Commissioner Sharon Meieran
HB 4141 - Clean Diesel Bill Talking Points

Co-Chair Beyer, Co-Chair McLain and members of the Committee, I’m Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran. In addition to being a County Commissioner, I am a practicing emergency physician.

I’m pleased to come before you today in strong support of the base bill HB 4141. 

I know you’ll hear a lot of testimony about the environmental impacts of diesel, and specifics of the bill itself. As a doctor working on the front line, and as a commissioner with our Local Public Health Authority, I’m going to focus on the health and lives of Oregonians.

Diesel pollution contains heavy metals, as well as toxics that stick to the fine particulates found in diesel pollution.  When we breathe in these tiny particles, they go deep into our lungs.

Diesel exhaust can cause inflammation in our lungs, worsening already existing heart and lung diseases. It increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Exhaust particles are so small they diffuse directly into our bloodstream, including cancer-causing agents like benzene and arsenic. Diesel exhaust is linked to bladder and lung cancer, and pediatric brain tumors. 

More recently, evidence has shown increasing linkage to cardiac arrest, neurologic conditions such as dementia and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and autism.
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of diesel pollution because their lungs are still developing.  Seniors are also particularly vulnerable, and people with underlying conditions such as emphysema, asthma, and chronic heart and lung disease.   

To put this starkly in terms of death and money - In Oregon, as of a few years ago, diesel pollution contributed to 460 premature deaths, and a staggering financial cost of up to $3.5 billion in health care costs. Each year.

As an ER doctor, I see firsthand the human impact of diesel pollution, which too often falls on the most vulnerable. When I see a heart attack patient in the emergency room, I do my best to treat that person.  But I know that prevention is better than treatment.  

Cleaning up diesel pollution will help prevent some terrible emergencies like heart attacks and strokes from occurring. It can help prevent hundreds of premature deaths per year. It can help prevent severe asthma attacks and brain tumors in children. 

Renewable diesel works in any truck engine, doesn’t require engine modification, can be accessed from current fuel pumps, costs the same or less than petroleum-based diesel, and, because it burns cleaner, can result in lower vehicle maintenance costs. 

In the ER, I know that some things impacting my patients’ health are in their control, but many aren’t. The good news is that this is in our control and it saves the lives of Oregonians!

Transitioning petroleum diesel users to cleaner renewable diesel will not only help us reach the climate goals which improve the health of our planet, it will have a major impact on improving the health - and saving lives - of Oregonians. 

I strongly urge you to take action and pass the base bill HB 4141. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.