Why You And I Are Thrilled to Protect Oregon’s People, Pollinators and Places – Again!

I’m writing this from the bedside of my childhood friend who grew up on the same street as I. Ten days ago she was fine. Today she is transitioning to her passing. Her breathing is ragged, her eyes are unfocused. Her doctors at Stanford University Medical Center told the family they have never seen such a rare and aggressive cancer. They can’t stop it, they can’t even slow it down.

Cancer. Linked to environmental pollution from toxic chemicals and poisonous pesticides.

More than 150 people from around the state braved rain and cold to show their support for clean water and healthy wildlife on the capitol steps in Salem.

 

Perhaps you were at our Rally for Water and Wildlife at the State Capitol last week. We demonstrated to demand that state elected leaders BE LEADERS when it comes to protecting the quality of Oregon’s air and water. I asked the crowd of more than 150 to raise their hands if their family has a loved one impacted by cancer. Nearly every person raised their hands. The ever-rising risk of cancer correlates strongly with toxic pollution in the air you breathe and the water you drink. The World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggests that air pollution alone is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. The mountain of medical research establishing clear links between cancer and exposures to environmental toxics is enough to fill the hallways of the Capitol building!

Krystal Abrams introduces Lisa Arkin, one of the rally speakers.

Perhaps you are like me, feeling confident Oregon will be a bulwark against the destructive forces now in charge of the EPA and other federal environmental protections.

But that’s not the way things are working out – at least not yet. Pollinators are left unprotected. Aerial pesticide sprays will continue without accountability. Air toxics won’t be measured.

The good news: our bills got hearings! That is a huge step, reserved for bills that have a fighting chance and could be reintroduced in the next legislative session. The bad news: after the highest hopes for successful passage, I am frustrated to report our 2017 bills were killed in committee.

Here are the three reasons why:

1. The Budget: Oregon has gotten itself into a multi-million dollar deficit. Bills with a “price tag” are being unceremoniously dumped, regardless of their merit. Here’s a secret that the public rarely hears: a state agency can give a bill an astronomical price tag, which is a sure way to stop a bill in its tracks. The Department of Forestry put a price tag of more than $300,000 on SB 892, to expand their online notification system to accommodate advanced warnings of aerial pesticide sprays. An overblown number for sure! The Department of Agriculture put a $70,000 price tag on OPPA, SB 929. That’s more realistic. The whopper was the DEQ’s claim that they needed an additional 6 full time positions to administer the Toxics Right to Know bill, SB 995. That price tag amounts to nearly $700,000. Budget battles (outside of our control) played a significant role in the demise of our bills on pollinators, aerial spray and air toxics reporting.

2. Rampant Industrial Lobbying: Our legislators let themselves fall prey to the same worn-out, old gimmicks by industrial lobbyists, the very same tactics used to fuel the current demise of the US Environmental Protection Agency. After intense lobbying about “job killing regulations” or “fringe environmental agitators,” legislators decided that bees don’t need help to survive the ongoing pollinator crisis. Legislators were somehow convinced that providing advanced warning before an aerial spray is not “fair” to the pesticide applicators. Beyond Toxics brought truth backed by science to the state capitol. We submitted a raft of peer-reviewed scientific studies into the public record – only to hear that a key legislator didn’t bother to read the bill or the record before his NO vote!

3. Sacrificial Lambs: We were told that our toxics reporting bill was “sacrificed” to gain industry’s support for other bills, such as the Clean Diesel bill. That means that lawmakers promised to drop one bill as a bargaining chip to garner support for another bill. Don’t you wonder why any legislator would continue to fall for this ploy? Industry is fighting vehemently against all the clean air bills, as well as trying to block the DEQ air toxics budget! They are eager to accept a “bargain” that will kill one bill, and then demand more bargaining chips for each other bill.

Specifically here’s the wrap-up on our 2017 bills:

Pollinators will be doomed to further die-offs and extinctions. The Oregon Pollinator Protection Act (SB 929) was pulled off the agenda an hour before the committee vote. The bill, an important strategy to reduce bee-killing neonicotinoids, would have removed this class of pesticides from general consumer store shelves. The bill garnered support throughout the State Legislature as well as over 35+ businesses and organizations. Thanks to many of you, the bill’s hearing drew overflow crowds.

The Bee Protectors at the State Capitol in Salem. In March people from all over Oregon traveled to speak in favor of SB 929, Oregon Pollinator Protection Act.

Legislators left science behind when they succumbed to false claims by Big Ag that “honey bees are making a comeback.” However, the bill does much more than protect domesticated honey bees. Native bees, butterflies and birds need our help now. Aren’t we all shocked to learn that eight species of native bees are declared in danger of extinction? Neonicotinoids are also being found in our food, our drinking water and our bodies, a threat to food justice and health.

Rural Oregonians will continue to be poisoned on their own property and have their property rights denied. Beyond Toxics introduced the concepts for a set of bills comprising the Aerial Spray Protection and Right to Know legislation (SB 499, 500 & 892). The key bill, SB 892, required giving advanced notice to residents of imminent aerial pesticide sprays and required that chemical mixtures be reported five days after the spray. At the public hearing, committee members heard heart-wrenching testimony from folks coming from as far south as Gold Beach and as far north as Rockaway Beach. Senator Dembrow, the bill’s sponsor, worked hard to find compromise, but in the end the key vote, Senator Roblan (Dist. 5 – Coos Bay) voted against the bill, showing his disdain for the science on pesticide drift and for rural residents who have come to the legislature for years begging for relief.

