In October of 2017 the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) compiled finalized draft rules to establish a new Cleaner Air Oregon program. The draft rules would have created a costly regulatory program that would do little to improve the state’s air quality and required businesses that use any number of a list of 600 chemicals to report that data and pay off fees for emissions. Additionally, the rule would have created increased burdens on DEQ staff. A recent Secretary of State audit of DEQ revealed that their air permitting program needed improved systems and increased personnel for permitting and that they were failing to implement the current air programs.
After extensive negotiations, stakeholders and Legislators crafted a consensus measure in response to the rules that set reasonable regulatory standards, could incorporate the goals of advocates while giving businesses regulatory certainty, and provide funding for implementation of the program. This compromise was SB 1541. SB 1541 created a program that tracks and reports on air emissions from industry and sets standards to protect public health. It also funds much needed positions for DEQ permitting to implement the program through set fees that industry pays for air permits. The language also set some of the Cleaner Air Oregon program elements in statute and allowed the DEQ to create a pilot program for reducing combined air toxics from multiple sources in specific, defined and marginalized areas. The measure also set a fee structure for permitting to fund important functions DEQ was unable to complete due to insufficient resources. While the legislation narrowed the focus of the draft rule, the Cleaner Air Oregon legislation was a historic expansion of Oregon’s industrial air quality program.
DEQ is now preparing new draft rules to reflect the policy passed by the Legislature in the 2018 Session. The Department will be convening Rule Advisory Committees (RAC) to address the pilot program and the rules for the overall program.
The anticipated timeline for the rulemaking process is as follows:
– RAC meeting: mid-May
– Public comment period: July
– DEQ sends staff report to Environment Quality Commission (EQC): mid-October
– EQC meeting: November 15-16
To see a comparison of the original Cleaner Air Oregon Rules and requirements in SB 1541 click here
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