All State Policies: Oregon
Below are short descriptions of relevant state agencies/departments by policy topic, followed by more information on specific policies.
Drinking Water: Oregon Health Authority’s Drinking Water Services (DWS) administers and enforces drinking water quality standards for public water systems in the state. The Drinking Water Advisory Committee (DWAC) was created in 2007 “to advise and assist Drinking Water Services on policies related to the protection, safety and regulation of public drinking water in Oregon.” More than 85% of Oregon residents obtains their drinking water from community water systems.
Environmental Justice: Oregon’s natural resource agencies are supposed to report annually to the Environmental Justice Council and the Governor on their efforts to address environmental issues and increase public participation (as outlined in SB 420). The agencies include: Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Water Resources Department, Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Forestry Department, Department of State Lands, Department of Education, Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Department of Land Conservation and Development, State Marine Board, Public Utility Commission, Department of Transportation, State Fire Marshal, and the Department of Human Services. View the combined 2018 Agency Reports to the EJ Task Force from state agencies (individual reports from more recent years may be found on agency websites). Resolution 17 (see below) expands the obligations of SB 420 to ALL state agencies in Oregon, but it’s not yet clear when that will occur.
Bolstering CWA Protections
This memo from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to the Environmental Quality Commission was written in response to the revisions by US EPA on the definition of Waters of the United States and states’ issuance of CWA Section 401 certifications under the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule.” The Environmental Quality Commission is DEQ’s formal policy and rulemaking body. The commission must adopt rules in order for them to become effective.
DEQ reiterated that “existing state law prohibits causing pollution of any waters of the state or discharging wastes in violation of water quality standards in the absence of authorization from DEQ.”
“For projects with no federal jurisdiction, DEQ is issuing Mutual Agreement Orders to applicants, which is substantively similar to the review that would otherwise occur as part of the Section 401 water quality certification.”
The memo also states that “Based on Oregon’s more comprehensive water quality laws, DEQ has broad state authority to regulate and protect surface waters that may no longer be under federal jurisdiction, and is evaluating revising its regulations to create a process that ensures that waters of the state remain protected where there are discharges to non-WOTUS surface waters that do not reach a navigable water.”
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board created a 100-Year Water Vision with the goal of caring for “our water to ensure we have enough clean water for our people, our economy, and our environment, now and for future generations.” A guiding principle of the vision is “Improvements to our infrastructure and ecosystems come with costs. We will ensure that those costs are not disproportionately borne by those who can least afford it.” Input on the vision was garnered through interviews, community forums, technical workshops, and public comment periods.
Signed on 3/23/22, in effect 8/1/2022
EJ Council and Defining Key Terms
This Act changed the name of the Environmental Justice Task Force to the Environmental Justice Council. Additionally, it defined several key terms. It defined environmental burden as, “the environmental and health risks to communities caused by the combined historic, current and projected future effects of: (a) Exposure to conventional pollution and toxic hazards in the air or in or on water or land; (b) Adverse environmental conditions caused or made worse by other contamination or pollution; and (c) Changes in the environment resulting from climate change, such as water insecurity, drought, flooding, wildfire, smoke and other air pollution, extreme heat, loss of traditional cultural resources or foods, ocean acidification, sea-level rise and increases in infectious disease.”
“Community-supported natural resource collaborative” includes “a group that works with a natural resource agency in a collaborative manner on natural resource issues affecting the community and that: (a) Promotes public participation in natural resource decisions;
(b) Provides an open forum that allows for public deliberation of natural resource decisions affecting the community;
(c) Can demonstrate diverse representation and balance between interests, including but not limited to environmental organizations, industry organizations and community members;
(d) Has members who are individuals or organizations directly affected by the natural resource decisions discussed;
(e) Has a governance agreement that guides its operations; and
(f) Works in cooperation with local and tribal governments.”
The definition of “Environmental justice:” “means the equal protection from environmental and health risks, fair treatment and meaningful involvement in decision making of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, income or other identities with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies that affect the environment in which people live, work, learn and practice spirituality and culture.”
