Three actions to protect Clean Air.

Overwhelmed yet?  Me, too. This administration is not wasting time executing its hateful agenda.

I am deeply concerned about the threats to our most vulnerable populations in America today.  And I am deeply concerned for our democracy.  That’s a lot to feel a need to work on.16195717_1680405698639678_61030850562580535_n

This administration is conducting what Boston College professor of American History, Heather Cox Richardson calls “shock events.” These are explicitly designed to divide progressive allies.  Ironically, I have never seen the left so spontaneously stand collectively in defiance and work so cohesively together, whether it be the Women’s March, the phone campaigns, or the nearly daily protests that have transpired since, people are showing up in droves to defend our democracy where ever it is being attacked.

There is one area – one thing – that I feel compelled to focus on.  That is our environment.

And our efforts locally to protect it are more important than ever. The Environmental Protection Agency is about to be the next victim of the whims of this administration, as the new president has already put a freeze on all contracts and grants, imposed a gag order on EPA staff, and vowed to cut the agencies workforce by 50%. Despite overwhelming, bi-partisan support for the strong environmental regulations that protect our air and water, this administration is advancing a pro-oil and coal agenda that seeks to dismantle forty plus years of federal regulations that have protected our environment and literally saved lives.

Right now, in Oregon, we are on an unprecedented path to Clean Air that has become only more urgent under this the new administration.  While a climate denier takes over the EPA, and our federal government begins its plan for systemic undoing of the agency charged with ensuring we have clean air, water and land, the state of Oregon still has broad authority to deliver on these commitments.

In 2017 Oregon will rewrite our regulations for industrial air polluters and rules governing the use of diesel engines.  NCA and our partners have spent countless hours working on this.  And we will continue to do so, through every day of the 2017 legislative session overseeing the nearly dozen clean air related bills and until the Cleaner Air Oregon program presents the new health based industrial air emissions standards for adoption.

We know there are thousands of people who have stood behind us for years, thousands more that have mobilized in the last 12 months to fight toxic pollution in their neighborhoods.  We want to thank you for your support, and let you know we need your time, energy and generosity, like never before. So, if you are looking for a place to make a difference, think global and act local:

1.  Lobby Day for Clean Air, February 15th- this is our chance to march on Salem for clean air!  Please join us, with our partners from Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, Beyond Toxics, and Eastside Portland Air Coalition.  More information and to RSVP.

2.  Do you live in one of the 12 neighborhoods served by the NE Coalition of Neighborhoods office?  NECN is looking to set up a Northeast Action Team (NEAT) to address toxic air pollution.  Please contact at NECN for more information.

3.  VOLUNTEER.  Contact We have more opportunities than ever to help with events, to organize friends to write letters, and we can train you and provide materials to talk to your neighborhood association about air pollution in your community.  In addition, Nakisha can help you get in touch with neighborhood activists who are already working in your community.

If clean safe air is important to you, despite the dismal news from Washington DC, there is reason to be hopeful and optimistic here in Oregon.  But it is not going to happen without you.  Let’s work together in Oregon to make it happen.

Join Us January 18th 6pm | Diesel + Dinner, A Pollution Solution Workshop in NE Portland

Mark your calendar for a great opportunity to learn about diesel pollution and how we can reduce / eliminate it and to connect with others who are working to clean Oregon’s air.

  • WHAT? Dinner and a workshop about diesel pollution in N/NE Portland.
  • WHEN: Wednesday, January 18th at 6:00 PM
  • BACKGROUND: Diesel pollution is a problem in Portland, especially in N/NE Portland. A report released in December, 2015 by US Environmental Protection Agency noted that Portland was ranked as the worst city in the nation for respiratory distress and that Multnomah County air was among the worst 1% of counties nationwide for concentrations of diesel particulate.
  • QUESTIONS WE’LL ANSWER: How did this happen and what does this mean for your health and the health of your family and community? What are our regulatory agencies doing about the high levels of diesel particulates? And how can your voice be heard?
  • HOSTS: Neighbors for Clean Air and the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods
  • AGENDA: Dinner will be provided at this family-friendly event from 6 to 6:30 PM. Our presentation and discussion will begin at 6:30pm.
  • RSVP: Yes! Email so we have enough food!
  • ON FACEBOOK: Spread the word! Invite your friends! Just use the Facebook invite.

