Action alert: Please help stop SB 412, the Port of Portland dumping bill

The Port of Portland is seeking an exception to Oregon’s solid waste laws that will make it easier for them to dump their contaminated dredge materials wherever they want.

Under current state law, a party can place solid waste outside of a landfill if it can demonstrate three things: 1) the material is being put to “productive use,” 2) the placement will not have an adverse impact on the environment, and 3) the applicant has sufficiently characterized the material. This is a good law that keeps solid waste out of landfills when it can be demonstrated that it can be put to other productive uses, but it is too often weakly enforced.

Photo by Mike Houck

Now the Port of Portland wants to make the law even weaker. The Port of Portland is trying to change the law to create a special exception for ports when they want to dump dredge materials – which are defined as solid waste – into the environment at upland sites. Instead of having to demonstrate they are putting this waste to productive use, the new law would require Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to automatically certify any upland placement of dredge materials by ports as “productive.” That means the state agency charged with protecting our communities and environment would  automatically have to certify any placement of port dredge materials as “productive” regardless of whether they are productive or not.

The Port of Portland actually tried to get dredge materials removed from the list of solid waste altogether, taking away all of DEQ’s oversight. When that failed they “compromised” by settling for partially gutting existing law. Sadly, this compromise was backed by the governor’s office. The original effort was completely outrageous and so is the compromise.

Why does the Port of Portland want this? It is because it has faced strong community opposition when it has tried to get DEQ to certify its dumping of contaminated waste from the Portland Harbor Superfund Site on West Hayden Island as productive. This is just another effort by the Port to skirt environmental laws and avoid regulations that protect the public and the environment.

View SB 412.

Take Action

Please write the House Committee on Energy and the Environment and tell them:

  • Please vote no on SB 412.
  • No special exceptions from environmental laws for the Port of Portland.
  • It is critical that DEQ retain full oversight over solid waste disposal to protect our communities and our environment.
  • Requiring DEQ to automatically certify port dumping as “productive” renders the word “productive” meaningless and weakens DEQ oversight.
  • SB 412 would allow ports to create new, permanent solid-waste dredge dumps outside of existing landfills that provide no beneficial value — exactly what the law was supposed to prevent.
  • We expect public agencies like the Port of Portland to follow environmental laws, not seek exceptions from them.

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