“Environmental justice community” “includes communities of color, communities experiencing lower incomes, communities experiencing health inequities, tribal communities, rural communities, remote communities, coastal communities, communities with limited infrastructure and other communities traditionally underrepresented in public processes and adversely harmed by environmental and health hazards, including seniors, youth and persons with disabilities.”
Environmental Justice Mapping Tool
“The Environmental Justice Council with staff support from the Department of Environmental Quality, in collaboration with the office of Enterprise Information Services, the Institute for Natural Resources, the Portland State University Population Research Center, and natural resource agencies with staff support from the department and the Oregon Health Authority, shall develop an environmental justice mapping tool. When developing the environmental justice mapping tool, the council shall develop and conduct an inclusive community engagement process.” The bill further specifies the details of the community engagement process. The deadline for developing the EJ Mapping Tool is “no later than September 15, 2025,” with a progress report from the Environmental Justice Council to the governor by September 15, 2024.
The Act appropriated $324,520 to the Department of Environmental Quality from the General Fund to develop the EJ Mapping Tool for the biennium ending June 30, 2023. An additional $123,586 was appropriated to the Oregon Health Authority
Additionally, the Environmental Justice Council will provide guidance for state agencies regarding how to use the EJ mapping tool when adopting rules, policies or guidelines. The EJ Council will provide further guidance on best practices for public participation and consulting EJ communities, as well as developing guidelines for how to identify EJ communities and how to evaluate socioeconomic benefits and burdens to EJ communities.
Caveats/Limitations of the Environmental Justice Mapping Tool
The Act clarifies that the EJ Mapping Tool “is informational only and may not be used in agency decision-making on individual permits or applications unless otherwise required by federal or state law.”
Natural resource agencies “may consider the results of the environmental justice mapping tool … when developing administrative rules or agency policies or programs. Natural resource agencies shall consider the recommendations in the report required by … this 2022 Act when utilizing the environmental justice mapping tool. (2) A natural resource agency may use the environmental justice mapping tool to: (a) Identify environmental justice communities affected by agency programs; (b) Conduct outreach and engagement activities with environmental justice communities to inform the development, adoption, implementation or enforcement of environmental laws, administrative rules or agency policies; (c) Establish measurable goals for reducing environmental health disparities within agency programs; and (d) Prioritize agency funding to help address identified impacts on environmental justice communities. (3)(a) The environmental justice mapping tool may inform agency policies and programs as they relate to community engagement and outreach, investments and funding and impacts to environmental justice communities, and may be a source of information to the public.”
Adopted on 6/9/2021
The legislative assembly of Oregon passed this Resolution acknowledging that “environmental and climate solutions must address structural socioeconomic inequalities.” The Resolution extends the reach of ORS 182.545 (SB 420) to apply to “all state agencies and all policy decisions” and “all state agencies are responsible to respond to the health, environmental, economic and climate crises we face, and are accountable to build a just, equitable and resilient future to secure health and well-being for all people.”
State agencies are to “develop guidance for the consideration of environmental justice in implementing their statutory and regulatory responsibilities and will consult with the Environmental Justice Task Force to ensure that actions are taken to correct environmental injustices and improve public health and overall well-being of all communities.”
“Oregon will make reparative investments in frontline communities and direct state resources to ensure that policies and processes are focused on building systems for healthy food, renewable energy infrastructure, clean air and water, good jobs with a family-sustaining wage and a range of workforce services and skills training…”
Further, “Oregon will address environmental pollution on the basis of the right of all people to clean air, safe and affordable drinking water and protection from climate hazards and the sustainable preservation of ecological integrity and the aesthetic, scientific, cultural and historical values of the natural environment.”
“Oregon will make investments in watershed protection and water infrastructure to safeguard the water on which we currently depend… a regenerative economy in Oregon will be based on community health protection, respect for traditional ecological knowledge systems and the full and fair participation of Black, Native American, Indigenous and People of Color communities, essential workers, youth, low-income people and those who are most vulnerable in rural and urban communities.”
