Oregon Air Toxics update

By: Associated Oregon Industries (AOI)

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) submitted a letter to Governor Brown identifying 316 Oregon businesses on the basis that the businesses are “most likely to be users and emitters” (air emissions) of certain metals (see also AOI comments to legislators). Understandably, this correspondence has raised a number of questions from both business leaders and those companies identified in the letter.

Generally, there are both short-term and long-term considerations as the state agencies gather information in anticipation of drafting new air toxics regulations (and possibly legislation). With that in mind, it is important that Oregon industry work in close coordination to ensure that we are able to provide the agencies with accurate and timely information in order to achieve the best possible outcome for our businesses and local communities.

Short-term considerations: The DEQ letter identifies a few things it intends to do in the short term: (1) data/information request, and (2) “surprise inspections.”

On or around May 16, 2016, DEQ plans to send a letter to all 316 companies identified in the DEQ letter/list.  The letter will request information about the use of metals and potential air emissions related to the use of those metals and require that the companies respond by June 1, 2016 (yes, only providing two weeks). 

Over the next few months, DEQ plans to conduct “surprise” inspections to a list of prioritized businesses. DEQ has not set any parameters to these inspections and has not yet explained if these inspections will be routine inspections or something different. 

Long-term considerations: Both the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and DEQ are working to “overhaul” Oregon’s industrial air toxics regulations. The process and timeline for this “overhaul” can be found on the joint agency website titled “Cleaner Air Oregon“. Importantly, AOI is actively engaging both agencies advocating for industry involvement in all available opportunities that could influence a proposed regulation and impact the regulated community.

Based on DEQ’s draft timeline, here are some opportunities the agencies have identified for general public participation:

•May 2016: Industrial air toxics regulation webinar

•June 2016: Washington and California air toxics regulation webinar

•June 2016: OHA/DEQ air toxics technical workgroup (agencies are recruiting workgroup members now)

•September 2016-October 2016: Public forums

•October 2016: DEQ and OHA host Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) meetings

•February 2017: Fiscal advisory group (fiscal impacts to new regulations)

•May-July 2017: Notice of proposed rules and public comment period

•November 2017: Environmental Quality Commission hearing considering new/proposed rules

In addition to the regulation overhaul, the agencies have developed a website to share data and information on Portland’s air toxic efforts – now known as Safer Air Oregon. According to the agencies, this is supposed to be a platform for sharing information, but not a new air regulatory program or approach.

AOI will continue to work with its members and partners on this very active matter.  Please do not hesitate to contact Mike Freese at AOI if you would like more information or would like to provide feedback on this issue.

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