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Protesters Want Special Session Over Portland Air Pollution


A few dozen Portlanders rallied at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday to demand stronger action against air polluters, in light of recently discovered concentrations of heavy metals.

“Clean air now! Clean air now!” they chanted as they delivered a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality’s downtown Portland office.  

A few dozen protesters gathered in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square before marching to the nearby Department of Environmental Quality office. They want tighter regulation of industrial air emissions.

A few dozen protesters gathered in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square before marching to the nearby Department of Environmental Quality office. They want tighter regulation of industrial air emissions.

Rob Manning/OPB

Protesters brought boxes of vegetables they said were grown in Southeast Portland near the Bullseye Glass plant that’s been implicated in the air toxics findings. Health officials have advised people living close to the glass facility to avoid eating produce grown in their yards.

Susan Beal was among demonstrators backing a letter to Gov. Kate Brown. It calls on lawmakers to address Portland’s air toxics, even as the legislative session ended Thursday.

“We’re looking for the same kind of special session that a few years back was called for the Nike and Intel corporate situation, just because our public health emergency … is too dangerous to just leave until 2017,” Beal said.

Brown said she’ll review the request, but added that legislators helped the air quality cause in the regular session.

“The Legislature approved my request to put aside $2.5 million to fund the clean air program at the Department of Environmental Quality,” Brown said.  

DEQ director Dick Pederson has said his agency doesn’t need more laws to curtail air emissions. He said the department is planning to draft new rules.

The longtime DEQ head is stepping down later this month for health reasons. Brown said she did not ask him to resign.

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