The proposed 'Clean Air Surcharge' would raise funds from 72 facilities across the city with state air quality permits.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wildfire smoke floats over Portland and the Hawthorne Bridge in 2020. Portland City Hall will consider charging some of the city's major industries for the pollution they pump into the air.

Officials say the proposed Clean Air Surcharge would raise an estimated $2,042,750 annually from 72 facilities who already pay the state for various heavy-duty air quality permits.

"The federal and state governments have their roles, so it is imperative we take local action now to complement those efforts," said Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who is overseeing the idea via the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. "Community members and businesses will set priorities and define success for this new program and the investments that can impact us most directly."

The Clean Air Protection Program is a significantly scaled back version of two climate fees pitched in late 2020 by Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, which would have collectively raised $11 million annually.

Under the new plan, businesses with Simple or Standard Air Contaminant Discharge permits licensed through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality would pay a flat surcharge of $20,000 yearly. Payees would include Portland General Electric, Boeing, cookie-maker Mondelez, Journal Graphics, Bullseye Glass and many others.

Eighteen of the city's largest industrial facilities holding more stringent Title V permits would pay the flat $20,000 surcharge plus a $250 per-ton fee for emissions of "particulate matter, NOx, SOx, or volatile organic compound," according to planning documents, using abbreviations for nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxide.

At the high end, that would tack on an estimated $142,475 cost for EVRAZ steel mill and $102,825 for shipbuilder Gunderson, while Cully glassmaker Owens Brockway would pay $65,050 and controversial fuel terminal Zenith Energy would pay an extra $5,625 a year.

A city document highlights that none of the affected businesses are owned by women or minorities.

The biggest benefit, officials say, would be the financial incentive pushing local companies to limit their emissions, thereby improving the air quality across Portland skies that have the "highest risk (in Oregon) to the population from air toxics due to business and population density," according to a 2012 DEQ study.

Officials say the cash itself could be used to expand access to air filtration and cooling systems, plant trees, provide cooling community centers in East Portland, among other emission reducing policies.

"A local program focused on local solutions that helps both people and businesses is long overdue," said Commissioner Rubio.

Portlanders can comment on the draft proposal until Friday, November 19.

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