December 17, 2018

The Portland City Council voted Thursday to phase-in requirements for contractors working on City construction projects, and on contracts larger than $1 million, to meet diesel engine standards that reduce emissions of diesel particulate matter.

“A regional commitment will help ensure that the impacts of this go far beyond City and County projects and it provides the necessary certainty for our contracting community,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “This approach will also help to alleviate some of the impact to people of color and low-income populations, who experience the effects of diesel pollution at a disproportionate rate.”The Multnomah County Board of Commissioner in September voted to endorse the Standard. Chair Deborah Kafoury is scheduled to sign an executive order requiring the same Clean Air Construction Standard for County construction projects later in December.

"We're using the spending power of public construction projects to move the market toward clean equipment. And we're excited because it can be expanded beyond the City and County toward a regional solution,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “It is critical the city and County stay focused on our air quality, and that we continue to advocate in Salem and in Washington for the change needed. Today’s resolution also demonstrates that when it comes to protecting the places and the people we love, we won’t wait for others to solve our problems for us.”

Diesel particulate exceeds health benchmarks in 17 Oregon counties, but nowhere is it worse than the Portland metro area— and in North Portland in particular.

“Diesel exhaust is dangerous,” Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis said Thursday. “It targets the more vulnerable — little kids, the elderly, communities of color, people in poverty. It’s not just a medical issue. It’s a justice.”

Diesel is 100 times more toxic than gas emissions, and the fine particles layered in heavy metal and toxic chemicals act like a gas, passing from the lungs to the blood, where it spreads through one’s body and brain. It causes cancer, asthma and heart disease.

“Some stakeholders say moving too fast,” said Kyle Diesner with the city’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. “We’ve been working on this for more than a decade.”

The Standard will require equipment used on City and County construction projects to dramatically reduce particulate matter emissions from older diesel engines. The requirements will apply to non-road diesel equipment with equal to or greater than 25 horsepower, and on-road dump and cement trucks. It will include a phase-in period to allow contractors the time and flexibility to plan for the new standard. The City and County are also pursuing funding options to help disadvantaged, minority, women-owned and emerging small businesses upgrade their equipment to comply with the standard. The City and County worked with a coalition of jurisdictions to foster a market for clean air construction equipment and improve air quality at a regional level. The coalition includes Washington and Clackamas Counties, the Port of Portland, Metro and the Department of Environmental Quality.