Wyden, Merkley seek $68M for air quality boosts

Oregon’s two U.S. senators have called for bolstered federal air quality funding after Portlanders expressed concerns about recently uncovered issues.

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley want about $50 million more in funds for the Environmental Protection Agency. The money would allow for more air pollutant monitoring as well as technical assistance for companies to reduce pollution.

The pair made the call in a letter to the Senate’s appropriations committee. Portland’s air quality has been in question since reports emerged that a glass manufacturer in Southeast Portland used arsenic and cadmium in its production process.

“The EPA aims to protect air quality but, as we are seeing in Oregon this cannot be done without additional funding to implement air quality programs at a scale that is relevant to defend human health,” Wyden and Merkley wrote.

“Hazardous air pollutants, such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, can cause cancer, neurological disorders and other serious health impairments. While these toxic air pollutants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, existing rules have been inadequate at protecting American citizens.”

The duo also requested more than $18 million in funds for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which tracks Portland’s air pollution as well as such locales as Flint, Mich., hampered by a water crisis over the past several months.