Breathing Locally: How Toxic is Transportation? DEQ at PSU

Portland State University Center for Transportation Studies
Winter 2007 Transportation Seminar Series

Speaker: Gregg Lande, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Topic: Air Quality: Toxics and Transportation
When: Friday, February 9, 2007, 12:00-1:30 pm
Where: 204 Urban Center


14 responses to “Breathing Locally: How Toxic is Transportation? DEQ at PSU”

  1. DEQ is such a joke and no longer needed… the air is quite clean now, just ran my 96 Grand Am through, they plugged in a sensor to my steering column to measure [presumed] whether my systems were working properly, they checked out fine, passed easily, I do keep the car in good running condition… Why should we not abolish DEQ????

  2. The DEQ isn’t very efficient. But for all those morons that don’t keep up their cars, they should be required to do so. I really don’t like walking down the street smelling the stinky a$$ cars and especially the busses (are they using biodiesal yet?), trucks, and other vehicles.

    I really wish I have cleaner air to breath when walking down the sidewalk. Even when I lived in small towns the air was still wretched within 10-20 ft of a roadway.

    …and for those of you that say, “I can’t smell nuthin”, you have a dysfunctional sniffer. Some cars however, I admit, emit no stink or any noticeable pollution. (Such as Prius, Echo/Yaris, most Hondas, many Nissans, and other such cars. Some BMWs and Mercs are decent)

    I digress though, yeah the DEQ should go away, and something operated by an independant and more functional entity should take over the duty. Make clean cars a priority and profitable scope of duties for car companies (such as, you provide a clean or not clean rating based on various standards, if they don’t meet it the car stays where it is until it is repaired to meet the standards).

    That would be efficient. But of course that would mean removal of power and duty for the Government and an actual workable and functional service instead.

  3. btw Chris, what’s up with that Benzene crap. In the south they have better fuel than they have out here.

    I’m very anti-regulatory actions, but this, is by far something that obviously should be regulated. It directly harms people in often slight ways, and sometimes in direct ways. Besides that it slowly but steadily increases the cost of autos and such by running less than quality fuel! One can probably safely suggest a 1-3% decrease in engine life from this. Not as bad as the 5-20% decreased life expectancy from ethanol but still a costly and negative effect in the region.

  4. DEQ still finds a significant number of out-of-spec vehicles every day.

    Thanks to on-board sensors and computers in modern cars, the tests are easier to perform. They have recently gotten rid of the dynamometers used to test older cars, both because there are fewer older cars and because it cuts down on testing time and costs.

    Going in to be tested once every two years is far easier than the alternative: Having police or some other kind of enforcement officer roaming around with pollution-detection equipment, pulling over alleged violators, court processes, etc.

    The only thing I would change is this: The dynamometers are gone, the staffing levels per capita are lower, and the testing times are far shorter than they used to be. Should, therefore, a reduction in DEQ fees be in order?

    (Which reminds me, in an argument in another thread about costs per mile of driving, I neglected to include normal registration and DEQ fees in the total. Of course, my opponents would probably argue that there shouldn’t be any registration or DEQ fees at all.)

    – Bob R.

  5. With regards to the elevated benzene levels in Oregon & Washington:

    I believe that oil coming out of Alaska has naturally higher levels of benzene, and this represents a greater share of the mix of oil that is processed for Pacific NW fuel consumption than elsewhere. As a result, the refiners/oil companies have successfully argued that they shouldn’t be made to meet the same benzene standards in the Pacific NW that they need to in, say, California.

    And, apparently, the applicable regulating agencies have, for whatever reason, not mounted a successful objection.

    So — if you want cleaner air with less benzene, lobby your elected representatives to get the law changed to reduce allowable benzene concentrations in fuel, and eventually, the air will be regulated into cleanliness.

    At least, that’s what I heard.

  6. Adron –

    One way to look at government regulation of air pollution is from a pure property-rights standpoint:

    My lungs, last time I checked, are my personal property. The air we breathe is about as close to a true natural “commons” as can be defined, with water being a close 2nd.

