The Origins of Cleaner Air Oregon
In October 2015, U.S. Forest Service monitoring stations detected alarming cadmium and arsenic levels in the air over Southeast Portland. An investigation traced the emissions to a local stained-glass manufacturer that burned heavy metals in its production process. While the company’s activities were legal, due to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exemption, state and local regulators were horrified that a company could emit such harmful emissions in an urban setting. Oregon Governor Kate Brown responded by launching the Cleaner Air Oregon initiative, which created the most stringent air pollution standards in the United States.
How Oregon Industry Can Prepare
Early in the process, the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) identified a pool of 350 Oregon facilities for review. Each year, DEQ would “call in” 20 facilities for evaluation of their emissions and potential impact on the community. The DEQ identified the first batch of participants in early 2019. They’ll begin evaluating the second batch of companies over the next two to three years.
Beyond that, there is a group of 315 Oregon facilities that could potentially be called into the program in the near future. If your company is included in any of the Cleaner Air Oregon lists, it’s time to start preparing. You have an opportunity to begin creating the narrative about your business, its employees and your responsible business practices now, which you can use to communicate with internal and external stakeholders when your examination time comes.
How Veracity Can Help
As PR practitioners, our job will be to help humanize your business by telling your story through blogging, social media, internal relations and (maybe) a little bit of press. This proactive approach helps build community goodwill, which will serve your organization well even if you never face a public relations crisis. What’s more, our experienced team can help you identify and address messaging blind spots you may not be able to see as a company insider.
In the case of the Southeast Portland glass manufacturer, people living near the facility were furious at having been unknowingly exposed to cancer-causing heavy metals. Soon after state regulators announced their findings, local neighborhood associations sued the manufacturer in a class-action lawsuit. Even though the company was not operating illegally, the two sides eventually settled for a $6.5 million payment, and the company’s reputation took a near-fatal hit in light of the unexpected scrutiny.
As DEQ continues calling in companies to the Cleaner Air Oregon program, community groups will undoubtedly mobilize to make their voices heard. No matter how careful you are or how conscientious you are towards your neighbors, events can quickly spiral into a public relations crisis if you’re not managing the narrative. Careful planning, compelling storytelling and strategic community outreach can better position your organization to endure tough times.
Veracity Can Manage Your Cleaner Air Oregon Messaging
Our team has been involved in the Cleaner Air Oregon project from the beginning. We’ve shepherded companies in the initial group through messaging and reactive press relations.
During this process, you’ll want to provide your stakeholders with regular updates on what you’re doing with the program and why.
We can assist your organization by communicating these critical updates with community groups, employees and other relevant stakeholders. This process can include:
- Attending community meetings.
- Preparing talking points in advance if your company gets called on.
- Strategic media outreach only when necessary.
- Providing media trainers to help your company spokespeople feel comfortable fielding questions from the press.
- Sharing your story through blogging, social media management and other internal communication pieces.
Working together, we can manage your Cleaner Air Oregon messaging from before you’re called into the program until you’re successfully on the other side.
If you do nothing, you risk being painted as a polluting monolith that puts the community’s health at risk. With our help, we’ll focus on the human side of the story, so you can present your company in its most accurate light and explain the actions you are taking to keep your community and employees safe.
4207 SE Woodstock Blvd. #471
Portland, OR 97206