Polluters get to cloak their toxic air pollution in secrecy, while your lungs get clogged. Beyond Toxics’ popular bills to require polluters to report their toxic air emissions (SB 995 and HB 2669) had good hearings, but were two of our “sacrificial bills” that legislators leveraged for support for other environmental bills.

Our bills didn’t advance for political reasons, not because they lacked merit! e will continue to fight hard to pass environmental protections for Oregonians and pollinators, for drinking water and neighborhood air. It means a lot to me, as a grandmother, to ensure that future Oregonians will never ask, “What does a bumble bee look like?”

As I look down on my friend’s face, grey pallor in her morphine-induced sleep, I am hit hard with the reminder that chemical trespass and pollution affects all of us, often in devastating and random ways that change our lives forever. I will fight to make it standard behavior for lawmakers to consider the costs and burdens of environmentally-induced illness first and foremost. It is time to put a halt to the false dichotomy of jobs versus the environment. We are the environment and the environment is within each of us. It is imperative to keep Oregon healthy for the sake of our loved ones.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

 


Photos by John Jordan-Cascade

Senator Michael Dembrow champions the health of rural Oregonians

Senator Michael Dembrow first championed the rights of rural Oregonians in the matter of aerial
herbicide spray exposures in 2014. As Chair of the Senator Environment and Natural Resources Committee, he convened a public information hearing in Dec. 2014 and hosted residents from Curry, Douglas and Lane counties to offer testimony of their experiences with pesticide drift from aerial herbicide spray operations on timber land. For the current legislative session, Senator Dembrow is the bill sponsor of SB 892, a bill that would require advanced warning before an aerial spray and the filing of complete spray records with the Dept of Forestry. There are insufficient words of gratitude for Senator Dembrow and his laser-sharp focus on the critical issues of rural community health and accountability in forest practices. Here is the moving testimony he presented in front of his Senate colleagues on March 22nd at the first hearing for SB 892.

~ Lisa Arkin


Sen. Michael DembrowTestimony from Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Dist. 23 – Portland) given in support of SB 892 in front of the Senate Committee On Environment and Natural Resources on March 22, 2017:

March 22, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

During my earlier stint as Chair of this committee, I became aware of the serious concerns that many Oregonians have about aerial application of pesticides on forestlands and their fear of being the victims of misapplication.

The specific misapplication that made me aware of this problem was a notorious incident in Curry County that ultimately proved to be a case of misconduct on the part of the applicator. We heard from a number of local residents who were harmed by this misconduct, some really terribly stories.

Any time aerial pesticide drifts into a neighbor’s property, that’s a misapplication and a cause of concern. Neighbors legitimately fear that the application nearby will harm their children, their pets, or they themselves.

Applicators may say that they have no reason to fear, but I would argue that their concern is real and it is legitimate. If an application is scheduled to occur, they should know that and be able to plan for it, taking whatever steps they feel are necessary to make sure that their children and pets are kept indoors or kept safely away from the property.

Ideally, people should be able to receive notification just before the application was going to happen, allowing them to make these plans. In an ideal world they would receive a phone call or a knock on the door, or a leaflet when an application was scheduled or, as often occurs, rescheduled due to weather or other problems. Some timber owners have a practice of doing this, but most do not. And expecting them all to do this kind of personal contact every time would be too much to ask.

But in reality we’re not limited to doing things the old-fashioned way. Thanks to improvements in technology, we have a pathway to providing Oregonians with the notification that they desire, while not putting an undue burden on owners and operators. The Department of Forestry’s new electronic FERNS system is that pathway, and SB 892 as amended will allow us to utilize this technology to give neighbors and visitors to state parks the notification that they need.

We did not have that technology in 2015, but we do now. I’ve been following the development of FERNS over the last couple of years and talking about it with the good people at the Dept. of Forestry. FERNS is designed to collect the information that is already required of landowners, operators, and applicators and available to the public through a paid paper subscriber service. I believe that FERNS will soon be ready to provide the real-time notification that many Oregonians desire, while doing so with minimal impact on forestry owners and operators. While the Department must of course remain neutral on the policy behind SB 892, I believe that you’ll hear from them the details on how FERNS is ready to accomplish these goals.

We’ve drafted SB 892 to be as close to the existing ORS 527.670 and current Board of Forestry rules, to make it easier for industry to adopt the requirements of the bill.

The -2 amendments seek to address some of the concerns that we heard from industry. The landowner, operator, or applicator will file their written plan for an operation with the same information currently in rule. The notification to the Department will include the planned date of the operation. This information will be posted on the FERNS system and made available to all those who have subscribed
to the FERNS service. Then, within five days after the operation has been completed, the report on the application, which the operator is currently required to complete, must be submitted to the Department. This will also be submitted electronically, by scan or photograph, or whatever is easiest for the operator.

In an ideal world, the operation will always occur on the anticipated date, and in many cases, they will be able to do the operation on the planned date. But in other cases they will not. Weather, equipment issues, illness can interfere with the best-laid plans. We heard a lot of concern from industry about that. So the bill provides a five-day window for them to do the operation without having to notify the Department of any changes. They can do it two days before the planned date or two days after. If that window doesn’t work, they can submit a new date via FERNS or simply call the department or their forest steward contact. That new information will then go up on FERNS to keep the neighbors up to speed. Or, if the decision is made to cancel the operation entirely, that information will also be communicated as it currently is and posted.

Colleagues, we have heard in the past and you will hear again why this kind of transparency and timely notification is important to people. However you feel about the necessity of pesticide use in our forestland, we can all have a shared commitment to keeping people healthy, safe, and free from worry.

Colleagues, you do not see an emergency clause on this bill because we want to give landowners a lot of lead time to prepare for these modest changes. The operative date for the new system is September 1, 2018, more than a year after what I hope will be the passage of this sensible bill.

——————–END of testimony

The entire hearing is available on video (via the state legislature website) here.

More about SB 892 from Beyond Toxics->>

Oregon Forestry Agency Suppresses Science

The above photo is what legal stream protection in Oregon looks like. This photo was taken at an oxbow clearcut site in the Oregon Coast Range.

 

It is all of our duty to hold our elected leaders accountable for actions that put the health of our communities at risk. Beyond Toxics has been working for 4 years to bring sound scientific reporting and analysis of forestry pesticide applications into the decision-making processes at our state capitol.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) did an investigative report and found that the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) suppressed a scientific water quality assessment by the Department of Environmental Quality. Read the full OPB report

In Oregon, surface water, drinking water, and human health is poorly protected, or not protected at all, especially compared to the regulations and policies in place in our neighboring states of Washington and Idaho. This is why it’s so important to review and consider scientific data and facts when making decisions about the impacts of industrial forestry practices on Oregon’s drinking water and salmon streams. Read the Oregon’s Industrial Forests and Herbicide Use report to learn how The Oregon Forest Practices Act prevents the public from knowing about pesticide use and potential threats to human and wildlife health.

This is but one way Oregon’s timber industry bullies government agencies into disregarding environmental health and safety for Oregonians in favor of driving timber profits higher. Coastal towns have struggled with contaminated drinking water for years after herbicide sprays and increasing amounts of sediment in streams from the landslides that result from clear-cutting on steep slopes. See the video Timber’s Cover-Up to learn more about how forest ecosystems are interrupted and destroyed by conventional industrial forestry.

The following letters were sent to The Board of Forestry and Governor Brown in response to the issue of the Department of Environmental Quality & Oregon Department of Forestry ignoring an important scientific report on public resources and drinking water in the Oregon Coast.

*Please consider writing your own letter voicing your concerns to Governor Brown and also the Board of Forestry.*

 


Oregon Board of Forestry
2600 State Street
Salem, OR 97310

Dear Members of the Board of Forestry,

On behalf of our 50,000 members from all across Oregon, the eight undersigned organizations write to you today with serious concerns over recent revelations that the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) suppressed an important scientific report aimed at protecting human health and clean drinking water on the Oregon Coast.

On January 6, Oregon Public Broadcasting featured an investigative report which described how lobbyists from the logging industry and staff with the Oregon Department of Forestry, specifically State Forester Peter Daugherty, pressured the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to suppress a scientific report on the risks that industrial clearcut logging practices may pose to clean drinking water in Oregon’s coastal communities.

Many aspects of this investigative report are troubling, not the least of which is State Forester Peter Daugherty’s denial of long-settled science regarding clearcutting, steep slopes, and sediment washing into streams that supply drinking water. Mr. Daugherty’s comments in the OPB story and in the public records the story references demonstrate efforts to suppress concerns about landslide risks from clearcutting, despite the fact that DEQ specifically included scientific references to landslide risks in its study.

We urge this board to take action to ensure that ODF, and the State Forester refrain from such behavior in the future, and take the following steps:

  • Have Mr. Daugherty explain himself in a public meeting, and then consider disciplinary action using available Administrative Guidelines.
  • Develop guidelines and policies that provide greater oversight in the area of drinking water protection.
  • Provide complete and unbiased support to DEQ to complete and release the 2015 drinking water report.
  • Ensure ODF respects the mission and work product of other state agencies and science related to forest practices, water quality and ecosystem impacts.

The people of Oregon must be able to trust that regulatory bodies tasked with protecting clean drinking water and human health in this state are working in the public interest, and not at the whim of corporate lobbyists. Please act quickly to address the grave concerns many have voiced over the behavior of this Board and ODF, and take meaningful steps to regain the trust and faith of the many Oregonians who depend on Oregon’s forests for our drinking water.

Sincerely,

Oregon Wild
Portland Audubon Society
Cascadia Wildlands
Beyond Toxics
Oregon Coast Alliance
Coast Range Association
Umpqua Watersheds
Citizens of Rockaway Beach for Watershed Protection
Native Fish Society
WildEarth Guardians
Center for Biological Diversity


 

The Honorable Governor Kate Brown
State Capitol Building
900 Court Street NE, #160
Salem, Oregon 97301

Dear Governor Brown:

On behalf of our 50,000 members from all across Oregon, the eight undersigned organizations write to
you today with grave concerns over recent revelations that an important scientific report by the
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) aimed at protecting human health and clean drinking water on the Oregon Coast was suppressed through political and agency pressure. We urge you to instruct DEQ to complete and release the 2015 drinking water report, direct your staff to develop and implement policy changes needed to address the issues the report identifies, and appoint a member to the Oregon Board of Forestry who is qualified to bring an understanding of hydrology and water quality to ODF that is currently lacking.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) featured a story on January 6 from reporter Tony Schick which
described how logging industry lobbyists, Oregon Department of Forestry staff, and some legislators
applied pressure on DEQ to suppress a scientific report on the risks that industrial clearcut logging
practices may pose to clean drinking water in Oregon’s coastal communities. The OPB story raised many concerns which we hope you share. From the story:

The fate of that report offers a glimpse at what can happen when a state environmental agency’s
work runs afoul of a politically influential industry. It also shows how, on certain forestry issues, the
agenda of state regulators aligns more closely with the timber industry than with concerned citizens.

