A Portland glass company is suing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and her top environmental regulator, claiming they conspired to launch an unprecedented crackdown on the business to cover up the state’s lax record of environmental protection.
Bullseye Glass filed the $30 million suit against Brown, Department of Environmental Quality director Richard Whitman, Oregon Health Authority director Pat Allen and the Multnomah County Health Department, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported last week.
The company was caught up in an environmental and political uproar in 2016 when its air emissions were linked to elevated levels of certain toxic metals in Southeast Portland. Local residents were warned not to eat vegetables from their gardens.
“No Oregon business has ever been treated the way Bullseye was treated,” the company claims. “Bullseye was shut down, and its goodwill and good name were irreparably damaged, by defendants’ actions.”
A spokeswoman for Brown declined comment. Other defendants couldn’t be immediately reached.
Allan Garten, an ex-federal prosecutor who came out of retirement to represent Bullseye, said the company was always in compliance with its air emissions agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality.
Bullseye also claims Brown, Whitman and others leaked questionable data to the news media.
“This case is about abuse of governmental power,” Bullseye states in its complaint. “It is about Oregon’s government coddling huge industries with deep pockets and political ties, and allowing them to dump hundreds of millions of pounds of industrial pollutants and hazardous substances into Oregon’s air. And it is about how Oregon’s government — when its lax enforcement and history of neglect got exposed —rushed to judgment and irrationally turned the full weight of its administrative and punitive powers on a small business, not the real polluters.”
Some opponents argue the suit is just a ploy to distract from the company’s own actions.
A group of neighbors who’ve filed their own civil action against Bullseye claim they’ve gained evidence in the discovery process that proves the company “knew the metals it used to create colored glass were harmful to human health (and) knew the emissions from the furnaces in which it melted those metals created toxic emissions, and (until very recently) decided to do nothing about it.”