Establishing health-based rules

New regulations to protect people’s health

From public ownership of our beaches to passage of the nation’s first bottle bill, Oregon set the pace for the nation in protecting our quality of life and our environment. Yet, Oregon’s air quality regulations have not kept up. We must do more to ensure our air, soil and water are safer for people.

Leaders at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) are working together to reform Oregon’s industrial air toxics regulations and align them with human health. This new program is called “Cleaner Air Oregon.”

In the coming months, DEQ and OHA will engage Oregon residents across the state to provide input on how these new health-based standards are written, implemented and enforced.

Oregon’s current rules: technology-based standards for air quality

The current regulations’ goal is to control air pollution from industrial facilities. Following federal law, Oregon’s current rules aim to restrict pollution by imposing industry- or technology-specific requirements on manufacturing facilities (e.g., emissions control devices, specific work practices, or equipment designs). The rules impose requirements based on the size of a facility and the hazardous materials it uses.

While the current rules are intended to reduce industrial air toxics emissions, they do not cap the total amount of contaminants a facility may release. Nor do they restrict concentrations of pollutants based on the health risks they pose for people nearby. The problem is current industrial air toxics regulations are not designed to take into account the local impacts of industrial pollution on human health.

Cleaner Air Oregon: human health-based regulations for air quality

Cleaner Air Oregon will create regulations to protect all Oregonians from a variety of air pollutants. It will reset allowable pollution levels and tie the standards regulators use in permitting decisions and enforcement actions to health-based standards.

The new regulations will:

  • Set limits on air emissions for industrial sources based on risks to human health.
  • Define exposure levels that are protective of human health and assess facility emissions based on human health safety standards.
  • Cover a comprehensive range of industrial facilities across the state. The rules will apply to facilities that emit a wide variety of potentially harmful toxics.

Other states are pursuing similar strategies. Washington and California have each incorporated human health-based standards into their air quality rules.

We are at an important point in time to create cleaner air in Oregon by aligning air quality regulations with human health. We have the opportunity to be visionary and future-thinking, and to do it consistent with the values of Oregon residents, engaging all our communities to create the solution.

Over the next 20 months:

Leaders from DEQ and OHA will engage communities throughout Oregon to shape industrial air toxics regulations for Oregon. The approach to public engagement and a description of the rule-making process appear below.

Engage Oregonians to develop health-based industrial air toxics regulations

  • Share information about Oregon’s current rules and lessons from other states (Spring 2016).
  • Engage community members in public input regional forums statewide (Fall 2016).
  • Partner with community-based organizations to ensure diverse engagement of Oregonians (ongoing).
  • Provide a diversity of forums for engagement and information sharing including online, in person and in small groups (ongoing).

The technical process to develop health-based standards

  • Convene technical work group (Spring and Summer 2016).
  • Convene advisory committee to guide rule making (Winter 2017).
  • Convene fiscal advisory committee (Winter 2017).
  • Engage Oregonians for public input (see above).
  • Publish draft rules and review public comments (Spring 2017).
  • Propose Final Rules to the EQC (November 2017).
  • Environmental Quality Commission considers Final Rules (December 2017).

We invite Oregonians to think about the things that matter to all of us- human health, environmental health and the economic vitality of our communities – and to help define new rules that protect these priorities and create a safer, healthier Oregon for generations to come.

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