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Report Examines Options For Cleaner Air In The Portland Metro Area

<p>Smokestacks emitting air pollution.</p>

Smokestacks emitting air pollution.

A new report examines a variety of ways the Portland metropolitan area can reduce toxic air pollution.

Multnomah County leaders have been considering the idea of forming a local air authority since testing in 2016 revealed unregulated toxic air pollution coming from facilities making colored glass.

The county hired Good Company and Eastern Research Group to analyze the best way for local leaders to fill in the gaps in state and federal environmental regulations that allowed that toxic air pollution to be released.

The consultants weighed the effectiveness of other regional air authorities in Puget Sound, Denver and Vancouver, British Columbia.

They concluded the City of Portland and Multnomah County can form their own regional air authority if they want, though there may be less expensive options that would also be effective in reducing toxic air pollution.

The City of Portland and Multnomah County are the only metropolitan area governments that want to go beyond the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s existing regulations by forming their own local air authority, the report found. Other governments are only interested in voluntary efforts.

A local air authority would have to address all air quality issues, not just certain hot-button issues, the report concludes and launching individual programs would require less funding than organizing a full regulatory body.

The report suggests that instead of forming a local air authority, local governments could support state regulators with additional funding for air pollution permitting and enforcement. They could also develop their own programs for educating people about air pollution and monitoring for toxic air pollution in the metro area.

Local leaders can also work together to coordinate programs and gather grant funding to reduce wood smoke and diesel pollution, the report concludes.

Several local governments are developing requirements that newer diesel engines be used for local projects, and local leaders could push to make that a state requirement. Local governments could also find grants to help private businesses replace old diesel engines with newer, cleaner ones.

The report recommends local governments establish both a governing and advisory board for mitigating local air quality concerns.

The Multnomah County Commission will review the report’s findings at its meeting Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Multnomah Building in Portland.

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Cassandra Profita