Cleaner air and construction for Portland
Today, Portland adopted “clean air construction standards,” a policy that will bring an end to the dirtiest diesel construction equipment on city-funded projects. They’ll start by restricting idling of heavy-duty diesel engines on construction sites, and move on to require cleaner engines. What great news for everyone who breathes in Portland!
It’s a big deal because 65% of the toxic diesel pollution in the Portland area comes not from trucks, but from non-road engines: construction equipment like backhoes, excavators and lifts.
Diesel is one of Oregon’s worst toxic air pollution problems. In Multnomah County, diesel pollution is on average more than seven times above the state’s health benchmark. In some neighborhoods, it is far worse. Diesel pollution can harm the heart, lungs and brain and have life-long effects on children’s health.
The City listened to air advocates and environmental and social justice groups asking for the cleanest solutions covering the most equipment: 25 horsepower and above. They also built in considerations for small businesses, especially “disadvantaged business enterprises.” Oregon Environmental Council sends its thanks and congratulations to the City, and gratitude to all those who right there with us, speaking up for strong standards.
The new standards are worth celebrating—but they are long overdue. Vastly cleaner engines for both construction equipment and heavy-duty trucks have been available for a decade. And the job isn’t done until Oregonians no longer lose their health, and their lives, to diesel pollution. The health costs of letting old engines continue to pollute is far higher than the cost of retiring old engines.
Next up: Multnomah County is poised to adopt the same policy. Other local jurisdictions are considering the same, and the 2019 legislature will consider statewide clean construction equipment requirements. It’s time to get serious about retiring old, dirty diesel—both construction equipment and heavy-duty trucks and buses—to save lives and ensure better breathing for all.