Major Environmental and Economic Decision
by: John Ledger
Associated Oregon Industries
Governor’s Choice – and Senate’s Action – will Affect Oregon Competitiveness for Decades. An upcoming appointment by the Governor and subsequent approval by the State Senate will have a huge impact on manufacturing, agriculture, and the economy of the state for decades. The appointment is to a soon to be open seat on the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC). This body has evolved into one of the most powerful in state government. It is made up of five members, all appointed by the Governor, all subject to confirmation by the State Senate.
Nearly all of Oregon’s standards, permitting, and other environmental requirements are set by the EQC. The body also approves or initiates most of the DEQ regulatory expansions. Your ability to expand or build, the standards you must meet (water, storm water, clean-up and air), the time and costs you incur to get a permit, even greenhouse gas regulations, are all determined by the EQC.
EQC rules, promulgated by the five member body are, for all practical purposes, the final word – they have the force of law. The rules do not require approval or even significant review by the legislature.
Unquestionably dedicated to the mission of the agency, the makeup of the commission has increasingly come into question. The body has a huge impact on the state’s industrial base, natural resources, and the ability of Oregon business to create jobs. Yet, the total number of current commissioners who have ever run a company that has had to apply for an extensive Oregon water or air permit, meet the nation’s most stringent water quality standards, or run a highly DEQ-regulated manufacturing operation, is exactly zero.
AOI is urging the Governor’s Office to offer a candidate who has practical, extensive, and applied regulatory experience to bring balance and insight to the EQC.
The Governor’s Office is expected to release a prospective name in May for possible confirmation by the Senate during its June interim meeting. The prospective appointee must receive a “yes” vote from at least 16 of the 30 Senators in order to take a seat on the EQC.
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