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Governor moves to head off Trump on environmental regulations

Governor proposes that federal environmental standards be put into Oregon law, keeping them in force if Trump administration continues rollbacks

By CLAIRE WITHYCOMBE

Capital Bureau

Published on October 4, 2018 12:24PM

Last changed on October 4, 2018 11:10PM

Gov. Kate Brown proposes that federal environmental standards be put into Oregon law, keeping them in force if the Trump administration continues rollbacks.

Capital Bureau

Gov. Kate Brown proposes that federal environmental standards be put into Oregon law, keeping them in force if the Trump administration continues rollbacks.

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SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown wants to guard against a rollback of federal environmental rules by moving them into state law where the Trump administration couldn’t touch them.

Brown, a Democrat up for re-election next month, proposed legislation Wednesday that would have the state adopt all federal clean air and water standards as of Jan. 19, 2017 — the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as president.

“As states, we can take a leadership role in preventing the erosion of core laws that protect our environment,” Brown said in remarks at an event at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. “Together, states must stand up to the Trump administration’s continuous attacks on our health and environment.”

Brown said that the Trump administration has already scaled back some rules that aim to keep the country’s air and water clean.

The administration has repealed or proposed elimination of about 46 regulations, according to Brown’s office, citing the Harvard Environmental Law Program Regulatory Rollback Tracker.

These include fuel efficiency standards and regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Oregon has one such plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also considering aspects of rules adopted in 2016 to require reduced emissions from public landfills. Landfills emit high levels of gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Nationally, they are the third-largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions.

Eight state attorneys general, including Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, sued the EPA over the proposed rollback in May “on behalf of (Oregon’s) citizens and residents to protect their health and well-being and to protect natural resources held in trust by the state.”

“It is widely assumed that the next wave of rollbacks will be to core safeguards of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act,” according to Brown’s press release.

“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,” Brown said. “In Oregon, that rollback stops now.”

Nikki Fisher, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email that there would be no expected additional cost to state government as a result.

Brown’s opponent, state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, said in response to the proposal that he too would “defend Oregon and our clean air and clean water.”

“As governor, if the Trump administration attempts to roll back rules that safeguard Oregon’s environment, I will defend Oregon and our clean air and clean water,” Buehler said in a written statement. “I have shown this repeatedly by breaking with my party on this important issue. I opposed the president’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and broke with my party to replace coal energy in Oregon with cleaner renewables like wind and solar.”

Buehler supported 2016 legislation that required Oregon to stop using coal-generated electricity by 2030. He also criticized Brown’s direction of the state Department of Environmental Quality, which regulates air and water.

In February 2017, Brown appointed Richard Whitman director of the agency. The previous director resigned in 2016 over a heavy metal air pollution scandal in Portland.

In January, state auditors found that backlogs in permits and inspections at the agency “endanger the state’s air quality and the health of Oregonians.”

“In addition to talking about federal environmental regulations, I would challenge Gov. Brown to fix her own DEQ which has been mired in chaos and turnover, failing to protect and enforce our state laws,” Buehler said.

A spokesman for Brown’s campaign, Christian Gaston, claimed in an email Thursday morning that Buehler was “lying.”

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group and Salem Reporter.



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