UPDATE (2:59 p.m. PST) – Portland-based art glass maker Bullseye Glass has filed a federal lawsuit against Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and several state and local agencies claiming discrimination against the company’s civil rights. The federal civil suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oregon, names leaders at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Health Authority and the Multnomah County Health Department as defendants.
“We filed the lawsuit today in federal court to expose the state’s discriminatory conduct and seek compensation for harm to Bullseye’s business operations and our reputation,” Jim Jones, a vice-president at Bullseye, said.
Bullseye came under heavy state and county scrutiny in 2016 after scientists found heavy metals in the air and plants near Bullseye’s Southeast Portland headquarters. The company has spent millions of dollars to comply with regulations since those findings.
“Bullseye has always had a consistent history of full compliance," Jones said. "We welcome clear, tough, state environmental regulations.”
The company’s finding claims the governor’s actions were arbitrary and capricious and violated the company’s right to due process.
“We cannot comment on the specifics of pending litigation. However, Gov. Brown is dedicated to ensuring clean air and water for Oregonians,” said Brown’s press secretary, Kate Kondayen.
The Oregon Attorney General’s office is reviewing the complaint. DEQ, OHA and Multnomah County do not comment on pending lawsuits.
Neighbors of Bullseye Glass have reacted with interest.
Jessica Applegate of the Eastside Portland Air Coalition, an activist group that formed after the 2016 emissions revelation. She said the group "agree somewhat with Bullseye when they say they were unfairly targeted,” compared with other companies emitting toxins. The overarching problem of unregulated pollution was what the Governor’s initiative, Cleaner Air Oregon, was created to address.
"But if they truly wanted fair regulation," Applegate said, "they would not have made the move with this federal lawsuit."
Applegate says she sees Bullseye shifting its approach, in closer accord with larger industrial companies that engage with the state on regulatory issues, such as Oregon Business and Industry. Could the lawsuit be a strategic move aimed at weakening Brown's regulatory overhaul, Cleaner Air Oregon?
"What happens if Bullseye successfully sues the Governor, DEQ, the Oregon Health Authority," Applegate said. "It’s going to look bad and take the ship down."
Bullseye is seeking $30 million in damages, which Jones said was calculated based on damage caused to Bullseye’s business and reputation.
The company is facing a separate class-action lawsuit filed by neighbors who claim their property values have plunged since 2016.