry are very worried about the effect that new regulations could have on businesses.
Ellen Porter, director of environmental affairs at Roseburg Forest Products said, “These rules are so stringent that if a facility can’t comply, or afford to comply they could lose their business.”
According to Porter, Cleaner Air Oregon’s industrial air quality regulations would be the most stringent in the nation.
The DEQ began drafting up the Cleaner Air Oregon regulations in response to an issue with Bullseye Glass, a glass manufacturing company that operates out of South Portland. Last year, Bullseye Glass was found blowing excess dust from toxic metals used to make different colors in its glass into the atmosphere, which set in motion the Clean Air Oregon regulations.
“One of the things that really upset people with Bullseye was that they were supposed to be subject to a federal standard, but they had gotten a determination from both DEQ and EPA that they didn’t have to comply with it. That’s why they didn’t have any emission controls on,” Tom Wood, an attorney with the firm Stoel and Rives who represents companies regarding emissions, said.
DEQ has since worked with Bullseye Glass to retrofit their facility to stop pumping out potentially dangerous toxins.
Over the first five years, new regulations would monitor the 80 highest risk facilities in the state. Businesses being monitored would be forced to report the emissions of up to 600 different air toxins. Businesses would also be tasked with assessing and reporting the health risks from their toxic emissions to the people living, working, or going to school near their facilities. Facilities will have to keep air toxic emissions below risk action levels by installing or upgrading emission control, use safer materials instead of hazardous ones, and adjust operations.
New regulations could be costly for some businesses. When a business is over the Risk Action Levels they will be forced to pay fees based on the level of risk.
Representatives from Roseburg Forest Products spoke at the meeting, arguing that these regulations were designed to address a problem in the urbanized Portland area, not in rural Oregon.
“Roseburg has spent around $50 million over the past several years as it is to get into compliance with the EPA’s emission standards. We find it concerning that that these rules were drafted largely in a response to issues in Portland. They’re trying to apply regulations statewide whether the issues are there or not. One size doesn’t fit all,” Porter said.
In the Cleaner Air Oregon plan, it says that companies operating at a higher risk can continue to operate if they are using the best controls. According to the document, companies will be able to choose the best way to reduce emissions.
Specifically speaking to the concerns of forest product companies DEQ argues that Washington currently has the same risk limits for air toxins as those proposed in the Cleaner Air Oregon plan, and the industry continues to expand and open new facilities.
“I think one of our biggest concerns is that politics is driving this program. Nobody is opposed to the idea of making sure we have good safe air… We need to make sure that we make sure we aren’t addressing Portland and rural areas in the same way, because they face very different issues,” Wood said.