Grabbing the tiger by the tail

The Willamette Week beat us to the announcement that Nicholas Caleb, who has been the staff attorney at Neighbors for Clean Air since last March, will be leaving.  In fact, today is his last day.

The board and other staff members are very grateful to Nick for his work this past year.  He stepped into the organization at a time when literally the best we could do was say grab a piece of the tail and hang on.  I knew it would take a special kind of person to walk in to a leadership role at this tiny organization, a month after the US Forest Service moss study revealed wide-spread industrial metals contamination. Personally, Nick became a great friend and confident through tumultuous and not always friendly waters.  I appreciated his calm and his maturity.  We wish him the best, not the least for the reason that whatever work Nick takes on, I know it will be dedicated to a higher public good.

But Nick’s leaving also signals a bigger transition and growth for our organization.  Having a full time staff attorney was the strategic plan we wrote when we opened our doors back in 2010, and when dealing with the issue of toxic air pollution was more the work of an expert who could dive into arcane permits and corners of air emissions regulations.  Over the course of the next few months, NCA will be finalizing a new staffing plan, with more resources dedicated to communications and community organizing, designed to meet the current needs of communities in Oregon to address toxic air.

One huge shift in our work plan for this year is the Meyer Memorial Trust funded Breathe Oregon project, a collaboration with Portland State University and Northwest Environmental Defense Center.  We are thrilled to announce that Tori Cole will be joining NCA in mid-April to be NCA’s Breathe Oregon Project Manager.  Tori has a JD from Lewis and Clark Law School, gaining specific experience in air regulations as a volunteer for the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. For the last few years, she has been a community organizer for SEIU Local 503. Tori’s legal background, strong Spanish language skills, and community organizing experience make her an incredible fit to lead NCA’s multi-faceted Breathe Oregon effort to deepen and strengthen community engagement through informed advocacy.

Air regulations still require unique expertise, and NCA is committed to retaining that.  But we also acknowledge that community engagement and education need to be significantly strengthened if we are to see real progress towards our goal of realizing clean air all the time for everyone.  In order to be successful, NCA will need to be an organization that reflects the diversity of Oregon communities.   NCA is grateful to Meyer Memorial Trust who is supporting this critical Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work through a grant to assist NCA’s board, staff and volunteers in our growth as an organization.

Look for more information in the coming months. In the meantime, please join us in wishing Nicholas Caleb all the best as he embarks on the next steps of his journey.  And please help us give Tori Cole a warm welcome to the NCA family.  You can reach her at


Workshop: Putting Environmental Justice in the Fight for Clean Air

Photo of MVD workshop attendees

Holly Wilson/EPA; Cheryl Grabben/ODEQ; Dan Brown/EPA; Marylou Soscia/EPA; John Wasiutynski/Mult Co; Mary Peveto/NCA; Sheryl Stohs/EPA; Donna Silverberg/DS Consulting; Nicholas Caleb/NCA; Shalini Gupta/Center for Earth, Energy & Democracy; Kristie Ellickson/ Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Akash Singh/NCA

On March 15, 2017 Neighbors for Clean Air partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to host a day-long workshop helping clean air partners  — community members, non-profit groups, and government agencies — work together to prioritize environmental justice in our clean air work, with a special focus on including the voices of those whose health is most directly and historically affected by dirty air.

You’ll find a Workshop Agenda here and we invite you to peruse some of the presentations from the day; we were honored with some very impressive thinkers on the topic!

In the near future we’ll be adding the US EPA’s report from the day, a “how to” document to guide clean air advocates, educators, administrators, and researchers as they work towards healthier air in Oregon. This report will serve as a supplement DEQ/OHA cleaner air Oregon technical workgroup report.

We will update this page as new information related to the workshop becomes available, so please check back!

In the meantime, you can see video’s from the days presentations, here:

GOOD NEWS: Community Groups Win Court Deadlines For Stronger Air Toxics Protections

On March 13, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) must finally address the need for stronger air toxics protections across the country.  Judge Tanya S. Chutkan found that EPA’s delay of many years to issue these rules violated the law and set prompt deadlines for action.  This decision marks a victory for the 9 community-based environmental and public health groups that filed suit to force EPA to fulfill its long-neglected duty to update air toxics standards to safeguard the public.

Exposure to hazardous air pollutants emitted by industries covered by this lawsuit can cause serious human health effects, including reproductive disorders and cancer.  Many major sources of industrial air pollution are located in areas where people are already overburdened with environmental contamination.

To protect people’s safety, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to perform reviews of the health and environmental hazards people near major industrial sources face from toxic air pollution and the pollution control developments available. As a result of these rulemakings, EPA must strengthen air standards as required to provide an ample margin of safety to protect public health and make sure no local communities are left behind as pollution reduction methods advance in some parts of the United States.  EPA is years overdue in fulfilling its legal duties to protect people from the 20 industrial sources of toxic air pollution covered by this lawsuit, including chemical companies, metals and plastics operations, and municipal landfills.

