In 2008 through 2011, Oregon Consensus (OC) worked with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ ) to support DEQ’s Portland Air Toxics Solutions (PATS) project. The PATS project was a collaborative effort to develop Oregon’s first area-wide air toxics reduction plan for the Portland region through a broad, community-based effort. OC is assisted DEQ in convening the Portland Air Toxics Solutions Advisory Committee (PATSAC) – a collaborative stakeholder group that analyzed air quality information and recommend air toxics reduction strategies as part of the PATS process.
Air toxics are pollutants that can cause serious health problems including cancer, birth defects, organ damage and respiratory irritation. While air toxics are a problem statewide in Oregon, air toxics are at their highest levels in Portland due to population size and urban development. Federal regulations address air toxics generated by large industry, but do not address the impact on communities of emissions caused by consumer products and burning fossil fuels, wood and waste. The state program fills this gap.
In 2003, the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) adopted a state air toxics program to address air toxics of concern in Oregon. In 2006, with the advice of a technical advisory committee, the EQC adopted air toxics ambient benchmarks for 51 air toxics in Oregon based on levels protective of human health, considering sensitive populations. Measurements and estimates of air toxics in Portland show that at least ten of these pollutants are above the health based benchmarks. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from wood and debris burning, benzene from auto exhaust and soot from diesel engines are the air toxics of most concern in the Portland area.
Portland Air Toxics Solutions encompasses Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties. The purpose is to improve public health in the Portland area by meeting or making progress towards air toxics risk reduction goals in the air toxics benchmarks. At the heart of the geographic approach is the concept of evaluating risk holistically from all sources in an urban area, and developing an area-wide plan to address emissions from sources in proportion to their contribution to the problem. Because air toxics, particulate, ozone precursors and greenhouse gases are produced by many of the same sources, this project will link with other ongoing and future air pollution reduction efforts. PATS represents a departure from how Oregon has regulated air pollution for the last 30 to 40 years and represents a unique experiment nationally, as Oregon is the first state to take a geographic approach to reducing air toxics.
Natural Resources Program Manager
Portland State University