Many aspects of this investigative report are troubling, not the least of which is State Forester Peter
Daugherty’s denial of long-settled science regarding clearcutting, steep slopes, and sediment washing
into streams that supply drinking water. Mr. Daugherty’s comments in the OPB story and in the public
records the story references demonstrate efforts to suppress concerns about landslide risks from
clearcutting, despite the fact that DEQ specifically included scientific references to landslide risks in its
study. That a senior leader in the agency would deny the very existence of this science is deeply
troubling.

There is a growing accumulation of evidence which leads us to question the behavior of ODF staff and
the Board of Forestry that oversees the agency. This pattern of denying science and evidence that proves inconvenient to the logging industry is akin to the tobacco industry’s denial of cancer links, and the oil industry’s denial of climate change. This is the same pattern that led to the air toxics scandal in Portland and lax oversight of a host of other environmental and human health concerns in our state.
Additionally, the OPB story draws attention to the cozy relationship between ODF and timber industry
lobbyists. Rather than working to protect Oregonians and the environments we live in, some ODF staff
appear to operate on guidance to shield the very industry they regulate from Oregon citizens who expect the agency to enforce forestry rules that keep them and their drinking water safe.

In the past few years OPB, The Oregonian, and many other local news outlets have featured stories that highlight concerns from places like Rockaway Beach, where clearcutting and aerial pesticide spraying have severely damaged the town’s drinking water supply; or Triangle Lake, where the local school, surrounded by clearcuts, found forestry herbicides in the children’s drinking water; or Gold Beach where over three dozen residents complained of illness, property damage and contaminated drinking water from chemicals released by aerial herbicide spraying. These stories give voice to towns like Yachats, whose Mayor went on the record in 2015 to state that clearcut logging dried up the town’s drinking water source a statement supported by research from Oregon State University (OSU). (Jones, Perry 2016)

Governor Brown, Oregonians are counting on you to break this inappropriate relationship between
corporate interests and the agencies that are supposed to oversee them. We believe it is important at
this time that the Governor’s office take action that demonstrates this behavior is unacceptable, and that Oregon will act decisively to protect human health and clean drinking water regardless of where affected communities are located. We cannot allow Oregon to become a state with one set of rules for polluters in Portland, and a second, weaker standard for polluting industries in the Coast Range.

You can restore confidence in DEQ and other state agencies by acting quickly and decisively to address this situation. Specifically, we urge you to take three actions as soon as possible:

  • Direct DEQ to finish and publish the 2015 report titled Oregon Coastal Drinking Water
    Protection Planning, instructing them to release the report in its entirety, including portions that
    ODF and logging lobbyists sought to suppress. DEQ, and all regulatory agencies, need
    direction to implement strategies which prevent the undermining of good science, public
    concerns, or potentially protective regulatory mechanisms.
  • Develop administrative and legislative policy changes to address the issues identified in the
    DEQ report, specifically addressing the lack of drinking water protections for rural Oregon.
  • Appoint a member to the Board of Forestry who is a hydrologist or similar water specialist
    qualified to understand the science regarding drinking water (both quality and quantity issues),
    and who can effectively understand and communicate with agencies like DEQ.

Governor Brown, we know that you share our concern for clean drinking water and human health in
Oregon. As a state we must not allow corporate lobbyists to dictate what scientific evidence our
regulatory agencies are allowed to consider in protecting those values, or allow them to completely
capture a major state agency to the point where it advocates against public health rather than for it.
Please act quickly to address both the scandal around this report, and the urgent need for stronger rules to protect clean drinking water and community health in our coastal communities.

Sincerely,

Oregon Wild
Portland Audubon Society
Cascadia Wildlands
Beyond Toxics
Oregon Coast Alliance
Coast Range Association
Umpqua Watersheds
Citizens of Rockaway Beach for Watershed
Protection
Native Fish Society
WildEarth Guardians
Center for Biological Diversity


 

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

Frontline Communities Need Air Data

Murphy Plywood Mill in Eugene, OR

Air Toxics in West Eugene, OR

All communities need their voices heard and their rightful place in the decisions to strengthen Oregon’s air quality laws. In order to be effective advocates for their own communities and their families’ health, impacted residents need accurate and complete data about toxic pollutants in the Air.

The following letter was submitted on Jan. 10 & 11 to legislators to let them know the will of communities and to ask them to commit to strong toxics reporting laws. Good air follows from accurate data, strong policy and regulations.

Dear Senator Riley, Senator Taylor, Representative Nosse and Representative Helm,

We are writing to follow up with you on your commitment to introduce and pass a Toxics Reporting bill in 2017.

The undersigned groups represent impacted Oregon communities who want legislation that upholds their fundamental right to know what’s in the air and water in their neighborhoods. The principles of environmental justice insist that our communities deserve full public engagement, agency transparency and factual information that we can access easily.

