Environmental Accountability Bill Requested by AG Rosenblum Passes Legislature; Will Fund Portland Harbor Cleanup

May 28, 2021
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Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today thanked the Oregon legislature for passing “The Environmental Accountability Act” (HB 2377), which holds parties accountable for environmental contamination at massive clean-up sites — like the Portland Harbor Superfund Site — even if those companies have dissolved and are no longer in business. The bill makes it possible for the state to access insurance assets for businesses that polluted but are no longer operational.

HB 2377 was introduced in the Oregon legislature at the request of Attorney General Rosenblum and had the support from environmental advocacy organizations, local governments, and stakeholders.

“Complex environmental litigation, like the Portland Harbor Superfund, can drag on for many years. Before HB 2377, the state could not hold some of the original polluters accountable because we could not access their insurance assets, even if these companies had paid for insurance that covered environmental contamination,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.

Companies that caused pollution in Oregon many years ago purchased insurance coverage for environmental contamination, but the state may be unable to reach those insurance assets because of a technicality in Oregon law. The technicality relates to the way in which a defunct company dissolved, and whether they filed appropriate paperwork to do so. HB 2377 closes this loophole, ending the potential of an unearned windfall to insurers — and reducing substantially the cleanup costs to Oregonians.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, located along a section of the lower Willamette River, is contaminated from decades of industrial use. Water and sediment at the Portland Harbor Site are tainted with many hazardous substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins/furans, pesticides and heavy metals — all of which have all been found to be harmful to people and the environment.

“This is a simple fix with potentially huge rewards to the taxpayers. I want to especially thank Senator Frederick,  Speaker Kotek, and Representatives Sanchez, Holvey and Witt for championing this important legislation,” said AG Rosenblum.