    From a libertarian standpoint, you are free to do what you want with your own private property so long as it doesn’t interfere with the activities of someone else on their own property.

    It is impossible to stop the outdoor air from leaving the boundaries of our own property, therefore anything we do to the air has the potential, especially in aggregate, to other people who may never set foot near your own property.

    Thus, the government has a legitimate interest, justified by defending the true public commons, in limiting the amount of pollution that is allowed to enter the air over time. How tough those limits should be, and how they should be enforced, become primarily a public policy question.

    So, do not feel that requiring stricter limits on Benzene is somehow inconsistent with your values. (Which is what I sort of inferred from your comment.)

    – Bob R.

  7. I find it interesting that some of the first responses to this are about the government, rights, etc. I’d suggest that inquiring minds wander over to some of the housing along I-5 in N/NE Portland or visit some schools there. Kids are suffering from asthma at alarming rates along the corridor.

  8. Hawthorne –

    Just in case you were referring to my comment, please understand that I’m completely in favor of government intervention to improve air quality. I was just trying to frame my arguments to appeal to the various libertarians in the audience here.

    – Bob R.

  9. Bob,

    Understood. So another reflection: why in the blogosphere do libertarians take up so much space, time and energy when in the real world they make up such a small percentage of people? It’s ironic for a group of people that are in favor of less intervention and yet they intervene (in terms of time, space) a great deal.

    Not that I don’t agree with some of their contentions, but they seem to take up a inordinate amount of time and energy that could be better used to discuss productive issues.

  10. The older buses that they use like gangbusters over here in the SW belch out big black clouds of exhaust every time they sputter to life

    Yeah, I’ll take that over the MAX any day, totally.

  11. Hawthorne asks:

    “why in the blogosphere do libertarians take up so much space, time and energy when in the real world they make up such a small percentage of people?”

    ah, good question, but there is very, very simple answer to be found if you just think like a libertarian. when there is an oversupply of a good or service, it will be very cheap. thus, the reason libertarian talk is so cheap (it is literally freely available at every corner on the internet), is because the supply greatly exceeds the real world demand which–as the deteriorating republican-“libertarian” political alliance over the past ~30 years proves–is virtually nil.

    this is not meant as an insult to anyone, especially not adron whose contributions to discussions here are quite valuable.


    to expand on bob r’s comment, another thing to note about polluting the commons:

    the traditional theory of liability in common law held defendants strictly liable for the damage they caused whether or not they were guilty of any intentional wrong doing. during the industrial revolution, this idea was turned on its head.

    new ideas came about that saw all human economic activity is desirable, and that damage is inevitable, and must be balanced against the greater good. To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes “the victim [of pollution/property damage] receives his compensation … by the general good, in which he shares, and the right which he has to place the same things upon his lands”. instead of just needing to show proof of damage, the burden was placed on the plaintiff to prove “negligence” on the part of the defendant. legally this “negligence” was defined to mean that the defendant’s actions had resulted in an “unreasonable risk”. in practice, however, this meant the plaintiff had to show that there existed a cost effective, non-property damaging alternative for the defendant to engage in the same economic activity, else it was not considered “negligent”, and no damages were awarded. the results, as you can imagine–well, you don’t have to imagine–unprecedented economic growth along with devastating pollution and environmental damages.

    this is not to say that common law was perfect, flawless of even really good, (especially considering the “use it or lose it” laws applying to water rights, and oil wells), but the question of whether or not to regulate, and how, really comes after one of the fundamental questions liberal democracy itself: whether property rights and liability law should be based around preventing damage or facilitating unconstrained economic growth. once the latter has been decided, the question of how to regulate, becomes necessary and inevitable.

    200 years later we are only now really considering the possibility that economic growth and sustainable environmental practices could go hand in hand.

  12. New information coming out today about Benzene regulation… it appears that Sen. Wyden has convinced the EPA to set a nationwide cap that would reduce Benzene emissions threefold from currently-allowed levels in Oregon.

    See Blue Oregon for more info.

    – Bob R.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *