Stop Oregon from being a dumping ground for dirty diesel: Sign the petition!
What Can You Do?
Data from the Portland Air Toxics Study shows that nonroad sources of diesel account for 39% of all diesel particulate matter and on-road diesel accounts for 49%. So we’re starting by asking Oregon to join our west coast neighbors in adopting more stringent standards for non-road and on-road diesel engines. You can help out by signing our petition and calling your legislator to urge them to support adopting California’s diesel standards.
The Effect of Diesel Particulates
One of the most serious current threats to public health from air pollution comes from the burning of diesel oil. The burning of diesel produces ultra-fine particulate matter, or PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns). This diesel particulate matter is small enough that it can penetrate deep into the lungs and even cross over into the blood stream. Long-term exposure to diesel emissions is linked to both lung and bladder cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of diesel pollution because their lungs are still developing and they breathe, on average, 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than do adults.
Modeling by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) showed that diesel particulates are a significant problem in the Portland Metro Area. On average, diesel particulates would need to be reduced by 86% in order to meet the benchmarks, which are set based on “acceptable risk” of 1 excess cancer in a million. And that’s using Oregon’s benchmark. Both Washington and California have standards that are at least 33 times lower.
Based on data from EPA, diesel particulate matter is responsible for approximately 460 premature deaths a year in Oregon. That’s more than those who die from homicide and drunk driving, combined. In total, it costs the State $2 to 4 billion a year in death, medical costs, disease, and lost work days. The Clean Air Task Force in Boston estimates that Oregonians have the sixth highest health risk from diesel soot in the country.
Where We Stand in Oregon
While Oregon has adopted California’s standards for new light- and medium-duty motor vehicles, we have not adopted the more stringent standards for heavy-duty motor vehicles or California’s more stringent standards for a variety of non-road engines, including more stringent standards for construction equipment.
EPA’s current standards for new heavy duty on-road diesel engines and new non-road diesel engines require large reductions in diesel particulate. Through the installation of filters, other control devices and using ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, diesel particulate can be reduced by 90-99%. However, these standards only apply to new engines, not the engines that have already been manufactured and are in use. EPA is relying upon a presumed turnover rate, the rate at which old diesel engines are retired and new engines pressed into service, of approximately 10% per year.
California’s standards on the other hand, require fleets to meet certain percentages of clean diesel engines by certain dates, forcing the engines to be phased out or retrofitted. Unfortunately for Oregon, we’ve become the dumping ground for these old, dirtier diesel engines. These engines are sold into Oregon, where they can still be used, and newer, cleaner engines replace them in California. And unlike Washington, Oregon has not adopted an aggressive approach to helping business retrofit older engines – Oregon has relied on federal grants while Washington has added state dollars to their program. As a result, Oregon has retrofitted many fewer engines than Washington. This can be seen by Oregon’s actual turnover rate, which is only about 4%. That means that in Oregon it will take even longer to phase out or retrofit the old, dirty diesel engines with engines that would produce 90-99% less diesel particulate.