"By fostering the development of the next generation of green materials, Oregon has the opportunity to demonstrate national leadership and a commitment to the quality of life that Oregonians value. Ultimately, successful innovation will create good jobs that are safer for workers and offer a high quality of life for our communities, enhancing opportunities and resources for future generations. By applying green chemistry, Oregon will be able to address some of our most significant sustainability related challenges head on. In doing so, we will be supporting the health and well-being of our citizens and protecting the resiliency of the ecosystems we depend upon. ” –Executive Order from Oregon Governor John Kitzbahber’s
America would do well to follow down the path taken by Oregon on Friday when Gov. Kitzhaber signed an executive order saying state agencies will endeavor to use new, green chemical alternatives instead of their traditional toxic counterparts. In signing the Executive Order, Kitzbahber made a smart choice to make Oregonians safer and bring national attention — and undoubtedly dollars — to the state.
While states are taking the lead in reforming our outdated chemical policies, leaders in Congress are still struggling to reform America’s outdated Toxic Chemicals Act of 1976 (TSCA). It has been known for a long time that TSCA is woefully inadequate to police the chemicals industry. Since TSCA was enacted in 1976, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only been able to require testing of 200 chemicals — that is 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals produced and used in the U.S. since. In fact, every since the federal courts ruled that TSCA does not give the EPA to power to ban asbestos — a material which has been banned in 40 other countries because of its proven link to cancer and other fatal lung diseases — the EPA has stopped trying to use the law to restrict chemicals.
The good news is moving America away from toxic chemicals and to their greener alternatives, will not only make us safer, it makes complete economic sense. In 2011, we released a report that found reforming our broken federal chemical policies could reverse the chemical industry’s 20-year decline in employment while also lowing industry costs and making the overall industry competitive internationally.
Updating our chemical laws won’t be easy; if it were, this obvious win-win for the economy and American people would have already been passed. Green chemistry supporters in Oregon encountered resistance too, and Kitzbahber only signed this Executive Order after efforts in the legislature failed.
Congratulations to Oregon for being wise enough to take make this smart choice. Now, it’s time for the federal government to follow the lead of the states and fix our broken system.
Read more about the announcement on OPB News and Portland Business Journal’s Sustainable Business Oregon.