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.

See Oregon Environmental Council’s dirty diesel report, a neighborhood diesel awareness project in Lents, and our priorities for the 2019 legislative session—including a bill to clean up diesel.

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2 Replies to "Cleaner air and construction for Portland"

  • Mark Taylor
    December 26, 2018 (4:11 am)

    I’m concerned in your desire to help the environment that you I’ll drive down the opportunity for small businesses like mine to continue in the excavating business. I’m concerned the large corporations will be able to financially cover the cost of new equipment, where smaller businesses as mine would be unable to take on such a large cash outlay.
    I imagine the legislation has merit but people own small businesses and they have merit – the value of their asset should not be wiped out in one Government move. I applaud the consideration given to Disadvantaged Businesses, but all small businesses are worthy
    of consideration. Thanks in advance for your thoughtfulness on this economic issue.

    • Admin
      January 2, 2019 (7:45 pm)

      Hello, Mark. Thank you for your comment. We appreciate your concern and believe that a healthy environment, healthy people and healthy economy all go hand in hand. In developing the Clean Air Construction Standard, the local jurisdictions did consider the impacts on certified minority, women, emerging, and small businesses. You can find the ordinance starting on page 15 of Portland’s Sustainable Procurement Policy ( and see that certified DMWESB or certified SDVB firms may use equipment/vehicles retrofitted with a DPF or DOC. Please note as well that dirty diesel engines harm worker productivity, leading to more sick days, short-term disability, long-term disability, federal family and medical leave, workers’ compensation and impaired performance–all of which cost businesses.