Last ditch effort for clean air 

Oregon’s health experts are shaking their heads. “Extreme disappointment,” Doctor Paul Lewis of Multnomah County Health Department calls it.

This year, state lawmakers were presented with the most promising affordable chance ever to clean up toxic air pollution from dirty heavy-duty diesel engines. But the original Senate Bill 1008 (SB 1008) Clean Air, Clean Engines plan disappeared into thin air.

Instead, the deeply slashed bill will do only what the state promised to do long ago: clean up our state’s diesel school bus fleet.

This bill will dedicate about 1/3 of the Volkswagen settlement funding Oregon receives (more than $20 million of the $73 million total) to retrofitting or replacing school bus engines made before 2007 in public school district fleets statewide. Amounting to a little more than 400 school buses over the next four years—ten times faster than the federal funding currently available to do this work, but not nearly enough to clean up heavy duty diesel pollution, reaching our lungs, from every corner of this state.

The Senate passed the meager proposal unanimously. In the final hours of Oregon’s 79th Legislative Session, the House is expected to pass it today.

Why?

Call it horse-trading at its worst. Call it industry lobbyist intimidation.

Whatever you call it, Oregon lawmakers are balking at the idea that we might address toxic air pollution from both school buses and industrial sources. By not passing HB 2269, they failed to have polluters pay for their toxic emissions, which would have funded the Cleaner Air Oregon program.

These are meager, but critically important, proposals. These are baby steps towards giving Oregonians a chance to live and breathe without pollution that raises the risk of cancer, asthma and heart attacks. We deserve more—but we simply cannot settle for less.

It has never been more important to stand up for science and for health. We cannot continue to allow industry pressure to outweigh the health and well-being that Oregonians cherish.

Our work is not done

As Oregon Legislators pass this modest clean air proposals now, we promise to keep up the work towards a future in which every Oregonian has a fair shot at breathing healthy air where they work, live or play.

We encourage you to join us, and help #ditchdirtydiesel in Oregon.

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