Press Release: 20 Groups Filing New Petition To Limit Hubs Of Poisonous Air

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Nonprofit Neighbors for Clean Air (NCA) and a coalition of 20 partner organizations is submitting a petition to Oregon policymakers to establish a cap on toxic diesel emissions from nonroad sources such as construction sites, distribution centers and railyards. With diesel pollution present at unhealthy levels throughout the state, and the Portland metro area in the 95th percentile for diesel particulate exposure nationally, NCA seeks to implement sensible, health-based regulations to protect the health of all Oregonians. The petition was co-authored by the Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center.


Oregon’s clean air laws lag behind nearly every other state when it comes to diesel, including California and Washington. The groups have identified an opportunity to update the state’s diesel regulations, and on December 20, 2019, they will submit a petition to the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission requesting that the state expand its outdated Indirect Source Rule, the policy intended to limit the aggregate air pollution emissions from facilities and properties that attract trucks, buses, trains and ships.


"Indirect source rules present a great opportunity to reduce harmful air pollution emissions from vehicles and engines that aren't currently regulated at the state or local levels," said the Green Energy Institute’s Amy Schlusser, the primary author of the petition. Although Oregon’s Indirect Source Rule has existed for decades, it is currently only being applied to new construction of large parking lots in certain urban areas. The petition, would direct the state to create a new rule to cover large construction sites, distribution centers and rail yards. These nonroad sources are responsible for 65% of diesel emissions in Oregon.


“Oregon has a duty to its residents to ensure that we all have clean air to breathe,” said Mary Peveto, Executive Director of Neighbors for Clean Air. “We made great strides this year in regulating harmful diesel emissions from trucks, but we’re still missing the major source of our state’s diesel pollution.”


Throughout Oregon, concentrations of diesel particulate matter, the byproduct of diesel exhaust, are more than 10 to 20 times higher than the state’s health-based air quality benchmarks. Portland’s diesel pollution is particularly high, with an average concentration of diesel particulate matter nearly nine times higher than the benchmark (source).


The high concentration of diesel particulate matter in Oregon’s air presents a serious threat to public health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, each year, the state’s diesel problem is estimated to cause:

400+ premature deaths

140+ non-fatal heart attacks

25,000+ lost work days


In total, the cost of the health impacts due to dirty diesel pollution exceeds $3 billion annually in the state of Oregon.


“Diesel particulate matter is the leading cause of cancer toxicity in the Portland area and it also happens to be a substance that contributes to global warming,” stated Dr. Linda George, leading air quality environmental research specialist at Portland State University. “In our measurements throughout the city, we’ve noticed especially high concentrations of diesel pollution around construction equipment.”


Based on the location of pollution “hot spots,” communities of color are disproportionately affected by toxic emissions — evident in elevated rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease and low birthweight. Children are also especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of diesel, since they breathe about 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults.


Dirty diesel also has a disastrous effect on the environment. Diesel pollution is a type of short-term climate accelerant known as black carbon, which within 20 years has 3,000 times the carbon intensity of CO2. Reducing diesel emissions can have an immediate impact on carbon levels and play a key role in helping cities like Portland meet its climate goals of reducing the lifecycle of carbon emissions of transportation fuels by 20 percent and supporting businesses in minimizing the carbon intensity of their supply chains.


“The climate crisis threatens our health, our economy and our environment,” emphasized City of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “We can’t afford to wait any longer to implement common-sense regulations that will guide us toward a greener future. If we can reduce carbon emissions by revising existing rules that have become outdated, that’s a great place to start.”


“Revising the Indirect Source Rule is a practical and immediate way to minimize the disastrous impacts of diesel pollution. It is critical that the County continue to focus on our air quality while advocating in Salem for effective sensible regulations,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “When it comes to protecting the places and the people we love, we won't wait for others to solve our problems for us.”


Neighbors for Clean Air and its co-petitioners, listed below, will be delivering the petition December 20, 2019.


Audubon Society of Portland

Beyond Toxics

The Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for a Sustainable Economy

Climate Solutions

Columbia RiverKeeper


Environment Oregon

Forest Park Conservancy

Friends of Mount Hood

Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School

Green Lents

Neighbors for Clean Air

Northwest Environmental Defense Center

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club

Oregon Environmental Council

Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Tualatin RiverKeepers



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Department of Environmental Quality has been asked to consider rules that limit certain activities in ports, shopping centers, factories, warehouses and other facilities to reduce emissions from the vehicles that serve them and even the equipment that is used to build and maintain them. Facility owners may be required to institute a variety of changes like installing EV charging infrastructure, adding new bike and pedestrian lanes, expanding bus and transit services with a goal to reduce emissions.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, ( by the U.S. Department of Transportationthe fastest and cheapest way to reduce emissions from the vehicles that serve these facilities and the equipment that maintains them is to replace older models with new diesel technology. Diesel is the mainstay of heavy-duty vehicles and construction equipment and the latest generation of technology reduces emissions to near-zero levels. It takes 60 of today’s diesel trucks to equal the emissions of a single older generation truck and it takes 23 of today’s new generation of diesel construction equipment to equal the emissions of a single older piece of equipment.

This testifies to the latest generation diesel’s near-zero emissions performance. While EV charging stations, bike lanes and car sharing platforms might be getting most of the attention, these projects can’t match the emission reductions of replacing older and higher emitting trucks and equipment with new near-zero emissions diesel technology.

For example, to reduce 1 ton of fine particle emissions, facility owners could invest $25 million in bike lanes, $35 million in EV charging infrastructure or $125,000 in helping to replace older trucks with new diesel models.

Put another way, a ton of emission reductions can be had for about 3 percent of the cost of installing EV charging stations.

The newest generation of diesel technology is a smart and cost effective choice to deliver big benefits to communities that have been promised emission reductions. Getting more of this new equipment in use will pay dividends today and well into the future, faster than most other options and at far lower cost. 

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