Earlier this year, the discovery of dangerously high concentrations of toxic heavy metals in Portland sparked an urgent conversation about air quality and created new momentum throughout the state to clean up our air. As parents, neighbors and legislators, we are working on multiple fronts to make sure this renewed energy leads to lasting change in our communities.
In April, Gov. Kate Brown announced the launch of Cleaner Air Oregon, an initiative to broadly reform industrial air toxics regulations and align them with public health risks. This is a critical step toward ensuring all Oregonians can breathe clean air.
Ultimately, the impact of these reforms will be determined by a two-year rule-making process led by the Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Health Authority. As the new industrial regulations are developed over the next 15 months, we will advocate for our communities every step of the way and hold both agencies accountable for the promises they have made about the reform process.
During the upcoming session, we will also work on legislation that will increase data collection on industrial pollution and make the information easily accessible to the public. Every Oregonian has a right to know if there are dangerous emissions near their child's school, their home, or in their community.
We also know our air quality problems are not limited to industrial emissions. One of the biggest problems in the metro area is caused by older diesel engines, which create serious health risks and disproportionately affect communities of color. According to a recent report released by the Oregon Environmental Council, diesel exhaust in Oregon causes up to 460 premature deaths each year and creates up to $274 million in climate damage. We will support legislation in the 2017 session to begin moving Oregon away from older diesel engines and toward a healthier future for our families and our environment.
We also recognize that reform at the state level is not the only opportunity to improve air quality. If communities are ready to take local action to protect their air, we would support their efforts to explore creating a regional air pollution authority.
This problem could not be more personal to us. Our children go to schools near many of these polluters. We have raised our families in air toxics hot spots. For our families, and for families across the state, fighting for air toxics regulation will be a top priority in the 2017 legislative session.
Thanks again for your work, and please keep in touch. You can reach my office at (503) 986-1442, or by email at email@example.com. Strengthening the protections around Oregon’s air is going to take a lot of pressure from our community. I hope you will join with me to make this a reality.