Oregon already has a Toxics Reporting (aka Community Right-To-Know) statute on the books, used successfully since 1996 by the Eugene Fire Marshall’s Office. However, community-level reporting is not enough to satisfy the principles of environmental justice. Some local governments may adopt a Toxics Right-to-Know program if engaged constituents are organized and vocal. Other local governments may not adopt any such program, again leaving some vulnerable communities at a disadvantage to engage in meaningful discussions about their quality of life.

On December 1, 2016, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality launched its own toxics reporting program when Interim Director Whitman sent a letter to regulated industrial facilities requesting “inventories” of substances they use from a list of 633 toxic chemicals. This new action suggests the DEQ recognizes the need for statewide toxics reporting for better regulatory effectiveness. However, the DEQ inventory requirement is deficient in two core areas.

First, the emissions inventory is based on estimations and modeling. This method lacks accuracy. Regulators need data generated by a precise system based on materials balancing. Materials balancing is the system used by the Eugene Fire Marshall that requires exact mathematical input-output calculations for air, water and land. Materials balancing is critical, particularly in cases where toxic emissions are caused by non-stack activities such as grinding, cutting, shredding, off-gassing, evaporation and other fugitive emissions, all of which can be substantial.

Secondly, the DEQ is not planning to make emissions data accessible to the public. This violates Governor Brown’s directive to provide communities with air quality information. Governor Brown promised that the DEQ will be “providing Oregon families ready access to information about industrial emissions near their homes.” Truly, our communities deserve full public engagement grounded in factual information that we can access in a straightforward manner. The solution is access to data via a public website.

In light of these needs, we urge you to adopt these four critical components of Statewide Toxics Reporting legislation:

1. Stable Funding: “Polluter Pays” based upon quantity of toxic chemicals emitted;
2. Statewide Reporting: All Oregon industrial manufacturers with air or water quality permits are required to report toxics emissions to the DEQ. Statewide reporting is necessary because local reporting programs are inequitable;
3. Accurate Data-Not Estimated Data: Require annual materials balancing, a comprehensive mathematical reporting of toxic releases to air, water and land by the pound, or in the case of a hazardous or extremely hazardous chemicals and radioactive substances, less than a pound;
4. Environmental Justice and Community Engagement: Establishes public and user-friendly online access to toxics reporting data to assist community right to know and informed stakeholder input.
When Governor Brown announced a new statewide initiative, Cleaner Air Oregon in April 2016, she issued a clear commitment to vulnerable communities that“[c]ontinued public engagement as the regulatory reform process moves forward will be critical to achieving cleaner industrial air emissions in our neighborhoods throughout Oregon.”

However, we feel at a disadvantage in the public engagement process without the ability to inform our own communities about the toxics exposures they actually face. Without accurate data and the ability to locate the sources of toxics emissions, our participation is merely subjective estimations of public health risks.

We ask you, as our elected representatives, to address community vulnerability and the principles of environmental justice. Please work with us to introduce and pass a 2017 State Toxics Reporting bill.

Our community organizations promise to sustain your efforts.

We would appreciate a reply to representatives of the following organizations describing your plans to work towards toxic emissions reporting. Thank you very much for your work on protecting air quality and reducing health risks to vulnerable communities.

Signed,

Seventeen Community Groups Who Want Clean Air and Healthy Families:

1. Beyond Toxics

2. Eastside Portland Air Coalition (EPAC)

3. Corvallis Clean Air

4. The Dalles Air Coalition

5. PDX North Harbor Neighbors

6. Linnton Neighborhood Association Board

7. Cully Clean Air

8. South Portland Air Quality (SPAQ)

9. Citizens of Rockaway Beach

10. Portland Clean Air

11. NWDA Air Quality Committee

12. Environment and Human Health Advisory

13. McPhillips Farms (McMinnville)

14. Concerned Citizens for Clean Air (Lincoln County)

15. Cleaner Air Grants Pass

16. Hillsboro Air and Water

17. Stop the Dump Coalition (Yamhill County)

6. Linnton Neighborhood Association Board

7. Cully Clean Air

8. South Portland Air Quality (SPAQ)

9. Citizens of Rockaway Beach

10. Portland Clean Air

11. NWDA Air Quality Committee

12. Environment and Human Health Advisory

13. McPhillips Farms (McMinnville)

14. Concerned Citizens for Clean Air (Lincoln County)

15. Cleaner Air Grants Pass

16. Hillsboro Air and Water

17. Stop the Dump Coalition (Yamhill County)

 

Strides to Improve Air Quality and Ban Asbestos

_mg_2822_500sqHealthy air should be a basic right, but all over the world, people face exposure to toxins that remain unregulated and dangerous. It’s important that the public becomes more educated about these toxins, both in the natural environment and those hidden in consumer products or construction materials within our own homes. With better awareness and education, we can reduce the health risks these toxins pose, and help change the laws that allow the presence of toxic chemicals.

