The owners of Bullseye Glass Co. have sued Gov. Kate Brown and state regulators for $30 million for unfairly targeting the company for elevated levels of air toxins detected in 2015 near the company’s Southeast Portland stained-glass factory.
The 80-page civil rights complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court claims that the governor and state regulators arbitrarily used Bullseye as a scapegoat for air pollution that came from multiple sources and for the state’s lax enforcement of air quality regulations.
State regulators “used Bullseye as a scapegoat to conceal from the public (the Department of Environmental Quality’s) failure to establish any program to identify or control toxic waste emissions from small and medium-sized businesses,” the lawsuit says.
The state’s actions damaged “the goodwill, good name and brand that Bullseye’s owners had spent a lifetime building,” according to the filing.
A spokesperson in Gov. Brown’s office was not immediately available Tuesday morning to respond to the allegations, but the governor typically does not comment on pending litigation.
The Portland Mercury reported in February 2016 that the U.S. Forest Service had found high concentrations of toxic metals in moss near Bullseye’s factory in October 2015.
The federal agency had shared the results with DEQ, but DEQ did not notify Bullseye or the public.
“When alerted to a possible emissions problem for the first time in early February 2016, Bullseye acted quickly and conscientiously to address those concerns,” the lawsuit says.
Bullseye was in full compliance with DEQ permits at the time that the agency brought enforcement action against the company, the lawsuit says.
In March 2016, some Southeast Portland residents joined in a class action suit against Bullseye for allegedly contaminating their neighborhoods and threatening their health.
Gov. Brown in May 2016 ordered Bullseye to immediately stop using certain hazardous metals after unsafe levels of air pollutants were found at a nearby daycare, the Children’s Creative Learning Center.
“Public health and safety are my highest priorities,” Brown said in a statement on the day of the order. “This swift action and public notification will help ensure the wellbeing of local residents who live and work in the area.”
The lawsuit says DEQ misrepresented the results of air toxin tests, further tarnishing the company’s reputation.
“No Oregon business has ever been treated the way Bullseye was treated in the actions described below,” the lawsuit says.
In addition to Gov. Brown and DEQ, the lawsuit names Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Health Department as defendants.
The federal suit was first reported earlier Tuesday by Willamette Week.