By Representative Rob Nosse
I’m writing this column today as a father and SE Portland resident, as well as a State Legislator. Like many of you, I was outraged by the news that a local glass factory has been releasing contaminants into our air. Most of you already know what happened, but to summarize briefly: based on a study of moss done by the U.S. Department of Forestry, data showed that local glass manufacturers had been releasing arsenic and cadmium into our air. To make matters worse, despite the potential health hazard posed by those heavy metals, enforcement from Department of Environmental Quality was not adequate to prevent this problem.
The status quo is unacceptable, and we must take bold action. We need to make cleaning up our city’s air a priority in the upcoming 2017 legislative session. My office is devoting its resources during this interim period to organizing Oregonians to put pressure on regulating agencies and the rest of the legislature, so we get rules and regulations that will protect our air.
The outrage this problem sparked could give us the momentum we need to pursue air pollution control in the legislature. Without that continued momentum, special interests will use everything in their arsenal to derail any bill that is brought forward. (This is what happened in the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions.) By organizing around this issue, and doing it in a sustained and ongoing manner so that it receives notice statewide, we can make sure that story is not repeated again in the 2017 session.
To that end, I will be hosting a day of action April 6 where anyone who is interested can learn about what they can do to help in the fight for cleaner air in Oregon. Join us for a town hall style meeting from 6 to 8 pm at SEIU Local 49, at 3536 SE 26th Ave. near Cleveland High School. I’ll be joined by my fellow State Representatives Kathleen Taylor and Jeff Reardon, as well as representatives from the DEQ, Neighbors for Clean Air, and other groups and organizations who are working on this issue.
Lastly some positive developments have occurred since this story broke. In addition to shining a spotlight on this issue, we’ve also seen a relatively quick response from my fellow state lawmakers and Governor Kate Brown. We increased DEQ’s budget to the tune of $2.5 million so we could have more monitoring equipment and enforcement around air pollution and air quality. The DEQ is developing new regulations with regard to glass manufacturer emissions. The new regulations will be enacted later this month.
Neither of these solves the problem entirely, but they are a solid first step toward cleaner and more breathable air in Portland for the short and long term.
I hope to see or hear from you on April 6.