SALEM, ORE. - Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state's Department of Environmental Quality have agreed to a three-year delay in enforcement of Oregon's landmark 1991 rigid plastics container law. A bid to change the law, the nation's strictest, is the hottest solid-waste issue on the Oregon Legislature's current agenda.
The law mandates businesses recycle or reuse at least 25 percent of the rigid plastic containers used for consumer products in the state. This year was the deadline for compliance. But the recycling rate reached 32 percent last year, avoiding the need to apply enforcement mechanisms.
Retail and packaging interests sought an overhaul to bring the law into closer alignment with California's less stringent standards. Packagers said they have little direct control over the compliance rate, which could quickly slip below 25 percent if local governments resist expanding their collection programs.
``Business interests are under rather specific and expensive hammers that are complicated and expensive to meet and they wanted to try to solve some of those problems in this session,'' said Paul Cosgrove, a lobbyist for Procter & Gamble Co.
Bills to alter the law were among measures an activist portrayed as ``a major attack on the environment all across the board by a legislature controlled for the first time in 40 years by rural Republicans.''
The effort to modify the 1991 law was being orchestrated by out-of-state interests' intent on removing it as a potential model for other states, said Christopher Taylor, an environmental lobbyist for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group.
Kitzhaber's threats to veto bills that go too far to weaken environmental protections seem to have taken the steam from the main attack on the law.
In early May, a key Senate committee approved Kitzhaber's watered-down compromise measure, which delays enforcement until Jan. 1, 1998.