Out with the old: The Fortunate Demise of Dirty Diesel Engines

Diesel exhaust is uniquely toxic—it causes cancer; harms lungs, hearts and brains; and contributes to Alzheimers, birth anomalies, autism, male infertility, and more. Because of these serious health impacts, OEC has been advocating for diesel clean-up for nearly two decades. Although we’ve had small wins here and there, substantial action is needed to protect human health, and we are thrilled that our state legislature has finally taken a big step forward with House Bill 2007.

HB 2007 requires clean-up of old dirty diesel engines in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, where 44% of Oregon’s population lives. Multnomah County residents breathe diesel at levels nearly 8 times higher than the state’s health benchmark; Washington and Clackamas county residents breathe diesel at levels nearly 4 1/2 times higher.

The most effective way to reduce diesel pollution is to switch to engines running on cleaner fuels (electric engines produce no tailpipe air pollution and reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by 80%) or to upgrade to new diesel engines (model years 2010 and newer run as much as 95% cleaner when it comes to particulate matter and nitrogen oxide).

HB 2007 will accelerate the move to cleaner fuels or cleaner engines in the Portland metro region. By 2023, medium-duty trucks (e.g., delivery trucks) and heavy-duty trucks (e.g., big rigs) must run on 1997 or newer diesel engines or cleaner fuels or be retrofit to trap pollution. By 2029, medium-duty trucks and public heavy-duty trucks must run on 2010 or newer diesel engines or cleaner fuels or be retrofit, and privately owned heavy-duty trucks must run on a 2007 or newer diesel engine or cleaner fuels or be retrofit. As of 2025, ODOT will no longer title engines older than 2010 for medium-duty trucks and engines older than 2007 for heavy-duty trucks. And, to accelerate clean-up of construction equipment, the bill requires 80% clean equipment on state-funded construction projects costing $20 million or more in the tri-county area as of 2022, and it encourages the display of stickers on construction equipment to show whether the engine meets the latest standards.

HB 2007 targets funds from the Volkswagen settlement to help fleets clean up their diesel engines. Preference will be given to businesses subject to the clean-up; businesses intending to switch to cleaner fuels; and businesses categorized as small, disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned, and service-disabled owned. The bill also creates a task force to develop new funding strategies to support businesses across the state in upgrading their fleets.

HB 2007 will make a real difference for vulnerable people (children, the elderly) and vulnerable communities—low-wealth communities and communities of color are two to three times more likely to be exposed to diesel particulate matter.

While HB 2007 is an important win, OEC’s work to protect Oregonians from diesel pollution is far from over. We will watchdog implementation of HB 2007 and advocate for broader protections across Oregon—while residents of the Portland tri-county area are at greatest risk, diesel emissions exceed the state’s health benchmark in 16 additional counties.

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