OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon builds power for environmental justice and civil rights in our communities. We organize low-income people and people of color to achieve a safe and healthy environment where we live, work, play and pray. We strive to create opportunities for meaningful participation in the decision-making that sets policy in our region.
Co-founders Kevin Odell and Jonathan Ostar worked together as community organizers for the Environmental Justice Action Group from 2001 to 2002, and established OPAL in 2005. They worked with Multnomah County Health Department on environmental health concerns facing public housing residents in North Portland. They formed OPAL to build capacity around environmental justice issues in response to the gentrification and displacement of N/NE Portland’s low-income communities and communities of color, later carrying forward this community-based work to East Portland neighborhoods that were becoming increasingly diverse. OPAL’s initial work focused on disproportionate indoor and outdoor air quality and asthma concerns in communities along the I-205 freeway corridor. After serving as the Executive Director for four years Kevin left the organization and Jonathan, along with another board member, Joseph Santos-Lyons (longtime EJ advocate), stepped off the board to serve as Co-directors from 2010 through 2011. In 2012, Joseph left the organization to direct program work at the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), and Jonathan took over as the Executive Director.
BRU and transit justice continues to be OPAL’s primary program, along with related urban environmental justice concerns around affordable housing, land use, air toxics and health equity.