The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says two artistic glassmakers in Portland should have installed pollution controls on their furnaces under national rules that were in place for years before emissions became an issue in the city.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced the EPA’s determination in a news release Wednesday.
The decision speaks to what U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, referred to as a loophole “the size of a lunar crater” that allowed Bullseye Glass and Uroboros Glass to operate without pollution controls because regulators had determined the companies weren’t running “continuous” furnaces.
The loophole was discovered when the U.S. Forest Service detected toxic heavy metal hot spots in moss near the two facilities. Follow-up air testing found levels of cadmium and arsenic near the Bullseye Glass plant were way above the health benchmarks for air pollution.
Now, the EPA has determined the two glassmakers’ furnaces are actually running continuously, so they need to comply with the requirements to install pollution controls under the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
The EPA shared its determination with DEQ in a letter this week that notes “there may be some confusion in the glass industry about this rule.”
Oregon DEQ spokeswoman Marcia Danab said her agency recently asked the EPA for guidance on how the requirements apply to the Portland glassmakers. The reason DEQ didn’t require the companies to install pollution controls earlier, she said, is because the companies and DEQ had determined those glassmakers weren’t running continuous furnaces. But the EPA hadn’t done its own assessment until recently.
“The EPA tells us how to implement the national emissions standards,” she said.
Years ago, when the EPA was implementing new rules for glassmakers, records show Bullseye Glass asked to be exempted from the requirement to install pollution controls and told regulators its furnaces were not continuous. At the time, DEQ agreed.
Now, DEQ says it has sent letters to both Bullseye and Uroboros notifying them that they will be required to install the pollution control equipment and apply for the appropriate permit. The agency says the two companies are the only glassmakers in Oregon that are subject to the federal requirements.