Our commentary in Street Roots | December 27, 2016

street roots logoWe’re grateful to Street Roots — news for those who cannot afford free speech — for the opportunity to share our take from time to time on air pollution and the path to clean air across Oregon. At the end of 2016 we took a look back at an incredible year and a look ahead and opportunities we see in 2017:

A big opportunity for clean air: Looking back, looking ahead

Feb. 3 was a day like no other in the fight for clean air in Oregon. On that day, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced that an area of Southeast Portland had alarmingly high levels of both cadmium and arsenic that could impact people’s health. The information came from a study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service on how well tree moss can trap and therefore pinpoint air pollution sources (the short answer: very well).

Read Mary Peveto’s full commentary here.

Portland clean air efforts get boost from Meyer Memorial Trust

Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions has formed a new partnership with Neighbors for Clean Air and Lewis & Clark Law School’s Northwest Environmental Defense Center to pursue cleaner, healthier air for all Oregonians, thanks to a $250,000 award from the Meyer Memorial Trust.

The partnership, BREATHE Oregon, will provide clear scientific data, legal analysis and community outreach so residents and policy makers have the information they need to make decisions that improve air quality in Portland and throughout Oregon.

BREATHE Oregon builds on a research partnership launched last spring between the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, the City of Portland and Multnomah County to assess heavy metal pollution in Portland-metro neighborhoods in response to community concerns about elevated levels of toxins found in the area.

“The BREATHE Oregon partnership helps ensure that meaningful scientific research about local air pollution moves from PSU labs into the hands of community advocates and policy makers,” said Robert Liberty, director of the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

Linda George, PSU professor of environmental science and fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions is leading PSU’s research efforts. “It’s our hope that our research will engage local residents and inform future air quality oversight in our state,” George said.

In addition to scientific and legal analysis of air quality data and impacts, the Meyer Memorial Trust award funds a series of community symposiums and a fleet of student interns who will work with local organizations to expand outreach about air quality issues.

“The path toward cleaner air is complex, and informed community involvement is essential,” said Mary Peveto, the co-founder and president of Neighbors for Clean Air. “Through BREATHE Oregon, we’ll work with communities most affected by air pollution to ensure they have access to accurate and relevant information and a seat at the table. We’re excited about collaborating with our neighbors, our university, and our state regulatory offices for healthier air.”

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) are in the process of overhauling industrial air toxic regulations to align them with public health, as directed by Gov. Kate Brown’s Cleaner Air Oregon initiative. The Cleaner Air Oregon advisory committee includes representatives from each of the BREATHE Oregon partner organizations, providing a direct connection between academic research, community advocacy, legal analysis and policy recommendations.

“State health experts and regulators depend on accurate, scientifically sound data and engaged, well-informed communities to protect the health of Oregonians,” said Lynne Saxton, director of the Oregon Health Authority. “We welcome the partnership of Meyer Memorial Trust and the grantees to achieve cleaner air in our state.”

About the PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions

The Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University empowers effective community-university collaboration for a more livable, resilient, and sustainable future. With a specific focus on addressing climate change, ISS serves as a link between the city and PSU—working across campus and in the community to provide valuable educational experiences while advancing sustainability efforts in our city and region. (

About Neighbors for Clean Air (NCA)

Neighbors for Clean Air (NCA) is a grassroots nonprofit that seeks to improve public health for all Oregonians by reducing toxic air pollution. (

Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC)

The Northwest Environmental Defense Center is an independent nonprofit organization based at Lewis & Clark Law School, and has been working since 1969 to protect the environment and natural resources of the Pacific Northwest. (

Nanoparticles and the unknown


Governor Kate Brown addresses the Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee at the first meeting.

When we convened last week for the first Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee meeting, members were heartened to hear the Governor reiterate her commitment to this process and to the goal of health based standards that protect the most vulnerable populations. And possibly most importantly, her call for committee members to think big when she suggested that she envisions this new program to lead the nation.

Those platitudes are easily lost when you get into the minutia that is air emissions regulations. It is doubtful that we will all be seeing eye-to-eye throughout this process, but it is clear that the 24 individuals on the Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee bring a tremendous breadth of experience and knowledge  to this discussion.  And we will need it.

Up first on the topics of consideration were the fundamental questions of:

1. Applicability – What businesses will Cleaner Air Oregon rules apply to:
2. Pollutant list – should the rules address Oregon’s list of 52 air toxics, include all 187 on the EPA list, or go with stronger science of established bodies which recognize upward of 1000+ toxics and have established credible processes to evaluate and develop new standards?

