By Don MacGillivray
Diesel exhaust has been an issue in Portland for many years. The Oregon State Legislature has finally been able to compromise on new laws and regulations that may provide relief to this serious air pollution issue.
Given the building boom in Portland and the clogged streets and highways, there is a new normal that requires attention. Air pollution from diesel exhaust is known to be a toxic carcinogen.
There are over 7,000 older unregulated trucks in use today and this problem is costing billions in lives and healthcare costs throughout the state.
A ton of diesel emissions results in about $400,000 in public health and environmental costs, and in addition, many streets and highways go through some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods where low-income citizens live.
The most effective way to reduce diesel pollution to is the retire and replace older engines with new engine technology that burns diesel cleanly. This can reduce the pollution by ninety percent.
A stumbling block is making truckers buy higher-priced new equipment. Both California and Washington have passed this legislation many years ago so their truckers have sold their old trucks in Oregon adding to our problem.
Truckers will be required to prove their trucks meet the new standards. By 2023, all diesel-powered medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks must have engines that were built after 1996.
By 2029, all diesel-powered medium-duty trucks and publicly owned heavy-duty trucks must have engines newer than 2010, and all privately owned diesel-powered trucks must have engines newer than 2007.
They may comply by switching to a cleaner fuel or by using retrofit technology to capture engine emissions.
For any public improvement project of over $20 million funded by state bonds, at least eighty percent of vehicles and construction equipment must be powered by clean diesel engines.
In developing rules for contract specifications, the Environmental Quality Commission must help business enterprises owned by minorities, women, and service-disabled veterans to follow the new regulations.
$50 million of the Volkswagen settlement money from diesel emissions scandals will be used to clean up diesel engines via grants from these funds.
The first round went to school buses in 2017. Preference will be given to support the clean-up of trucks subject to the phase-out and trucks with three years of remaining useful life.
Reducing diesel pollution will also cut greenhouse gas emissions and the black carbon that comes from diesel engines. Freeways, ports, railroads, manufacturing, and construction have made Multnomah County one of the worst affected areas by diesel pollution in the entire nation.
This bill is exclusive to Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, because industry lobbyists would not allow the legislation to include the entire state.
This legislation is far from perfect, but, over time, it may solve the biggest diesel emission problems of Portland.