Air quality action in Salem
2018 may go down in history as a hallmark year for climate action, but it’s not the only excitement in the air. In fact, the air itself is an exciting topic. Oregon legislators are considering ways to control diesel pollution and toxic air pollution from industry. In case you missed it, here are highlights from hearings in Salem this month:
Antonio and Cassie, both high school students in Salem, testified about their concerns over diesel pollution and support for HB 4003 to retire dirty old heavy duty engines. Antonio talked about the burden his community faces from air pollution on the job, only to come home to more air pollution in their neighborhoods. Cassie talked about how, as a solution to her lung illness, doctors simply recommended that she avoid running outside during rush hour!
One of the House committee members asked why we should be concerned about diesel pollution, when forest fires pose such a big threat to lung health. Thoracic expert Dr. Moseson noted that while forest fires are certainly incidents that are harmful to health, living with diesel pollution is a daily hazard in peoples’ lives. The danger of forest fire smoke is not a good reason to ignore dirty old diesel engines, especially when cleaner engines are available.
Both the House (HB 4002) and the Senate (SB 1508) are considering bills that would fund the Cleaner Air Oregon program to regulate toxic air pollution from industry. A representative from Vigor industries testified that, while he will have to change the way he does business, he would rather have rules that he can count on than uncertainty. Jae Douglas testified that, if the state is unable to create a strong program to regulate these hazards, Multnomah County is poised to step in to protect public health.
One of the Senate bills (SB 1541) proposes to fund the Cleaner Air Oregon program, but only if the rules of the program are re-written to create more exceptions for industry and to tolerate a greater level of risk to health. Neighbors for Clean Air and Oregon Environmental Council both testified against this bill, asking lawmakers to respect the public process that created the rules of the program.
Oregonians deserve healthy air today and a stable climate tomorrow. We know that controlling both toxic air pollution and climate pollution will pay off in healthier people and a more stable economy. We’re hopeful that our lawmakers will hear the message loud and clear. They need to hear from you, too!