A proposal aimed at monitoring and preventing “rollbacks” of environmental protections under the Trump administration passed the Oregon House 39-20 on March 14.
Under House Bill 2250, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority would have to regularly check whether federal regulations have been rendered “significantly less protective” since the end of the Obama administration.
The DEQ and OHA would then have to recommend or take actions to ensure that Oregon’s environmental standards are at least as protective as federal standards before the Trump administration took office.
Proponents of the legislation argue it's necessary because the Trump administration has sought to undermine the purpose of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, said the federal government has revoked important regulations and is "selling the environment to polluters."
"We live in an era where the federal government is deliberately and actively attacking the EPA from the inside," he said.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown testified in favor of the bill before in the House Committee on Energy and the Environment last month, arguing the “Trump administration has relentlessly attacked environmental safeguards that keep our communities healthy and vibrant.”
Rep. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls, argued that HB 2250 will divert resources from the DEQ and OHA, which are already "behind or subpar in their core functions."
While the bill won't accomplish much of substance, it will open the state government to litigation from environmental groups and others who disagree with its assessments of changes to federal policy, he said.
"In effect, the bill by default assumes new environmental rules are and will be worse than what previously existed and uses a date to set the bar," Reschke said. "I find this kind of policy making under the guise of protecting Oregon's environment to be more political science than science."
The bill was opposed by a coalition of agriculture, forestry and business groups who claimed the proposal was a drain on natural resource agencies that already have inadequate funding to perform key functions.
The revised version of HB 2250 approved by the House removed the requirement for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture, Department of State Lands, Department of Water Resources and Watershed Enhancement Board to monitor changes to federal regulations.