Commissioners Vega Pederson & Jayapal Convene Wood Smoke Policy Work Group

August 13, 2021

In July, Multnomah County Commissioners Jessica Vega Pederson and Susheela Jayapal convened the first meeting of a new wood smoke policy work group. 

This body, co-chaired by Commissioners Jayapal and Vega Pederson, will develop a matrix of policy options to reduce the impact of wood smoke pollution for the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners to consider for enactment. The recommendations will build upon Commissioners Vega Pederson’s and Sharon Meieran’s former work to develop the existing wood smoke ordinance.

Since the passage of the ordinance in 2018, Multnomah County has issued 3 burn restriction days due to poor air quality, and 86 voluntary advisory days, asking residents to not use their woodstoves,fireplaces, or outdoor fire pits if possible. Additionally, the Multnomah County Health Department invested resources to educate community members about the harmful impacts of wood smoke, particularly on days with poor air quality. 

Particulate matter, particularly ultra fine particulate matter that is generated by burning wood, is harmful for human health, penetrating deep into the lungs and even entering the bloodstream, causing short and long term physical effects. Burning wood also releases many other harmful chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde, and poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). An analysis by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality showed that wood burning is the number one source of PAHs in the Portland metropolitan area and that the pollution disproportionately impacts Latinx populations. Wood smoke pollution is an environmental justice issue in our community. Without addressing wood burning, people in Multnomah County won’t have clean air to breathe. 

“Three years ago we took the first steps to address the harmful health impacts and air pollution woodsmoke can cause through our ordinance that regulates wood burning and educates our communities, but we know there is still much work to be done,” said Commissioner Vega Pederson. “Now we’re starting a process that will help us develop new policy proposals that improve our community’s air quality and health.” 

“Wood smoke is a significant health hazard for residents of Multnomah County, especially for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, elderly residents, children, people with other health conditions, and people living in poverty,” said Commissioner Jayapal. “I’m excited to collaborate with the members of the work group to develop policies and resources to reduce wood burning and wood smoke pollution, and ensure that we can all breathe clean air.” 

The wood smoke policy work group will meet three times during the summer and fall of 2021 to discuss policy recommendations. Members of the work group include:

Wood Smoke Free PDX

Neighbors for Clean Air

Washington County

Northwest Natural

Portland General Electric

Pacific Power

Energy Trust of Oregon

Community Energy Project

Oregon Environmental Council

Verde

Multnomah County Public Health

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

City of Portland Bureau of Planning & Responsibility 

If you have any questions about the wood smoke policy work group, which is staffed by the Office of Sustainability, please contact John Wasiutynski, Director of Sustainability, at: john.wasiutynski@multco.us