PORTLAND, Ore. – One year after Governor Kate Brown launched an initiative to clean up Oregon’s air following air quality concerns in Portland, the state legislature has failed to pass a bill that would fund it.
The Cleaner Air Oregon bill (HB 2269) was passed with amendments in the House but failed to make it out of the Senate this week.
Cleaner Air Oregon still exists but without a funding source it can’t be implemented.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports industrial lobbyists helped kill the bill. The initiative would have cost a little over $1 million to fund and that would have been paid by industrial polluters.
Cleaner Air Oregon would have charged polluters who are subject to the federal operating permit program to pay a “special activity fee” of up to about $1,500, depending on the amount of pollution they emit.
That money would have funded investigations of complaints related to polluters. Lobbyists said the bill could result in fewer jobs.
Legislators said they are hoping to find general fund dollars to support the bill before the legislative session ends in mid-July.
Gov. Brown said she was disappointed by the legislature’s actions, but Cleaner Air Oregon could be resuscitated.
"Oregonians across the state expect clean air. While it is disappointing the Legislature has not passed HB 2269, Cleaner Air Oregon and protecting Oregonians from hazardous air toxins remains my priority. My office continues to pursue resources to sustain this important work, and the agencies spearheading the initiative will be able to move forward, crafting rules critical to better protect public health,” she said.
Brown launched the Cleaner Air Oregon initiative following revelations that two Portland glass factories were emitting high levels of heavy metals, threatening the health of nearby residents.
Oregon’s current Department of Environmental Quality air quality permits are issued based on the EPA’s environmental regulations and don’t generally consider the impacts on human health.
Residents across the state have voiced concerns about nearby permitted industrial sources, including those living near Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland, oil re-refineries near Hayden Island, Daimler and other industrial sources on Swan Island, and the Amerities creosote plant in The Dalles. Residents have filed complaints with the DEQ but unless the companies are violating their permits, there’s little state officials can do to reduce pollution and mitigate negative health impacts.
Jessica Applegate with the East Portland Air Coalition has helped lead the Portland effort to support the initiative. She said Oregonians have already paid “untold health costs” due to industrial polluters.
“It is disgraceful that we have a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature and we can't push any environmental bills through,” she said. “It really shows who owns Oregon, and it's not the Democrats; it’s industrial lobbyists.”