Success for a Healthy Environment

Beyond Toxics has made great strides through their Air Quality Campaign, which focuses on eliminating the harmful effects of air pollution through changes in public policies. Their focus is rallying communities and creating partnerships to spark long-lasting change. One such project, Healthy Air Oregon, focuses on improving air quality, reducing air toxics and reducing greenhouse gases. Because of its extremely hazardous legacy, Beyond Toxics especially focused on getting benzene out of our air. This chemical is among the 20 most widely used in the United States, and is a natural part of gasoline. Benzene is colorless and off-gases quickly, which is how most people are exposed. Benzene has been found to cause cancer, particularly childhood leukemia and other blood cancers. By working with businesses to adopt a No Idling Policy–meaning turning off your car in parking lots, while waiting in line, etc.–the campaign helps limit the amount of pollution from our cars, while further educating the public on the health benefits of doing so.

Awareness and the Need for Action

In addition to being aware of our own potentially harmful footprint on the environment, it’s also essential to be aware of the hazardous materials used by local businesses and manufacturers. The Environmental Protection Agency created The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986 to ensure hazardous products were stored and handled correctly to reduce risks to the public health and environment. It’s still an active part of communities.

For example, the City of Eugene passed the Community Toxics Right-to-Know Ordinance allowing the public to know exactly, down to the pound, what toxic chemicals are going into the air and water.

The public’s right-to-know helps to keep businesses in check and makes it possible for regulators to do their job. Just this past summer, the Hillsboro Landfill Inc. in Oregon was fined by the DEQ for failing to properly cover waste containing asbestos.


causes-of-asbestos-lung-cancerAsbestos is a natural fiber
known for its fire resistant qualities. There are six different kinds, all of which are carcinogenic, but despite its health risks, asbestos was widely used in construction, for insulation, shingles, roofing, and so on. Asbestos can even be found in average household objects, like certain hair dryers. When disturbed, asbestos fibers can be inhaled and attach to our respiratory system. Because our body can’t break down the fibers, exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of serious health risks, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Because of its known health risks, 52 countries have already banned this toxin. Sadly, the United States is not among them, despite the fact that there’s no safe level of exposure and millions of people are at risk. In June, President Obama signed The Frank R. Lautenberg Act, which amends the Toxic Substances Control Act. This new legislation can help create a path to completely ban asbestos and other toxic chemicals.

Over the next few months, the Oregon Legislature will consider requiring toxics reporting to risk based on the public’s and environmental health and to help agencies track where toxics go.

We can all have a voice in this fight to ban asbestos and to demand toxics reporting.

Here are actions you can take:

1. Please sign our online petition;
2. Contact the Oregon DEQ at cleanerair@deq.state.or and ask them to institute full Toxics Reporting for air and water pollution.
3. Voice your support for the EPA to include asbestos on their list and move forward with the ban. Call your representatives in Congress to support the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016, which requires the EPA to take action against asbestos.

We need to unify our voices and be proactive to ban asbestos and other hazardous toxins in our environment and homes. Great strides have been made with the help of Beyond Toxics and other organizations working with their communities to make change. Together, we can tackle the toxins that put innocent lives and our earth at risk.

Anna Suarez
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center (MAAC)

Beyond Toxics Speaks Truth to Timber’s Tall Tales

AERIAL SPRAY RESPONSE:
(this was published as a Letter to the Editor of the Eugene Weekly)

The Register Guard published a Nov. 30 guest viewpoint written by former Lane County Commissioner, Anna Morrison, who no longer lives in Oregon. Displaying her ignorance, she suggested that aerial pesticide sprays are nothing to worry about.

If Morrison had done her homework about aerial sprays, she could have started with Arizona, her new home state. Arizona laws require a 1,320-ft. buffer zone for schools to protect children from pesticide drift. Homes and health care facilities in Arizona are protected by no-spray buffers over 20 times larger than Oregon’s laws.

So how can Morrison falsely opine that Oregon’s paltry 60-ft. pesticide buffers are the nation’s best? Oregon timber trespass laws are Neolithic compared with other states. Arizona, Washington, California and Idaho require large protective buffers because their laws are based on science. Each state recognizes pesticide drift as inevitable.

What’s more, she slammed Mountain Rose Herbs, a local company that provides jobs for 200 people, for following reputable business practices — destroying plants they found were contaminated with the timber herbicide, atrazine and taking the economic hit.

State regulators have rarely sanctioned these pesticide trespass violations. Complaints about ill health and ruined property are not well accounted for by state agencies — take the 2013 Gold Beach case where over 35 people reported being poisoned. That egregious case was counted as a single complaint!

Despite our state’s problems with proper reporting, pesticide testing and public accountability, the herbal company alerted the public because as owner Shawn Donnille said, “people and organic crops should have a basic right to avoid being sprayed by dangerous chemicals.”

Beyond Toxics introduced 2015 legislation to require hefty buffers and advanced notification of aerial herbicide sprays. Timber lobbyists did everything to block our science-based recommended changes to timber law. With no other protective options, Oregon must ban aerial spray.

Lisa Arkin challenges former Lane County Commissioner Anna Morrison to a debate on the merits of pesticide use. Photo: Amy Schneider, Eugene Weekly

Lisa Arkin challenges former Lane County Commissioner Anna Morrison to a debate on Oregon’s Forest Practices Act. Photo: Amy Schneider, Eugene Weekly

I would be pleased to welcome Morrison to a public debate on the Oregon’s forest practices act, and its failure to protect people, communities, drinking water and fish habitat. We could also discuss the impact of clearcut logging on climate and carbon. Real facts required. Let’s not let the timber industry hide the truth in the guise of another misleading opinion piece.

Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics, Eugene

Air Toxics are Unreported, thus Unaccounted

Portland Clean Air is releasing today a new report calling into question the validity of Oregon’s air permitting system. The study, A Comparison of Toxic Chemical Use by Permit Type in Multnomah and Washington County, looks at toxic chemicals used by manufacturers in Multnomah and Washington Counties that are reported to the State Fire Marshall and compares them to those reported to air regulators. The study demonstrates that up to 95% of hazardous chemical usage is by industries that do not report their hazardous air pollution to a regulatory authority.

Under federal regulations, the State Fire Marshall is required to keep track of hazardous chemicals stored on an industrial site, called a Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS). HSIS is necessary to inform and protect firefighters in emergency situations. With all industrial chemical users required to report, the State Fire Marshall HSIS data provides comprehensive tracking of chemical storage.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is Oregon’s air regulation agency. The DEQ also collects chemical information when they regulate an industry for air pollution and issue discharge permits.

The DEQ issues 6 levels of Air Contaminant Discharge Permits (ACDPs). Portland Clean Air’s research shows that Title V permits – given to the “large polluters” – emit less than 5% of total permitted air pollution. In Multnomah and Washington County, the extent of this study, only 20 out of 443 industries with an ACDP have the more detailed and stringent Title V Permits.

The report’s key findings are:

1.  Industries with ACDP’s that are not Title V, use the majority of hazardous chemicals in each HSIS hazard class. These presumably smaller industries with ACDP’s use approximately 95% of hazardous chemicals stored by industry in the Multnomah and Washington counties. Their potential to emit pollutants into air and water is significant. However, these permitted industries are not required to report emissions to the Department of Environmental Quality, the agency responsible for protecting air quality.

2. The largest polluters required to have a Title V industrial air pollution permit release less than 5% of hazardous chemical usage in Multnomah and Washington County.

3. Industries without an ACDP ostensibly do not pollute the air. However they store the majority of dangerous chemicals on site. Some do pollute the air. For example, Uroboros Glass was never required to apply for an ACDP but they are a major air polluter. The glassmaker’s emissions were neither tracked by a permit nor reported to the DEQ.

4. Title V industries in Multnomah County have 176,375 55-gallon drums of hazardous chemicals on site. In comparison, all other ACDP types have 4,954,528 55-gallon drums of hazardous chemicals on site.

gooddata_10-13-2016_600pxPortland Clean Air Director Greg Bourget believes these data gaps are serious. “It is the DEQ’s job to know how much lead or mercury, or other dangerous chemicals are going into the air,” he said. “But their permitting system is broken or, more accurately, irrelevant to the tracking of chemical pollutants.”

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director of the clean air advocacy organization Beyond Toxics, supported the conclusions advanced by the study. “Until the DEQ requires that all industrial polluters provide detailed and accurate reporting of their air toxics, Oregonians will never know what they are breathing in their community’s air,” she observed. “We need toxics right-to-know reporting, not pollution estimates provided by industry consultants.”

“Had DEQ collected the information on Bullseye Glass and understood its processes, they would have known about the toxic heavy metals being emitted into our neighborhood 42 years ago,” said Katharine Salzmann member of Eastside Portland Air Coalition, a clean air advocacy group that is part of the coalition of organizations supporting the need for the kind of data collection identified in the report.

The DEQ data gaps in chemicals emissions identified in the new report have led to serious air pollution problems. The latest EPA National Air Toxics Assessment released December of 2015 found Portland was the worst American city for respiratory distress from air pollution. Exposure to hazardous industrial chemicals causes asthma, organ damage, birth defects, and cancer. You can read the report online here: http://portlandcleanair.org/files/ACDP%20HSIS%20Study%20by%20PCA.pdf


Beyond Toxics is a statewide environmental justice organization working to guarantee environmental protections and health for all communities and residents.  We find solutions to the root causes of toxic pollution.  

Eastside Portland Air Coalition is a neighborhood group with a mission to mobilize and support neighbors impacted by toxic air pollution while partnering with stakeholders to enact permanent change in improving air quality. 

 Portland Clean Air‘s mission is to improve our air quality by educating and activating people directly affected by toxic air emissions.

Near Nightmare on Roosevelt Boulevard

I love my home. I have lived in Eugene my entire life. Every night I rest my head on my pillow in the Whitaker as I have since I was a boy. The only other neighborhood I have lived in is Jefferson Westside. My cousins currently live in West Eugene. Comprised of Bethel and Trainsong neighborhoods these communities span a large area of Eugene. At the edge of my neighborhood begins Trainsong. The Chambers overpass divides the Whiteaker and Trainsong neighborhoods. I spent many summers there as a child playing with my cousins, and a few Halloweens trick or treating.

On one Halloween evening spent in beloved Trainsong with my family, I remember walking towards a house with a green light. The mind of a young boy is filled with fears, one of mine was a fear of witches. To my horror a witch stepped out from the doorway.

Adrenaline kicked in and I ran for my life. While I still remember that night as if it was yesterday, most of us outgrow our fears and develop new ones. A fear of young women dressed as witches certainly isn’t one of them.

