Construction unions say Portland’s proposed polluter tax is a bad idea


Union building trades are joining the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) in criticizing the City of Portland’s proposed Clean Air Protection Fee. The program would levy a $250 per ton tax on industrial enterprises that emit pollutants, generating $2 million a year.

On Nov. 30, Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council voted to add its name to a Nov. 17 letter to City Council from PBA. Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters has also signed. 

In the letter, PBA says the new tax unfairly targets industry, and threatens job loss, when in fact vehicles create the most pollution, and residential wood combustion is the greatest threat to air quality. PBA says the tax also punishes businesses that are already doing the right thing to reduce emissions in compliance with permitting requirements overseen by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The tax doesn’t apply to public sector entities like the City’s own sewage treatment plant.

What’s more, the letter says, the City has no authority over emissions, which are regulated by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ),  delegated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce federal clean air rules.

Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio is overseeing the development of the tax proposal, and Building Trades Council executive secretary-treasurer Willy Myers says construction unions previously asked her to press pause to consider input from affected sectors. Rubio agreed and appointed Myers to an informal work group to discuss the tax, but Myers says its recommendations were ignored.

MORE: See the letter here.



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