That climate change is a public health crisis as well as an environmental crisis should come as no surprise.
The Oregon Department of Occupational Safety and Health now recognizes that wildfire smoke poses a threat to workers, and the intense heat killed more than 100 people in Oregon during last year’s heat wave. The heat wave in July was one of the longest on record, leading to statewide heat warnings, Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency in 25 counties, and Multnomah County is investigating three possible heat-related deaths.
The combination of heat, lack of wind and pollution has led to air quality advisories being issued along Interstates 5 and 84 across the state. At the federal level, the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA, which ignored precedent, destroyed the EPA’s ability to protect the public from harmful air pollution.
With this in mind, it is more important than ever that we act at the national level to protect public health from the imminent catastrophe of climate change. We can start now by strengthening and expanding one of our most effective tools for reducing our dependence on expensive, volatile fossil fuels and creating healthier communities: the Clean Fuels Program, which uses financial incentives to encourage suppliers to sell low-carbon transportation fuels. During the six years of operation of the Clean Fuel Program, 6 were cut million tons of greenhouse gases and replaced 1.5 one billion gallons of gasoline with cleaner fuel without raising gas prices.
This is an important climate victory. This is also an important victory in the field of health care. In addition to climate pollution, burning fossil fuels creates other air toxics, such as particulate matter or soot and nitrogen oxides.
All Oregonians pay for the damage caused by burning fossil fuels in their health and in their pockets, but low-income people and communities of color pay the most because they tend to have more influence and fewer resources to deal with the consequences. health care problems.
According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the cause is soot from diesel engine exhaust Every year for approximately 176 premature deaths25,810 lost work days and $3.5 billion in annual health care costs due to exposure.
The beauty of the Clean Fuels Program is that it not only cuts pollution, but also invests in healthier solutions.
Several Oregon school districts have purchased their first electric buses with funds raised from the program, providing children with a healthier and quieter ride. Businesses from private fleets to TriMet use exclusively renewable diesel fuel, made possible by the Clean Fuels Program. Nonprofits like Meals on Wheels and the Native American Youth and Family Center have been given electric vehicles, so they can spend more on providing their services and less on fuel and maintenance.
Low-income people in Corvallis received grants for electric bicycles. Electric vehicle charging stations have sprung up across the state from Pendleton to Klamath Falls and Forest Grove with Clean Fuels’ investment. As if that weren’t impressive enough, the same program also reduces harmful local air pollution, leading to a healthier environment and millions of dollars in annual health care savings.
The clean fuel program is a win-win for climate change and public health. This fall, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is set to expand its carbon reduction program goals and maximize the program’s potential to invest in a healthier, more sustainable future.