Air Quality Groups Ask for Governor’s Attention to Cleaner Air policy meetings

Read the letter to the Governor (below)

Portland, OR (9/15/2016)
Eastside Portland Air Coalition (EPAC) and Beyond Toxics, two organizations appointed to the Cleaner Air Oregon Policy Committee are openly expressing concerns about the Governor’s Cleaner Air Oregon Initiative process. They are asking the Governor, Oregon Health Authority and Department of Environmental Quality to clarify uncertainties and address procedural gaps before the work of the Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee begins. | FULL Sept. 19 Press Release (PDF)

Read Lisa Arkin’s new blog, “Regulating air for community health – a new concept in Oregon?


 

September 2016

Open Letter to Governor Kate Brown, Director Lynn Saxton, Director Peter Shepherd, and
Deputy Director Leah Feldon,

We applaud Governor Brown and DEQ/OHA in the bold statement of creating Cleaner Air Oregon. To uphold this vision we are providing a constructive critique of the Charter document for Cleaner Air Oregon. We are public health advocates appointed to the Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee Charter and have identified several issues of concern in the Charter language. This letter also represents the thousands of people who have signed in support through local air advocacy groups across the state. We have concerns that the work of the Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee (CAO-AC) will be undermined unless the Governor and the DEQ/OHA clarify uncertainties and address procedural gaps.

We respectfully urge resolution of the following issues prior to or during the first meeting on October 18th, 2016 to guarantee a process that creates effective air toxics regulatory overhaul protective of human and environmental health:

1. The Governor’s Support
We respectfully request Governor Brown attend the first meeting. The presence of the Governor is necessary to send all committee participants and the public a strong message that the final report and recommendations of the Advisory Committee will result in health-based regulations and the funding necessary to implement the recommendations. The Governor’s presence relays the message to the public that the Advisory Committee is not merely symbolic, but warrants direct and personal attention. This will also bring needed focus to Cleaner Air Oregon, creating more public engagement and transparency.

2. Potential Conflicts of Interest
We respectfully request disclosure of potential conflicts of interest be addressed prior to the
first meeting on October 18th, 2016.

Due to the powerful influence of business and government interests, we are concerned that the odds are already stacked against public health advocates and the general public, which has traditionally been the case in formulating air toxics regulations. For example, Ms. Claudia Powers, the co-chair of  the Advisory Committee, is an attorney who represents industry.

We urge the DEQ/OHA to require a disclosure of potential conflicts of interests, including information on clients formerly and currently represented by Ms. Powers’ firm. The public and other members of the CAO-AC are entitled to know whether Ms. Powers is being paid by any clients that could be impacted by new air toxics rules.

3. Scope of CAO-AC Recommendations

We would like the Advisory Committee to be free to explore policy options that are not
prescribed, may not been considered, and might emerge from unexpected or unconventional
approaches.

This advisory committee is creating recommendations for policy. The charge of the Technical Advisory committee (TAC) was to inform the policy-making, not limit or decrease the options available for discussion. We are concerned that the TAC has finalized or significantly narrowed important decisions and we are being asked to weigh in on “pre-determined choices.” The Governor has asked for a “regulatory overhaul.” Cleaner Air Oregon was created because the old methods were not working. This will require fundamental changes of perspective.

4. Operational Language

Please clarify the language in the Charter for a smooth process. See Charter language in italics
and specific clarifications needed are bulleted:

DEQ and OHA will ask for input from each individual committee member and gauge the committee’s overall level of support. The committee’s discussions will be used by DEQ and OHA in corming their draft rule, which will then be proposed for broader public review and comment as part of DEQ’s rule making process.

• How will “overall level of support” be determined?
• Will there be majority and minority opinions?
• Will committee members have the opportunity to review and comment upon the report
before it is released for public review?

… a new initiative to reform industrial air toxics regulations and align them with public health. DEQ and OHA have begun a formal rulemaking process to engage the public creating human health risk-based ruled for industrial facilities, for consideration by the Environmental Quality Commission.

• Are risk-based rules different from health-based rules? We must all agree on our terminology to create a collaboration that reflects the charge of health-based regulatory reform as this frames the intent and outcome of our work. CAO-AC members, as well as the public, could benefit from a full discussion to distinguish and define the terms “health-based,” “risk-based” and “science-based” at the first Advisory Committee meeting.

The undersigned members of the CAO-AC are committed to developing environmental and human health-based based air quality regulations that receive the support of the Governor. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss our concerns with you and begin the work of protecting Oregon’s air quality. Lastly, thank you for your Governance and leadership.

Sincerely,

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director, Beyond Toxics
Jessica Applegate and Katharine Salzmann, Eastside Portland Air Coalition

Signing in support representing thousands of Oregonians:

Portland Clean Air, Greg Bourget
Hayden Island, Mary Lou Putnam
Cully Air Action Team, Alma Velasquez
The Dalles Air Coalition
South Portland Air Quality
Hillsboro Air & Water, Dale Feik
Onward Oregon, Lenny Dee
Air Advocacy, Frank Peters
St. John’s Neighborhood Association
Russ Dondero, Chair of Washington County Citizen Action Network
Sharon Genasci, Chair, NWDA Air Quality Committee
ROSE Community Development
Lents Youth Initiative
Kenton Air Coalition
FUTURE GENERATIONS


 

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