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Advancing Environmental Justice in 2023

Our 2023 Legislative Priorities

I am thrilled to report that we are gearing up for another very exciting year of advocacy and activism! Each year Beyond Toxics creates a list of priorities for the Oregon legislative session, working with our members and community partners to support strong public and environmental health policies for the state.

Our advocacy campaigns are rooted in environmental justice, putting equity and inclusion in all sectors of Oregon policy-making at the center of our work. I believe that, in order to build a thriving and just Oregon, we need to urge local legislators to vote in favor of strong and equitable policies that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship and the advancement of human rights and dignity.

We are leading three priority initiatives during the 2023 Oregon legislative session. The issues addressed reflect areas of concern for frontline communities bearing the brunt of climate change and environmental degradation. Our team remains a steadfast advocate for all Oregonians, especially those living in underserved communities across the state.

These are our three legislative priorities for the 2023 session:

  • Help Oregon achieve its strong climate goals

  • Strengthen and update pesticide policies on school grounds

  • Increase accountability for waste incinerators to protect Oregon’s air quality

Natural Climate Solutions (SB 530)

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Creating Natural Climate Solutions
We are working with a statewide coalition to put forward the Natural Climate Solutions bill, SB 530. This could be a game-changer for climate action in Oregon! SB 530 is a comprehensive bill that will help the state achieve its climate goals, support Oregon’s environmental justice communities and small landowners, improve equitable outcomes in the face of climate change, and protect our state’s vital natural resources. 

If passed, SB 530 will…

  • Create an ongoing source of state funding for voluntary actions to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and store it on natural and working lands, such as forest land, farm land and wetlands;

  • Position Oregon to leverage federal funding and private investments in natural climate solutions on natural and working lands;

  • Fund and direct state agencies to provide incentives and technical support to forest owners, farmers, ranchers, and environmental justice communities on natural and working lands to adopt climate smart practices; and

  • Invest in a comprehensive Oregon natural and working lands inventory and study opportunities for workforce development and training.

In addition to all these climate benefits, implementing this bill will result in significant and measurable environmental benefits of cleaner air, healthier soils and protected drinking water.

This ambitious piece of legislation prioritizes activities that protect or improve the ability of Oregon’s natural and working lands to sequester carbon. This is the necessary climate action our state needs and, if it is successful, it will put an amazing framework in place to address greenhouse gas reduction in our forests, agricultural lands, and rangelands.” ~ Teryn Yazdani, Staff Attorney and Climate Policy Manager

 

Read more about the Natural Climate Solutions bill

Toxic Free Schools (SB 426)

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Pesticide Reduction and Improved Management Practices For Schools
Our second legislative priority is The Toxic Free Schools bill, SB 426, which is part of a three bill suite of environmental health bills lined up to protect children's health from exposure to toxic chemicals. The goal of SB 426 is to improve transparency around pesticide use in Oregon schools and provide funding to support schools integrated pest management planning. When Oregon's School Integrated Pest Management law was enacted in 2009, it did not allocate funding to the Department of Education or school districts to implement the law. As a result, many hazardous and unlawful pesticide applications have occurred on Oregon’s school campuses in the last thirteen years.

If SB 426 is passed, a proactive approach to adopting the safest pest management methods will ensure school children are not exposed to pesticides that can cause cancer and other negative health impacts.

If passed, SB 426 bill will…

  • Improve transparency around pesticide use in schools by aligning School IPM law with the Healthy and Safe Schools Act;

  • Direct the Department of Education to convene a stakeholder advisory group to coordinate and problem-solve IPM implementation in Oregon schools;

  • Provide funding for three pilot projects to implement an electronic Pesticide Applicator Recordkeeping application developed by Oregon METRO government;

Ultimately, the Toxic Free Schools bill will provide resources to the Department of Education to support school districts in updating and implementing IPM plans and improve transparency under Healthy and Safe schools. The goal is to prevent children's exposure to pesticides on athletic fields, playgrounds, cafeterias and learning spaces.” ~ Jennifer Eisele, Pesticide Policy Manager

Read more about the Toxic Free Schools bill

Oregon's Medical Waste Incineration Act (SB 488)

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Covanta waste incinerator, Chester, PA. Image courtesy of Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living.

Air Quality Solutions
The third bill we are prioritizing is Oregon's Medical Waste Incineration Act, SB 488. This bill will close a regulatory loophole in Oregon’s air quality laws that allows a municipal waste (trash) incinerator to burn large amounts of medical and industrial waste, including waste trucked in from out-of-state. Each year, Oregon’s municipal waste incinerator burns more than 176,000 tons of municipal, medical and industrial waste. In recent years, this incinerator has steadily increased their tons of out-of-state hospital and medical waste every year! Burning medical waste, which is often plastics such as PVC, is known to emit more toxic pollutants than most municipal waste due to the complex nature of medical waste. As medical waste incineration increases, emissions of dioxin compounds and other dangerous chemicals also increase. Dioxin is a highly hazardous toxin linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Currently, the incinerator is regulated under the relatively lax rules despite burning a large percentage of out-of-state medical waste. Oregon can close loopholes in the law that will reduce emissions from waste incinerators. The large amounts of air toxics emitted from its stack has impacted human and environmental health around Marion county for over 30 years.

Now is the time to pass SB 488 to implement a much-needed update to Oregon clean air laws. Oregon must adopt stricter emission limits for incinerators burning large amounts of medical waste incineration. The result will be improved air quality for communities around waste incinerators now and into the future.

