Today at 1pm at a Special Meeting of the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission begins with an hour-long public comment period. The topic: What you’d like to see as the characteristics of the new Department of Environmental Quality Director. The EQC has hired a Denver-based recruitment firm to lead the process. Earlier attempts to find a suitable candidate were found lacking, so this is a second attempt to identify suitable candidates.
Last night after reading the letter to the Governor where Eugene-based Beyond Toxics and Eastside Portland Air Coalition teamed up to challenge the appointment of an industry-backed attorney who will co-chair Cleaner Air Oregon, I prepared these remarks:
The Litmus Test
Madame Chair: Earlier this week advocates from SE Portland sent a letter to the Governor.
These residents have banded together as the Eastside Portland Air Coalition, from the most impacted neighborhood, suffering Bullseye Glass emissions for the past 42 years. They will be represented on the Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee, and deservedly so, but in their letter to the Governor they raise a fundamental concern that I think should become a litmus test for the next DEQ Director
Their concern has to do with a level playing field, specifically in this case, that an Industry attorney is named as co-Chair. This appointment is indicative of the long-term advantage that industry has enjoyed and that DEQ has catered to. This institutional blindness, so to speak, is how we have come to this point in this crisis.
Any new DEQ Director must innately understand that the preferences that Industry has enjoyed to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of the community are from a time gone by.
Stacking the deck like this, in favor of industry, cannot stand.
Understanding this new preference – weighing the needs of the community first – must be a litmus test for any new leadership if that person is to enjoy our cooperation and trust.