Mayor Charlie Hales and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury are promising to consider creating a metropolitan-area regional air pollution authority if the State of Oregon does not promptly address the problems raised by the discovery of heavy metals in the air in Southeast and North Portland.

In a Feb. 18 letter to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Hales and Kafoury said such a local authority is allowed by state law. The letter says the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has long been aware of the pollution and needs to act now.

"The recent discovery of dangerously high concentrations of cadmium, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals in Portland-metropolitan area neighborhoods is a cause of serious concern. What is even more disconcerting is that the presence of these metals and other air toxics in the Portland area has been recognized and well-documented by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for many years, but no action has been taken to curb these dangerous emissions," reads the letter.

You can read the letter at

In their letter, Hales and Kafoury said they will postpone creating the authority if the state takes the following steps:

• Immediate rule making and strategies.

• Revise the Oregon State Air Toxics Program.

• Create a statewide action plan for diesel emissions.

• Provide adequate funding.

• Establish a clear timeline.

"The protection of public health must be the paramount mission of the Oregon State Air Toxics Program. What is needed today is continued strong leadership from your office and the Oregon Legislature and, as local government leaders, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the state to ensure our community is protected. We all need to breathe, and breathing clean air is a fundamental right for all," the letter concludes.

The Oregon House Energy & Environment Committee will hold an Air Quality Information Session at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the State Capitol in Salem.

You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue at

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