If passed, SB 488 will…

  • Give the DEQ the authority to accurately assess how many tons of medical waste is burned annually at a trash incinerator facility;

  • Apply the stricter emission limits required for medical waste incinerators under federal law;

  • Regulate a large polluter and ensure better environmental protection and public health outcomes for all Oregonians.

In essence, Covanta Marion is a medical waste incinerator masquerading as a municipal waste incinerator by taking advantage of this loophole. Covanta Marion essentially doubles its profits by importing medical waste from out of state. The fact that Covanta Marion can burn medical waste and pollute while taking advantage of weak environmental regulations makes Oregon a dumping ground for the toxic pollution that other states don’t allow.” ~ Lisa Arkin, Executive Director

Read more about Oregon's Medical Waste Incineration Act


What To Expect
The Beyond Toxics team will fight to pass all three bills during the 2023 legislative session. Our goal is to keep advancing stronger policies that implement meaningful change for Oregon’s environmental policies and prioritize human and environmental health.

However, we do not work alone! We rely on support from local communities and people that are concerned about environmental and public health issues. You can help us get these bills passed this session!

Here’s how you can get involved right now…

  • Plan for action! Start planning to submit written testimonies in favor of these bills once the hearings begin. The legislative session moves quickly so it’s a good idea to start thinking about your stance on these issues now.

  • Spread the word! Share your thoughts about these bills with your family and friends and encourage them to write their own testimonies in support of any of these three bills.

  • Check your socials! Follow @beyondtoxics on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter and keep an eye out for upcoming Action Alerts in your feeds.

Krystal Abrams, Communications Manager

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Winning the Battle to Ban Chlorpyrifos!

In 2020, Oregon became the 4th state to phase-out the organophosphate insecticide, chlorpyrifos. This law came about as a result of a 2-year legislative campaign led by Beyond Toxics to ban the use of chlorpyrifos. We fought for a complete ban, and we knew a phase-out was not enough.

Today we celebrate the EPA’s August 18th decision to END the use of chlorpyrifos on all food crops, a ban that will also apply to Oregon.

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Lay Of The Land (Use)

“I’m from the coast.” “I own a farm.” “My family have been ranchers for five generations.” Our sense of ourselves is integrated with the way we own and use land.

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Equity Missing in Oregon Land Use Laws

We face a future full of challenges about the health of our communities and the impacts of a warming climate. Of the many intersections between environmental justice, health and climate change, one that is often overlooked is pesticide use.

At the most basic level of fossil fuel production reductions, pesticides are petrochemicals – toxic chemicals made from extracted oil and fracked gas. Agricultural pesticides also increase greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

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Stand to Protect Climate, People and Forests

Beyond Toxics does not shy away from tough issues. It takes time, tenacity and creativity to solve problems. For example, we are in our second year of fighting to stop the use of chlorpyrifos in Oregon. We’ve presented two bills that got caught up and swept away by the Republican walk-outs in 2019 and 2020. We followed that with a campaign for a chlorpyrifos phase-out that we expect to be adopted by the end of this year.

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SB 1602 will make a difference for rural Oregonians sick of pesticide drift

When Allie McDermott and her partner heard the helicopter blades whirring early on a Sunday morning in March, they were stunned. As they ran up the road to see for themselves they thought, ‘There is no way an aerial spray could be happening on a Sunday!’

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The Tough Keep Going: Advancing Forest Practices and Pesticide Reform

We’ve arrived at a moment when an agreement between corporate timber representatives and environmental health and forest protection defenders has been brokered. Perspectives on the value of such an agreement run the gamut, from Governor Brown’s pronouncement of “historic” to the angry claim of “shameless” by social media users. Beyond Toxics came at this with extreme caution because we understand the risks of compromise. We had to evaluate what was lost as a trade for benefits that move the marker closer to our goals: those of non toxic communities and healthy forest ecosystems.

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The Retreat from Roundup: Evidence Backing Cancer Claims

Glyphosate is a weed-killing chemical that is found in a variety of commonplace herbicides, including Monsanto and Bayer AG’s Roundup. Over the past few years, the health and safety risks associated with spraying Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides have been called into question.

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A New Farming Economy Shouldn’t Depend on Old WWII Warfare Chemicals

Clatsop County Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan delivered a message from her rural county to the Oregon Legislature during legislative hearings on two bills addressing two controversial pesticides.

“I remember when I was a kid in 7th grade being told the American Bald Eagle was on the brink of extinction,” she said. “Today I can look up over the Columbia River and see the eagles flying. That is the result of policy makers banning DDT.”

Waste Pile

Trashy and Tricky

Have you noticed the red and white emissions stack to the east of I-5, just north of Salem? That is the Covanta Marion Municipal Solid Waste Incinerator. Covanta is a large corporation owning Oregon’s single trash incinerator.

If you care about climate and resiliency, then you’ll want to know about the poison pill Covanta has inserted into this year’s legislative deliberations on the Clean Energy Jobs bill and renewable energy programs.

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Please join us in working for a world beyond toxics.

Beyond Toxics is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all contributions are fully tax-deductible.
Please consider giving a gift of a Beyond Toxics membership to a friend or family member!

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Contact

Lane County Office
120 Shelton McMurphey Blvd.
Suite 280
Eugene, OR 97401

+1 (541) 465-8860

Jackson County Office
312 N. Main St., Suite B
Phoenix, Oregon 97535

+1 (541) 465-8860 ext. 2

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 1106
Eugene, OR 97440

Hours
Daily: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed

info@beyondtoxics.org

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