Program Overview

Program Purpose

The Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know Program was created in 1996 by an amendment to the Eugene Charter that requires certain manufacturers to provide information to the public concerning the use and disposition of federally listed hazardous substances. It is overseen by a seven-member volunteer citizen board appointed by the Eugene City Council: three who are employed by or are agents of businesses required to report under the law, three who have a proven record of environmental advocacy, and one who is nominated by at least four of the other six members. The program operates with only one paid staff position, and is fully-funded by fees assessed to local businesses that are hazardous substance users. Program costs currently run approximately $150,000 per year. For 2018, City Council approved a fee of $65.430 per FTE, up to $2,000 per entity (Council Ordinance No. 20589).

Calendar year 1998 was the first reporting year under the program. Reports are due on April 1 each year, and fees are due on May 1. The program requires reporting of chemicals that are federally listed in Sections 302 and 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA); the Clean Air Act (CAA); the Clean Water Act (CWA); the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Chemicals meeting federal definitions of hazardous waste for the characteristics of toxicity, reactivity, corrosivity, or ignitability are also reportable, even if they are not being disposed of as hazardous waste. 

A distinguishing characteristic of the program is materials balance accounting. For any reportable substance, for each year, a manufacturer must report inputs in four categories, and outputs in eleven categories, such that total inputs and total outputs are equivalent within the smallest accounting unit used by the program, which for hazardous substances is 2.2 pounds and for extremely hazardous substances is 0.022 pounds. In the United States, only the state of Massachusetts and the state of New Jersey have similar reporting requirements; no other municipality does.

Affected Businesses

To be required to report under the program, and pay a fee, a business must: 

  1. Operate a stationary facility located within the Eugene city limits; 
  2. Employ the equivalent of ten or more full-time employees; 
  3. Be engaged in manufacturing (within the Standard Industrial Classification Code categories #20 through #39); and 
  4. Have inputs totaling 2,640 pounds or more of hazardous substances in a calendar year. 

To be required to pay a fee, a business must meet criteria 1 through 3 above.

State and federal facilities (including facilities of their political subdivisions), as well as public educational institutions are exempted.

As of December 31, 2017, 35 facilities are reporting and paying fees. Another 47 facilities are required to pay fees, however, are not required to report. Overall employment ranged from 11 FTE to 421 FTE.

Significant Dates and Actions Related to the Program

  • 1902—State of Oregon adopted citizen initiative laws.
  • 1987—Eugene Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance.
  • 1989—Oregon State Fire Marshal Preemption Laws in ORS 453.402.
    • State Legislature provided that local toxics right-to-know programs may not charge a fee based on chemical quantities if those programs in any way duplicate the state-level right-to-know program.
  • 1995—Announcement of construction of Hyundai microchip factory in Eugene.
  • 1996—Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know Charter Amendment enacted.
  • 1996—Twelve-count lawsuit filed against the City of Eugene by Eugene Businesses.
  • 1999—Oregon Court of Appeals Ruling.
    • Acting on the appeal of the lawsuit filed by local businesses soon after the passage of the charter amendment, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that Eugene had been assessing fees based on quantities of chemicals used, in violation of Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS 453.370 and ORS 453.402). The City had been charging fees based on number of employees at each facility, but, in accordance with the charter amendment, had only been assessing fees to businesses meeting a certain quantity threshold. This practice was overturned by the court, and the City chose not to appeal further. The City decided to issue refunds to all businesses that had paid fees on that basis. Also as a result of the ruling, the provisions of the Eugene Charter Amendment IV governing chemicals listed pursuant to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and those chemicals defined as pesticides under ORS 634.006(8) are no longer reportable under Eugene’s Program.
  • 1999—Eugene City Council adopts Eugene Code (EC) 3.690 to 3.696
    • In order to adhere as closely as possible to the intent of the voters as expressed in the charter amendment, the City implemented a new type of fee structure not based on quantities of chemicals used, but instead assessed to manufacturers within the Eugene City limits with 10 or more full-time-equivalent employees, regardless of the quantity of hazardous substances used in their manufacturing processes. This resulted in a second tier of businesses being required to pay fees, but not being required to file reports. There are exemptions for companies using no hazardous substances at all. (See Eugene Code 3.692)
  • 1999—State Legislature adopts House Bill 2431.
    • This legislation imposes certain requirements on any local right-to-know program currently existing or that may be proposed in the State of Oregon, and resulted in Eugene being required to reduce its maximum fine for violations of the program from $25,000 per day to $1,000 per day. The City was also required to adopt a fine schedule indicating the severity of potential fines for different types of violations. Also as of the year 2002, the legislation required local jurisdictions including Eugene to give the state an opportunity to administer local reporting requirements.
  • 2003—State-imposed fee cap of $2,000 per facility [provided by HB 2431] takes effect (ORS 453.370(2)(b)).
    • Imposed to contain the financial impact of the program on businesses. For example, in 1998, the highest fee was $14,927. In 1999, 10 companies paid more than $2,000 and the highest fee paid was $7,311. (The drop in 1999 was due to a reduction in the program’s revenue requirement following the labor-intensive startup phase.)

Program Background

The Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know program was adopted by local voters in November 1996 as an amendment to the Eugene City Charter. It was included on the ballot via the citizen initiative process. The initiative was a response to the perception that information concerning the use of hazardous substances in the community, and in particular the releases of those substances into the local environment, was not readily accessible to citizens under existing reporting regulations.

Unlike other hazardous substance reporting programs, the Eugene Charter Amendment requires affected businesses to provide materials balance accounting, meaning that inputs and outputs of hazardous substances must be reported and must balance. These reports are required on an annual basis, and are made available, in an accessible format, at the Eugene Public Library.

Procedures are provided for the reporting (or non-reporting) of trade secret chemicals. Penalties for noncompliance are provided. Reporting businesses are audited once every three years on a random basis.

The program is governed by a seven-member board appointed by the Eugene City Council, which began meeting early in 1997. The program is supported by fees assessed to the reporting businesses and to local manufacturers meeting the employee requirement, but not meeting the usage threshold requiring materials balance reporting.

Eugene@150 Story Catchers Audio File

Listen to a historical discussion on the foundation of the Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know Program, which was part of a volunteer effort in support of Eugene celebrating 150 years.