Final Cleaner Air Oregon comments from CAAT

Cully Air Action Team (CAAT) public comment points for Environmental Quality Control Commission on the topic of Cleaner Air Oregon.

Please consider the below comments as a short list of items that need to be addressed in order to fulfill the Governor’s mandate for health-based regulatory overhaul of air toxics.

First, CAAT would like to recognize the positive aspects of these CAO declarations. The ‘Community Engagement’ (OAR 340-245-0120) provisions seem robust and well-designed, although EPAC’s (Eastside Portland Air Coalition) suggestion of having an ‘ombudsperson’ to oversee effective implementation of outreach and support for all community members would be a welcome insurance of oversight.

The ‘Air Monitoring Requirements’ (OAR 340-245-0240) seem to have been strengthened, and yet the potential loophole for unverifiable self-monitoring results still looms as a real vulnerability. Given past confusion on industrial polluters releases, toxic inventories, and effective containment of hazardous waste, it may very well be major flaw, as well. CAAT encourages the State Agencies to conduct surprise visits to industrial polluters, especially those that have received or are receiving numerous community complaints on nuisance odors, or that are in close proximity to vulnerable populations and K-12 schools, or that use carcinogenic and mutagenic toxins.

CAAT is still very concerned regarding potential misuse and overuse of exemptions to the ‘Risk Reduction Plan Requirements’ (OAR 340-245-0160.) Again, CAAT requests that the state impose a limit on the number of exemptions to be issued under 340-245-0160, whether it is an arbitrary number of 5 total exemptions for the entire state during each five year cycle starting in 2019, or an upper maximum limit of total permits. CAAT feels the agency is perpetuating a loophole within the CAO rules, and reminds the State that exemptions falling under 340-245-0160 should not be handed out merely if a toxic emitter or industrial polluter requests one and follows the DEQ exemption criteria, as has been the case with the past lax permitting structure. 

Another opportunity for community engagement may also exist with implementation of 340-245-0160, if the agency empowers a recognized community advocacy group to become a part of the decision-making process, for or against the issuance of any exemption permit.

CAAT also supports EPAC’s submitted comments and would like to emphasize the importance of Point Six and Point Ten in their “EPAC Public Comment Points for EQC CAO”:

6. Get rid of potential loopholes in the draft rules by eliminating permissive language. Rules should be rules and not loopholes. When using the word “may”, DEQ should provide a limitation on the discretion.

10. Air monitoring should be mandatory and done on a surprise basis. Requiring air monitoring is the first step in restoring public trust. If we don’t know what we are breathing and how much, how is any rule going to be effective? It will also be a good foil against emissions inventories and a way to see if results line up in terms of what industry says they are emitting and what they are emitting.

Lastly, CAAT reminds DEQ and the State that the health of the local community affected by industrial polluters is the primary purpose of this CAO regulatory framework, and whether the cost for treatment of ailments, or providing wrap-around care for sickened children and other individuals, is borne by the State or the polluter is what is of consequence here. CAAT advocates that the polluter should bear the burden, for if they are knowingly pushing toxins into community airsheds, they must be held accountable by the State. These toxins have created negative health effects, such as asthma in children, and are indicated as causative for cancers, autism, neurological disorders, and many other illnesses and diseases which limit life, cause immense suffering, and cost the State a huge amount in associated heath-care costs. The negative effects of airborne pollutant sedimentation and bioaccumulation in Oregon wildlife, local flora and fauna, and home gardens and farms are also of great concern to CAAT. 

The remedy for these injuries would be best accomplished by:

—   eliminating the loopholes mentioned above regarding 340-245-0160;

—   conducting unannounced, surprise, monitoring visits to industrial polluters;

—   and, requiring all industrial polluters to use TBACT filtering and capture devices for pollutants. 

Protecting the health and well-being of the diverse environs and communities in Oregon is an obligation that local industrial polluters must recognize, and commit engineering capacity and resources to, if they want to share the local airshed with the people of Oregon. 

The Cully Air Action Team thanks the EQC for taking the lead in protecting our health and the health of the Oregon wilds. 

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