1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204
(June 28th, 2016) — I commend Governor Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for today’s announcement about the settlement with Volkswagen relating to emissions fraud. Further, I support the Governor’s announcement that $68 million from the settlement will be used to reduce diesel emissions from trucks and other eligible sources under Oregon Department of Environmental Quality programs. I remain deeply concerned about the effect diesel emissions have on the health of Portlanders and am committed to supporting policies that further the goal of better public health. As the Governor said today, diesel pollution is the number one air quality threat in our state. According to a new report from the Oregon Environmental Council, dirty diesel causes more fatalities than traffic crashes and burdens Oregon with up to $3.5 billion a year in health costs and lost productivity. Moreover, dirty diesel emissions disproportionately affect neighborhoods with more low income and people of color.
Operators can upgrade their diesel engines to stop dirty diesel emissions, and Washington and California have adopted policies to require this proven solution (Oregon has not, and as a result we have become a dumping ground for dirty diesel engines). The upgrades are costly, and in many cases the owners of the “dirty diesel” equipment are small businesses with limited ability to pay. Recognizing that, Washington and California have invested considerable funds in retrofitting trucks and construction equipment. Last week during City Council’s consideration of the marijuana tax ballot measure, clean air advocates called attention to the need for State and local action on this important issue, including allocating funds to speed the transition to cleaner diesel engines. Now, the Governor’s announcement makes clear that there will be funds available for this important priority. It should be easier for the Legislature to adopt Washington/California-style clean diesel rules if there are funds available to assist small businesses.
In past years, the City Council has advocated for the State Legislature to address diesel pollution, and I am fully committed to making more progress in 2017.