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Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC)

NEDC files petition to redesignate Lakeview as Nonattainment

September 15, 2014

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A coalition of regional and national conservation organizations and concerned citizens submitted a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on September 15, 2014, asking the agency to redesignate Lakeview, Oregon as nonattainment based on the area’s repeated violations of the federal, health-based, standard for ambient air quality. 

The 24-hour National Ambient Air Quality (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is 35 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). From 2011-2013, ambient air in Lakeview averaged 56µg/m3 — the fifth worst in the nation. In 2013 alone, fine particulate in the ambient air in Lakeview was more than two times the federal standard at 94 µg/m3.

PM2.5 can accumulate deep in the respiratory system and is associated with numerous adverse health effects including premature death, increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, and development of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. PM2.5 also causes visibility impairment, adverse effects on vegetation and ecosystems, and physical damage to property.

A nonattainment designation would impose stricter emissions controls in the area with a deadline to reduce PM2.5 levels throughout the community.

In order to avoid a redesignation to nonattainment and skirt the strict controls associated with it, Lakeview and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have proposed various buffer programs that would allow continued development in the area. Yet these programs fail to require emissions reductions from existing industrial sources, leaving the area with ongoing PM2.5 problems without adequate nonattainment controls.

“It is clear from EPA’s data that Lakeview is not a borderline violator of the Clean Air Act,” said Marla Nelson of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. “Because Lakeview has consistently violated the federal standard, it should properly be redesignated to nonattainment.”

Despite the fact that Lakeview is currently facing major air quality problems, two large-scale bio fuel energy facilities are being proposed: 

  • DEQ has authorized construction of a 24-megawatt biomass electrical generation facility by Iberdrola Renewables
  • Red Rock Biofuels has proposed a $70 million venture in Lakeview that will annually convert 140,000 tons of juniper trees into 14 million gallons of jet fuel

“Corporations should at least be required to pay to worsen our air quality,” said Chris Zinda, a Lakeview resident and longtime advocate who signed on to the petition. “The residents of Lakeview and Oregon’s taxpayers should not be forced to bear the health and economic costs caused by big industry.” 

Coverage of the petition:

The petition was submitted on behalf of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Wild, WildEarth Guardians, Beyond Toxics, Save Our Rural Oregon, Save America’s Forests, Our Forests, Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign/Energy Justice Network, Crag Law Center, Cascadia Wildlands, Neighbors for Clean Air, and concerned citizens George Wuerthner, Dolores Benson, Bob Palzer, and Chris Zinda.