Kitzhaber’s big new permit idea

Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

The purpose of a permit is to make sure a proposed facility or project is disclosed to the appropriate agencies and the proper predictable, predetermined standards and safe guards are employed. Unfortunately, permitting has, for many years, too often been used by third parties to stall, discourage, or ban selected projects. This is probably inevitable and is now expected. But what should not be expected is having the very governmental entity that is supposed to objectively issue the permit adopt the same ad hoc adversarial position. Such actions inevitably introduce a great deal of uncertainty and unfairness in the process.

Yet it seems to be on the upswing. A case in point is Washington’s new global State Environmental Impact requirements. A huge set of new hoops suddenly popped up for a proposed port transfer facility. As it happens, what the facility would transfer is coal. The Department of Ecology’s new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review will include the end use of products, the impacts of rail and vessel traffic far from the facility, and even activity outside the state borders for the material that moves through the facility.

Recently, it has been reported that Oregon’s Governor announced at a League of Conservation Voters fundraiser that Oregon needs a new process similar to Washington’s overlaid atop our existing land use and comprehensive regulatory programs. This comes about in response to a proposal to build a highly controlled coal transfer facility on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Existing permitting requirements assess the impacts on Oregon’s environment. And since these are likely to be small, the facility is likely to get permitted, all things being fair. The solution if you wish to stop the facility? Make the permitting process much bigger, more difficult, and subject to endless lawsuits. Apart from the obvious unfairness of this, the bigger problem is that this could happen to any facility wishing to expand or locate in the state, coal or not… and everyone will know it.

Oregon is struggling to create and hold jobs – especially in manufacturing. It’s hard to imagine anything that would discourage an industry from locating or expanding than the specter of their permit being put into political play.

Official AOI policy as adopted by the AOI Board of Directors states, in part:

Consistent Regulatory Authority – AOI supports state-level consistent and uniform application of delegated air, water, cleanup and energy regulatory and permitting authority…

In recent Legislative Sessions AOI worked to block several bills (none brought in by any state agency) that would allow regularity agencies to impose new extremely broad state EIS requirements on projects at their discretion.

We can now expect a much harder push for such a bill in 2015.

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