Business groups focus on saving DEQ budget

Business group's are concerned about the fate of the DEQ's budget.

Business group's are concerned about the fate of the DEQ's budget.

Business groups are rallying around the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in advance of the legislative session, asking that lawmakers protect the department's budget from further cuts.

Organizations, including the Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Business Alliance, Northwest Environmental Business Council and Associated Oregon Industries and others, are rallying their members to tell legislators to leave the DEQ's budget alone in their wrangling.

"We need the DEQ," said Robert Grott, executive director of the Northwest Environmental Business Council. "Businesses accept the fact that Oregon is a tightly regulated environment to work in, that the state puts a high value on environmental protection."

What the DEQ provides, Grott said, is a level playing field of enforcement for all businesses and an organization that can benchmark and monitor the state's environmental factors such as air and water quality.

The concern is that a nearly 20 percent cut to the agency's budget during the last legislative session will be followed by even further cuts.

The Legislature approved a $326.2 million budget for DEQ for the 2011-13 biennium, representing a nearly 19 percent reduction from 2009-11 for all funding sources combined. The budget authorizes 711 full-time employees, down from 790 in 2009-11.

Grott and Chris Hagerbaumer, deputy director of the Oregon Environmental Council, are asking businesses to sign on to a letter to legislators.

"In the 2011 legislative session, DEQ's budget was cut 18.5 percent — a disproportionate cut compared to other natural resource agencies," the letter reads.

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