On Sunday, September 25th I was driving over the chambers overpass and saw something that terrified me to my core. Having just eaten dinner with friends I went from being in a good mood to screaming in horror. My brain couldn’t process what I was seeing. I saw 13 train cars derailed in the Trainsong railyard near Roosevelt and Garfield. With their red and blue sirens flashing brightly, police blocked off both Roosevelt and the northwest expressway. Fire trucks from around the city were there. People in Hazmat suits were scattered across the railyard working frantically. The railyard went from being a place where only trains and homeless folks could be found to a full-fledged crime scene. Because this was a crime scene. It was a scene where anyone could see the irresponsibility of corporations and the lack of governmental accountability, unfolding right before our eyes. According to reports I heard after I arrived home, one of the train cars was filled with liquefied petroleum gas that could have exploded. Had that happened, the derailments could have potentially left hundreds, if not thousands, dead. A partial evacuation of the area occurred and traffic was delayed for hours.

trainsongphoto02-joelblog-oct2016_600px

Beyond Toxics has been advocating for environmental justice in West Eugene for years. It is no secret that West Eugene has 99% of polluting industry in their backyard. It is no secret that people who live in Trainsong live with the threat of noxious fumes from industry and idling trains near their homes—every day. It is no secret that West Eugene has the highest concentration of children, elderly, folks with disabilities, and people of color. The people who live in the Trainsong and Bethel neighborhoods have terribly poor access to medical clinics, grocery stores, public transportation, green space, parks, and living wage jobs. Politically speaking, the Bethel neighborhood has some of the lowest membership in their neighborhood councils, while the Trainsong council has not been active for over 3 years. This is not by accident. Historical forces have shaped this perfect storm in which the most vulnerable to these catastrophic disasters are the least equipped to deal with them.

Had any of those trains been filled with crude oil, had any of them exploded, anything within a mile of the initial blast would be in flames. As Halloween approaches I am more afraid of the possibility of a crude-oil train derailment than anything I will see on TV or on our streets. You should be too.

Joel Iboa

Regulating air for community health – a new concept in Oregon?

Governor Kate Brown initiated the Cleaner Air Oregon campaign after state agencies discovered that glass makers were the source of heavy metals – arsenic, cadmium, nickel and chromium – impacting nearby neighborhoods in Portland. Toxics heavy metals were found in the air and in the soil, including the soil of home gardens. Children were taken to doctors to have their blood tested for heavy metals known to cause cancer and neurological impairment.  Residents were warned against eating their own homegrown vegetables! Indeed, Oregon has an air quality crisis due to a long history of lax regulations and negligible enforcement.

I’m please to share that Beyond Toxics has been invited to contribute to the Cleaner Air Oregon process. Because Beyond Toxics is an active and longtime representative of air pollution concerns in environmental justice communities throughout our state, I’ve been appointed to the Cleaner Air Oregon Policy Rulemaking Advisory Committee. My goal is to make sure that all communities, especially those outside the Portland Metro area, are considered as we craft new, stricter and health-based air quality regulations!

We are concerned that polluting industries will try to co-opt the Cleaner Air Oregon rulemaking process.  Working closely with other Portland-based environmental, social justice and public health groups, the Eastside Portland Air Coalition and Beyond Toxics sent a letter to Governor Kate Brown on September 19. We thanked her for her vision to ensure clean air for all Oregonians. But we also made it clear that we need leadership from the Governor and the state agencies to keep the public health goal front and center! We must end Oregon’s long history of allowing polluters to call the shots when it comes to regulations and enforcement! Read our letter here.

Last week, Beyond Toxics attended the public forum on Cleaner Air Oregon held in Medford hosted by the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Environmental Quality. I commend the two agencies on a thoughtful and interactive program.  I encourage everyone to try to make it to one of the upcoming Cleaner Air Oregon forums (Bend, Pendleton and Portland). These forums are a fabulous opportunity to have your voice heard.

I believe it is essential that Oregonians from outside the Portland Metro area help our regulators and the Governor understand that serious air pollution problems exist in many communities, not only Portland. Please show up at a regional forum and tell your story from your own community. If you can’t attend, you will soon be able submit your air quality policy choices through this DEQ website.

Toxic air fumes less than a block from homes in West Eugene

Toxic air fumes less than a block from homes in West Eugene

We’ve served on workgroups, task forces and advisory committees before. We know that the process has to be squeaky clean and we also know protecting public health should be paramount.

Believe it or not, Oregon has never had health-based air regulations. Agencies grant air pollution permits without an assessment of health impacts to nearby neighborhoods.  Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality never asks how communities are affected by multiple toxic chemicals coming from the smokestacks of one, or many, manufacturing facilities. Just imagine how much harmful pollution exposure communities surrounded by industrial corridors have endured over the decades, places such as West Eugene, Springfield, Medford and Northeast Portland!

Air toxics fumes near downtown Medford.

Air toxics fumes near downtown Medford.

I will be standing strong for the most protective human health-based air regulations possible. As I see it, Oregon needs to adopt air quality regulations that throw out the old paradigm of giving air pollution permits without regard to how airsheds become saturated with solvents, gases, heavy metals, diesel particulate and more!  Beyond Toxics has been vocal in our demand to require accurate pollution emissions reporting, assessment of cumulative impacts from multiple toxics exposures, stringent air pollution control mandates, frequent ambient and facility monitoring and hefty fines for non-compliance.

Help us keep the Governor, the DEQ and the Health Authority true to the mission of Clean(er) Air Oregon!  Let them know you support Beyond Toxics and EPAC’s unwavering demand for an effective air toxics regulatory overhaul protective of human and environmental health.