Signed on 6/1/2021, into effect 1/1/2022
This Act relates to water project community engagement, where a water project includes “watershed enhancement, in-stream flow protection or enhancement, water resource conservation or development, or water supply and wastewater treatment and disposal projects.” And ““Water project support” means planning, technical assistance or financial support related to a water project that is provided to an eligible recipient by one of the following providers: (A) The Department of Environmental Quality; (B) The Oregon Business Development Department; (C) The State Department of Fish and Wildlife; (D) The Oregon Health Authority; (E) The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board; or (F) The Water Resources Department.” These agencies will provide funding for planning for community engagement to local organizations and local governments.
While this legislation does not specifically mention “environmental justice,” it does target “impacted communities.” Water project support providers “Shall require that community engagement plans supported by the provider utilize goals and approaches for increased participation of disproportionately impacted communities in decisions related to the identification, scoping, design and implementation of water projects.”
“Disproportionately impacted communities” is broadly defined, and “may include: (A) Rural communities; (B) Coastal communities; (C) Areas with above-average concentrations of historically disadvantaged households or residents with low levels of educational attainment, areas with high unemployment, high linguistic isolation, low levels of homeownership or high rent burden or sensitive populations; or (D) Other communities that face barriers to meaningful participation in public processes.”
Water project decision-making plans should invite and support “broad community participation that includes disproportionately impacted communities; (B) Invites and supports tribal participation in the areas of water projects or proposed water projects, regardless of whether tribal members are represented in the community demographics; (C) Establishes specific goals for equitable participation and water project decision-making and identifies specific realistic and achievable approaches for use in meeting those goals.”
The Act created two main mechanisms for environmental justice (EJ) issues to be addressed at the state level:
1) The EJ Task Force was charged with meeting with EJ communities and making recommendations to the Governor and state agencies, including identifying, in cooperation with natural resource agencies, minority and low-income communities “that may be affected by environmental decisions made by the agencies.” The EJ Task Force members “shall be persons who are well-informed on the principles of environmental justice and who, to the greatest extent practicable, represent minority communities, low-income communities, environmental interests, industry groups and geographically diverse areas of the state. Of the 12 members, the Governor shall appoint one member of the task force from… (a) The Commission on Asian Affairs; (b) The Commission on Black Affairs; (c) The Commission on Hispanic Affairs; and (d) The Commission on Indian Services.”
2) The Act created the role of “Citizen Advocates.” These advocates are employees of the natural resource agencies who are tasked with public outreach activities. Agencies include Department of Environmental Quality, the State Department of Agriculture, the Water Resources Department, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Forestry Department, the Department of State Lands, the Department of Education, the State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, the Department of Land Conservation and Development, the State Marine Board, the Public Utility Commission, the Department of Transportation, the State Fire Marshal and the Department of Human Services.
This legislation did not specify a definition of environmental justice; the EJ Task Force that emerged out of the law defines EJ as “equal protection from environmental and health hazards, and meaningful public participation in decisions that affect the environment in which people live, work, learn, practice spirituality, and play.”
Signed on 8/1/1997
The Executive Order, signed by Governor Kitzhaber, established a 12-member Environmental Justice Advisory Board appointed by the Governor, representing “minority and low income communities, environmental interests, and the geographically diverse areas of Oregon.” It also directed all agency directors with authority in natural resource or environmental related areas, as designated by the Governor’s Natural Resource Office, to “report to the Environmental Justice Advisory Board and the Governor annually on the results of their efforts to implement the recommendations of the Environmental Equity Task Force Report.”
“The report shall propose solutions for issues of environmental justice in Oregon… Evaluate the success of the agency in incorporating the task force recommendations into the relevant program or policy; b: Explain how the suggestions and input from minority and low income communities, expressed through the Environmental Justice Advisory Board, have been considered and/or integrated into the program or policy; c: Supply information on agency plans to expand upon the 1994 Advisory Committee report recommendations to further the progress of eliminating environmental injustice in Oregon.”