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Apr-14-2009 13:32printcomments

Senate Democrats Vote for Increased Penalties Against Environmental Polluters

Senate Bill 105 raises fines for first time in 36 years.

Oregon capitol
Salem-News photo by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - Senate Democrats claimed a victory for environmental protection this morning by voting for Senate Bill 105, 16-13. For most violations, SB 105 increases the maximum penalty against polluters from $10,000 to $25,000 per violation, per day.

The bill also considerably increases fines against water polluters and for violations that cause extreme hazard to public health or the environment. Current rates were set in 1973 and have not been adjusted since. “Oregon currently has one of the lowest maximum penalties allowed in the nation and we have already been notified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that some of our penalties are inadequate,” said Senator Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), chair of Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“This increased schedule of fees is appropriate and closer reflects Oregon’s reputation as a national environmental leader.”

Increased fines would apply to violations of hazardous waste law, laws governing disposal of solid waste and materials containing mercury, and misdemeanor fines related to air quality, asbestos and underground storage tanks, among others.

Additionally, SB 105 increases the maximum penalty for negligently or intentionally spilling oil or hazardous materials into Oregon waters from $20,000 to $100,000.

“Many Oregon waterways have become notoriously polluted,” said Senator Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), who carried the bill on the floor. “This legislation is another tool for the state to use to deter future polluters and help clean up our rivers.”

Other elements of the law include increasing the maximum civil penalty for a violation that results in imminent likelihood of extreme hazard to the public health or for a violation that causes extensive damage to the environment from $100,000 to $250,000.

“Senate Democrats feel strongly that reckless polluters need to be appropriately penalized,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin).

“Fines for violations need to be proportionate to the damage they cause. Otherwise, they don’t serve their purpose as a deterrent to and a punishment for polluting.”

The bill will now go to the House to consideration.

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blasterbob April 16, 2009 5:10 am (Pacific time)

This window shopping to make people feel like something is being done will simply not happen. DEQ is in bed with industry and will never allow enforcement staff to impose applicable large fines. I worked for DEQ for ten years and referred numerous case to enforcement staff in PDX but higher ups simply did not follow through. So enjoy your beautiful state while you can. Polluters are not afraid of environmental crimes in OREGON.

stephen April 14, 2009 5:28 pm (Pacific time)

but torture and wiretapping american citizens is just fine and dandy. bailing out banks who made bad and greedy decisions is ok too. Using bombs containing depleted uranium is for our best interest. Oh, and lets add that a court decision says the mainstream/corporate owned media cant be sued for not telling the truth. Lets add the FDA approved drugs kill more people than wars, while prohibiting marijuana that has killed ZERO... this is out of control and people need to start waking up. I love my you love yours??

Daniel Johnson April 14, 2009 1:53 pm (Pacific time)

Fines for polluting are not a deterrent. Businesses only treat them as a cost of doing business. Increased fines are passed on as a cost of doing business to the customer who, as the source of ALL income to a business, indirectly pay the fines. There is only one deterrent to a corporate polluter and that is to threaten the existence of the business itself. Businesses are licensed by the government and if a business were threatened with loss or suspension of its operating license, the polluting would quickly end.

MyDogJustPassedGas April 14, 2009 1:53 pm (Pacific time)

That's a deadly CO2 emission right? How much do I owe you government? I'll send a check immediately to either the central bank, or, Al Gore's company if you don't have a carbon tax law yet.

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