Sign-on Letter to Governor Brown Regarding EPA Rollbacks – Individuals


Dear Governor Brown,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a freeze on enforcing environmental regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this order released on 3/26/20, the EPA will “not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance.”[1] This allows manufacturers, power plants and other major polluters to decide on their own whether or not they have to meet legal requirements on managing hazardous waste, controlling air emissions and preventing discharges into water. The EPA will not be fining companies for violating certain requirements on limiting pollution. This rule has no end date and will remain in place indefinitely. The EPA Memorandum states that this policy will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, 2020.[1] It is unacceptable that in the midst of a global health crisis, the federal government has suspended environmental protections.

Our Recommendation
Oregonians are proud that our Governor exercised discernment, even premonition, by introducing the 2019 Oregon Environmental Protection Act. The goal of the Oregon Environmental Protection Act is to safeguard the standards of environmental and human health protections under State law as they stood on January 19, 2017 in a scenario where the federal government undermines or nullifies the nation’s environmental regulations.[2]

At the time of adoption you made the following observation. “As we sign the Oregon EPA into law, we send a signal to Washington, D.C. that rolling back federal environmental laws only creates uncertainty. By working together with other states, we can take a leadership role in preventing the erosion of core laws that protect our environment.”

In that same spirit, the undersigned organizations support you and our state agencies to honor and adhere to the Oregon Environmental Protection Act (HB 2250) which grants state agencies the authority and duty to take actions as necessary to continue state implementation of standards and requirements that are protective of public health, the environment or natural resources. Although the U.S. EPA acknowledged that authorized states or tribes may take a different approach under their own authorities, we urge you to make a bold public statement that Oregon will not bend to pressure from the federal government to give a free pass to polluters.

Furthermore, we urge you, Governor Brown, to extend the authority granted in HB 2250 to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for enforcing the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates pesticide distribution, sale, and use. The Oregon ODA also carries out inspections, investigations and enforcement in cases of pesticide misuse resulting in crop damage, property damage and worker or bystander exposure. Leniency in pesticide regulation enforcement that may occur under the 3/26/20 EPA memo on the agency’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program means more threats to the health of agricultural workers whose well being and vitality our nation relies on to harvest the foods that feed us all.

Environmental Justice Framework
Oregon’s state government must work with environmental justice and conservation advocates and the communities we serve to lead the way to ensure our families and natural resources are protected. Now more than ever, in the face of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus, Oregon must remain strong on environmental protections. In Oregon, we must not allow facilities and pesticide applicators the authority to pollute without governmental oversight at a time when the most affected — people of color, native indigenous and the poor — are already struggling and face a greater risk from the coronavirus. Those who have contributed the least to environmental pollution and are disproportionately burdened by its harms must not be victims of deregulation.

The most vulnerable communities in the state are already struggling to pay bills, remain employed, and to keep their families healthy. As these populations disproportionately live near toxics facilities and air pollution, it is imperative that the state does everything in its power to protect these communities from any new added health concerns. Exposure to air toxics and particle pollution, so detrimental to health, can affect people who are already health impaired just at this time when respiratory and immune system strength is what we all need to survive a coronavirus infection.

We ask that Oregon’s elected government leaders confirm to our state agencies that they must enforce strong statewide environmental and health protections as well as those regulations established under the federal laws and regulations in existence as of January 19, 2017, regardless of actions now being taken at the federal level.

Respectfully,

Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics
Eric Richardson, NAACP Eugene Springfield Oregon Unit 1119
Reyna Lopez, PCUN
Dagoberto Morales and Kathy Kessee Morales, Unite Farmworker Advocacy
Center
Doug Moore, Oregon League of Conservation Voters
Tera Hurst & Shilpa Joshi, Renew Oregon
Direlle Calica, Institute for Tribal Government
Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity
Sristi Kamal, Defenders of Wildlife
Meredith Connolly, Climate Solutions
Virginia Camberos, Unite Oregon
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands
Mary Peveto, Neighbors for Clean Air
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild
Jessica Applegate & Katharine Salzmann, Eastside Portland Air Coalition
Tom Bowerman, Farmers’ Union, Inc.
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland
Jeremy Austin, Oregon Natural Desert Association
Sarah Douglas, Cascadia Wildlands Inc.
John DeVoe, Waterwatch of Oregon
Brian Kelly, Greater Hells Canyon Council
Mike Riley, The Environmental Center
Megan Kemple, Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network
Debbie Schlenoff, Lane County Audubon Society
Hannah Sohl, Rogue Climate
Marissa Zarate, Huerto de la Familia (The Family Garden)
Alan Journet, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now
Deb Evans, Hair on Fire Oregon
Carter McKenzie, Springfield-Eugene SURJ
Robert Emmons, LandWatch Lane County
Kristina Lefever, Pollinator Project Rogue Valley
Ashley Chesser, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Ron Wallace, Many Rivers Group of the Sierra Club
Charlie Plybon, Surfrider Foundation
Patricia Hine & Debra McGee, 350 Eugene
Jane Anderson, North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection
Phillip Johnson, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition
Britt Conroy, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
John DeVoe, WaterWatch of Oregon
Dale Feik, Washington County Citizen Action Network


 

Fill out the form below if you, as an individual, support this letter.

 

Letter to Governor Brown Regarding EPA Rollbacks - Individuals

 

Organizations who support this letter to Gov. Brown

350 Eugene
Beyond Toxics
Cascadia Wildlands
Center for Biological Diversity
Climate Solutions
Defenders of Wildlife
Eastside Portland Air Coalition
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
The Environmental Center
Farmers’ Union, Inc.
Greater Hells Canyon Council
Huerto de la Familia – The Family Garden
Institute for Tribal Government
LandWatch Lane County
Lane County Audubon Society
NAACP – Eugene/Springfield
North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection
OLCV
Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network
Oregon Natural Desert Association
Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition
Renew Oregon
Rogue Climate
Springfield-Eugene SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)
Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN)
Surfrider Foundation
Unite Oregon
Washington County Citizen Action Network
WaterWatch of Oregon

 

 

References

[1] Environmental Protection Agency (2020). COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program. Washington, D.C: Susan Parker Bodine.

[2] State of Oregon Office of the Governor (2017). Oregon Environmental Protection Act. Salem, Oregon: Nikki Fisher.