Salem, OR—Governor Kate Brown today announced the Oregon Environmental Protection Act
, legislation that adopts the standards of the federal Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act into state law. The legislation ensures the federal environmental standards of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts that were in place and effective as of January 19, 2017, before President Trump took office, shall remain in effect and be enforceable under state law even if the federal government rolls the standards back.
“Over the past two years Oregonians have witnessed an unprecedented and aggressive attack on clean air standards, clean water standards, and federal efforts to fight climate change. In Oregon, that rollback stops now. Under my leadership, Oregon will stand for clean air and clean water, and we will defend the health of our children and our children’s children,” said Governor Brown.
Governor Brown calls on her elected colleagues across the country to take similar action to protect the nation’s air and water. States are well positioned to take a leadership role in preventing the erosion of core environmental standards protecting water and air. States have a clear interest in protecting clean air and clean water, and their legislatures and administrative agencies have implemented elements of clean air and water legislation since the 1970s.
READ: Oregon Environmental Defense Act policy briefing
In the 1970s Congress passed key legislation that protects human health and the environment including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Those laws have been amended and the Environmental Protection Agency has adopted rules to implement them. Over time the laws, rules, and policies have gotten more protective as we have learned more about pollutants in the environment.
The current federal administration has reversed course on these environmental regulations or has put in place the structure to do so. The Harvard Environmental Law Program Regulatory Rollback Tracker documents 46 environmental regulations currently being eliminated or rolled back. To date the administration has focused on policies adopted by the Obama administration, but it is widely assumed that the next wave of rollbacks will be to the core safeguards of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
Examples of environmental standards that have been rolled back or may soon be rolled back by the Trump Administration and will be protected under the Oregon Environmental Protection Act include:
Mercury and Air Toxics Standard: These standards regulate mercury emissions from power plants. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin with severe impacts to children’s and fetal brain development. Coal-fired power plants are a significant source of mercury. Though Oregon has only one remaining coal-fired plant, the health benefits of this regulation are significant, and the Governor’s legislation would keep in place these critical standards that have protected Oregon’s children.
Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards: Children and adults who suffer from asthma or other respiratory illnesses are especially vulnerable to the pollution from cars, power plants, and other industrial sources. The Governor’s legislation would put in place the 2015 science-based ozone standards that protect children and vulnerable populations from asthma and respiratory disease.
Clean Car Rules: The Clean Car Rules protect human health and reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases, through year-over-year improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency standards. The Governor’s legislation would ensure that these rules remain in effect in Oregon.
Clean Water Rule (Waters of the United States or WOTUS): The Clean Water Rule clarifies which water bodies (rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands) are under federal jurisdiction and protected by the Clean Water Act. In so doing it extends CWA protection to rivers and streams where jurisdiction was previously unclear. The existing pre-exemptions for agricultural areas including ditches and fields, are extended so farms and ranches do not need to worry. The Governor’s plan would clarify that the Clean Water Rule applies in Oregon, protecting our treasured navigable lakes, rivers, and streams from pollution.
Municipal Solid Waste New Source Performance Standards: Landfills produce methane and other air pollutants. Updated standards in 2016 reflected the best available science and cost-benefit analysis of the human health impacts of methane and other landfill gases. The Governor’s legislation would require landfills to meet science-based pollution reduction standards.