Grantee Stories

Boosting efforts for cleaner air

Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions has formed a new partnership with Neighbors for Clean Air and Lewis & Clark Law School’s Northwest Environmental Defense Center to pursue cleaner, healthier air for all Oregonians.

The partnership, BREATHE Oregon, will provide clear scientific data, legal analysis and community outreach so residents and policy makers have the information they need to make decisions that improve air quality in Portland and throughout Oregon. 

BREATHE Oregon builds on a research partnership launched last spring between the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, the City of Portland and Multnomah County to assess heavy metal pollution in Portland-metro neighborhoods in response to community concerns about elevated levels of toxins found in the area. 

“The BREATHE Oregon partnership helps ensure that meaningful scientific research about local air pollution moves from PSU labs into the hands of community advocates and policymakers,” said Robert Liberty, director of the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions. 

Linda George, PSU professor of environmental science and fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions is leading PSU’s research efforts. “It’s our hope that our research will engage local residents and inform future air quality oversight in our state,” George said.

A $250,000 Meyer Memorial Trust grant funds the partnership. In addition to scientific and legal analysis of air quality data and impacts, the award supports a series of community symposiums and a fleet of student interns who will work with local organizations to expand outreach about air quality issues.

“The path toward cleaner air is complex, and informed community involvement is essential,” said Mary Peveto, the co-founder and president of Neighbors for Clean Air. “Through BREATHE Oregon, we’ll work with communities most affected by air pollution to ensure they have access to accurate and relevant information and a seat at the table. We’re excited about collaborating with our neighbors, our university, and our state regulatory offices for healthier air.”

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Health Authority are in the process of overhauling industrial air toxic regulations to align them with public health, as directed by Gov. Kate Brown’s Cleaner Air Oregon initiative. The Cleaner Air Oregon advisory committee includes representatives from each of the BREATHE Oregon partner organizations, providing a direct connection between academic research, community advocacy, legal analysis and policy recommendations.

“State health experts and regulators depend on accurate, scientifically sound data and engaged, well-informed communities to protect the health of Oregonians,” said Lynne Saxton, director of the Oregon Health Authority. “We welcome the partnership of Meyer Memorial Trust and the grantees to achieve cleaner air in our state.”

- Laura Gleim, Institute for Sustainable Solutions