After months of meetings and a roadshow that took the DEQ to virtually every corner of the state, today the Final Report of the Woodsmoke Workgroup, as chartered in House Bill 3068 (2015), was published. Download the report here.
Oregon’s problem with woodsmoke goes beyond the 9 cities that flirt with nonattainment – the consequences of not meeting clean air standards as set by the EPA can be severe. For example, it may be no surprise that many of Oregon’s nonattainment locales are also economically depressed, often rural regions. The consequences of nonattainment further aggravate the economic prospects of the affected cities. Of course, it’s sometimes easy to focus on the economic aspects, but at its core it’s public health issues that trigger the economic consequences.
Oregon of course, is not alone in battling the adverse effects of woodsmoke. Jurisdictions across North America struggle to deal with the hazards from the particulate matter (PM2.5) in woodsmoke. Particulate matter is a pervasive problem that only recently is getting the attention it deserves. Only in October 2013 did the World Health Organization add particulate matter to its infamous list of Group 1 carcinogens.
In 2013 the City Club of Portland published its Air Toxics Report which identified woodsmoke as the #1 air toxic Portland faces. Authors of the City Club report will be disappointed to learn that the DEQ Woodsmoke Final Report doesn’t address the huge public health dividend the state could realize by reducing wood burning in Portland.
Instead the Legislature directed DEQ to focus on the economic fallout occurring in smaller cities across the state.
Other jurisdictions have been more proactive in addressing woodsmoke. Washington State has gone so far as a Right to Breathe, which you won’t find a single word about in this DEQ report.
When it comes to regulating woodsmoke, perhaps the North American standout is the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Los Angelenos might argue that wood burning devices in new homes were banned there decades ago, but the BAAQMD’s recent regulations address the problem on a number of fronts – they represent the state of the art of regulatory control of this intractable public health problem.
Spoiler alert: Don’t be disappointed – you won’t find similar robust proposals in this DEQ report.