Oregon’s new air toxic program is set to go “live” in November 2018.

After two plus years in development, Oregon’s new, and, in many ways, radical approach to air toxics control, known as Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO), is expected to be adopted by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission this month.  The CAO program will regulate air toxics from industrial and commercial facilities.  The program will regulate more than 600 chemicals emitted into the air—more than three times the number of chemicals regulated by the federal air quality program.  The CAO program imposes stringent limits on toxic air emissions from existing commercial and industrial processes in ways never seen before in Oregon.  The CAO program also applies to new facilities.  Many facilities have already examined their toxic air emissions at the request of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 2017.  Understanding your toxic air emissions is the key element to successful operations under the CAO program.  Even facilities with sophisticated air quality programs have learned new information about their processes that will be critical to reducing the practical pain and tremendous expense of compliance with CAO.

Compliance with CAO for existing facilities will be initiated when a facility is “called in” by DEQ for a revised air permit.  It will take several years for all existing facilities to be called in.  The first facilities to be called in will be those the DEQ has evaluated as presenting the most significant risks from air toxics.  Other existing facilities will choose to submit themselves to the CAO program so they can modify or expand their facilities.  Any modification that increases toxic air emissions will subject facilities to the new CAO rules.

The focus of the CAO program is the predicted health impacts to the people living or working near facilities.  Unlike previous programs that examined the amount of chemicals emitted, the CAO carefully examines health impacts, even from relatively minor amounts of emissions.  The question is whether the emissions create an increased risk of cancer or increased non-cancer risks to humans in an area around a facility drawn at 1.5 kilometers or the “area of impact,” whichever is larger.

The program includes extensive community engagement activities that will provide much more information on facility air emissions to neighbors than the public has seen before.  The department will have full-time staff involved in creating and executing complex community engagement programs.

The CAO program will require ongoing pollution reduction efforts by all facilities that emit air toxics.

The CAO program will likely impact how your facility operates and the products you make.  All changes to your operations, even if minor, could yield changes in the health risk created by your operations and trigger additional permitting. 

Compliance with the CAO program will be expensive.  The efforts to work with the DEQ’s community engagement process and the efforts to track your operations to meet the department’s detailed requirements will be extensive and expensive.  The department’s CAO fees are new and onerous.  For example, the department expects to charge, in some cases, multiple different fees for the same emission unit based on different chemicals emitted from the same unit. 

The best approach will be to begin now to better understand your operation and air emissions, even if your facility will not be called into the CAO program for a while.  Even facilities that got ahead of the planning effort in 2017 will want to intensify their efforts to better understand and evaluate their processes.  Detailed knowledge of your process will be key to flexibility, efficiency, and saving compliance costs.

The DEQ document that outlines the CAO program is attached.  It is voluminous.  The report includes the proposed new rules and the DEQ’s responses to comments on the rules filed by hundreds of commenters.  If you have any questions or seek additional information, please contact Brien Flanagan or Dave Bartz

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