On the first point, applicability seems the simplest.  All sources of toxic air pollution, which exist today or seek to do business in Oregon, should be covered by these rules. It is of course the existing health risks – from existing sources – which has driven this process so urgently this year.  And while it may seem obvious to most that Oregon’s new rules should apply to both, that is existing and new sources, state officials like to characterize the findings of the workgroup as mixed.  That is, that some programs include both, and “others” only new sources.  In reality, of the six alternative state programs that were reviewed by the technical workgroup, only one, Washington’s,  applied to only new sources.

Additionally, advocates would like to see the discussion of applicability go beyond the scope of new or existing to include a more health based evaluation of what is considered “de minimis.”  This is the first threshhold upon which the decision is made about whether or not a facility’s emissions are significant enough to be addressed by Oregon air rules.  The health based model would be a simple shift from defining “de minimis” on the toxicity of pollution, not purely on the weight or total volume of emissions.

We must remember that colored glass manufacturing skirted air regulations because of precisely the concept of “being too small.” Before allowing a “De minimis” exemption, regulators must consider whether sources operate in an area where the ambient cumulative concentrations of toxics is determined to be a health risk.

The second point is one that will potentially require the dismantling of a cornerstone of Oregon’s current air toxics program.  The current program has focused on the identification of 52 ambient benchmark concentrations for air toxics called ABC’s.  To do this Oregon convened the Air Toxics Science Advisory Committee, made up of volunteers with various science and engineering expertise, charged with reviewing existing literature to support current toxics standards. The initial committee helped both to identify what toxics should be included in Oregon’s program, as well as at what “acceptable level.”

But the six other state programs that were considered by the Cleaner Air Oregon Technical Workgroup last summer all look at much larger lists of pollutants when considering regulations.   At the minimum end, EPA has a list of 187 Hazardous Air Pollutants, conceived in the 1990’s, but to which nothing as been subsequently added.  In contrast, California’s program has standards and guidance for over 800 air toxics. In addition to an inclusive list of pollutants, California has dedicated substantial resources to researching and developing risk based concentrations (RBCs) for a large number of the listed toxics. DEQ could incorporate California’s RBCs into the Oregon program to provide certainty upfront and to conserve limited agency resources for implementation of the program.

In practicality, despite Oregon employing an independent review process through its Air Toxics Science Advisory Committee, the state has decided time and again that California’s standards are scientifically supportable.  In fact, 51 of the 52 toxics on Oregon’s list are set at the same level as California.  California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is widely recognized for scientific excellence. OEHHA employs hundreds of highly educated and trained professional staff which includes toxicologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians and physicians; many have international reputations in their scientific fields. It is clear that Oregon would be well-served to adopt the determinations by the California board outright and forgo the lengthy and costly process of making independent determinations.

This is critical so Oregon can ensure residents that it can create health based standards that can address risks known and that may become known in the future as the growing field of monitoring and understanding risks brings better information to the fore.

One such area is in regards to pollutants smaller than PM2.5, or nano-particles, that the World Health Organization has already indicated may be addressed in the next edition of its air quality guidelines. Last month new research was published that revealed magnetite particles, derived from iron oxide, were present in the brain tissue of 37 people. Other studies have linked such particles to Alzheimer’s disease. But as of yet, there is little monitoring or robust scientific data to prove causality. It is troubling to think that Oregon would not ensure a mechanism to adequately address risk from emerging science.  But it is very difficult to envision how Oregon could in a timely and feasible way utilizing the current Oregon air toxics review process.

The decision for Oregon to broadly adopt not just California’s highly regarded pollutant list and standards, but also the mechanism to include future determinations by the OEHHA, would make it far easier for Oregon to adopt a broader range of pollutants into its program, as well as establishing an effective strategy for inclusion of future pollutants and new science to evaluate risk levels.

The importance of getting this right is fundamental to Cleaner Air Oregon achieving the Governor’s goals of health protective air standards. We hope that DEQ/OHA staff and the co-chairs of the committee will see fit to more robust discussion of this topic at the next meeting.

The public is free to submit comments on all Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee agenda discussion topics.  If you have an opinion about what list of pollutants Oregon should include in its new Health Based air standards, please submit it to DEQ/OHA cleanerair team:

10.20.2016 Letter to CAO AC Co-Chairs

To see all “Big Tent Air Coalition” documents, including public comments on permanent glass manufacturing rules, VW Diesel Settlement,  and the Cleaner Air Oregon rulemaking process, please visit the “Big Tent” page.