California Communities Against Toxics, Californians Against Waste Foundation, Coalition For A Safe Environment, Del Amo Action Committee, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Neighbors for Clean Air, and Ohio Citizen Action filed this suit in April 2015 against EPA for missing legally required deadlines to protect public health from toxic air pollution. The national environmental law organization Earthjustice represents them.

Now EPA must perform the mandatory Clean Air Act rulemakings on the schedule ordered by the court and update and strengthen the existing emission standards as necessary.

Nick Morales, Lead Attorney at Earthjustice is pleased to have these deadlines in place:

For years, EPA refused to do its job while each day people across the country were forced to breathe hazardous air pollution from industrial operations. Now that the Court has ordered hard deadlines for action, we look forward to urging EPA to strengthen the outdated toxic air pollution limits and require monitoring to reduce the toxic air communities are breathing.


Webinar for Women’s History Month: Women’s Role in the Fight for Environmental Justice

epa logoWe are pleased to let you know about this upcoming opportunity from the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) presents:

Webinar No. 8: Women’s History Month: Women’s Role in the Fight for Environmental Justice

Date: 03/22/2017
Time: 11:00am – 12:30pm Pacific;

To register:

In honor of Women’s History Month, the EJ IWG is focusing on the central role women have played in the environmental justice movement along with the challenges still facing them today. Since the inception of the EJ Movement in the US, women have played a critical role in advocating for overburdened and underserved communities. Women have led the way in organizing their communities, churches, and schools to improve public health and revitalize local neighborhoods. Given the essential contributions of women to the EJ movement, it is vital that environmental justice practitioners begin to articulate environmental inequalities that specifically impact women and develop interventions to effectively target women.

In this webinar, we will lift up pioneering women who helped establish environmental justice within the Environmental Protection Agency and provide a framework to begin to understand some of the challenges that are facing women in the context of environmental justice. The webinar will also highlight organizations that are carrying out projects aimed at providing resources, training, capacity building and other assistance to women. Additionally, the webinar will discuss the representation of women in environmental organizations that are making decisions that impact overburdened and underserved communities.

Subscribe to the EPA’s Environmental Justice Listserv ( to receive registration information for upcoming webinars and activities!

Access & Awareness Webinar Series

Established by Executive Order 12898, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) comprises 17 federal agencies and White House Offices that work together to guide, support and enhance environmental justice and community-based activities. Check out the EJ IWG Webpage for more information.

The EJ IWG is hosting the Access & Awareness Webinar Series to provide public with access to the working group and to increase community awareness of federal agency environmental justice strategies and holistic community-based solutions to address environmental justice issues. This series will help the public gain a deeper understanding of how federal agencies are collaborating and what resources are available to anyone interested in improving the health, quality-of-life, and economic opportunities in overburdened communities.

Diesel Pollution Bill in Oregon: An Update

Diesel image Mult Cty CommissionersWe are excited to report that the first public hearing on the diesel pollution reduction bill (SB 1008) went very well! I testified (you can read my testimony here) along with some of our terrific partners who made a strong case for taking swift action to cut diesel engine pollution across Oregon.

On the day of the hearing, two Multnomah County Commissioners – emergency room doctor Sharon Meiren and Jessica Vega Pederson – authored an outstanding guest opinion piece in The Oregonian that I hope you will read and share with your network – here’s a link to it. They really make the public health case for solving this problem now.

Also, we want to highlight two clean air activists who also testified in the hearing, one about her son’s asthma (which of course is exacerbated by air pollution), the other to hand deliver 3,000 signatures from Oregonians all over the state asking our state legislature to take action on diesel engine pollution now. Haven’t signed yet? You still can! Just click here.

And finally, we invite you to engage in a little grassroots activism yourself! It’s simple:
  1. Grab three postcards (maybe with images of Oregon)
  2. Identify your state representatives if you don’t already know them by entering your address here.  Their mailing addresses in the state capitol will be included, but to make it easy, this one will work for all three: Name & Title, Oregon State Capitol, 900 Court Street NE, Salem, OR 97301.
  3. Write a note to your state representative, your state senator, and Governor Kate Brown, with a short message like this, but with your personal touch: “Please support SB 1008 to reduce diesel engine pollution in Oregon. We’ll never have clean, healthy air if you don’t. The vulnerable among us – children, the elderly, people with asthma, and people of color –  have suffered long enough.”

While we believe we can push this bill into a law this legislative session, we know we can’t do it alone. As is increasingly obvious these days, democracy is a sport, not an armchair. We invite you to get off the sidelines!

PS – If you’re the bill reading type or want to follow its progress through the session, here’s a link to it: