Portland Mayor Challenges President on Climate, Oregon on Air Pollution

Published September 26, 2017

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement has not gone down well with Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Wheeler joined 364 mayors across the country in signing an open letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change after Trump’s June 1 announcement the United States was opting out of the Paris agreement.

The mayors signing the letter promised to intensify efforts to meet their cities’ current climate goals and push for new action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further by an amount necessary to keep the planet’s temperature from rising beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius target set in the Paris agreement.

With Wheeler leading the charge, Portland also joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, which includes chief executives from 7,477 cities around world, all committed to fighting climate change and promoting use of renewable energy.

Fighting Oregon

Not content to dispute national decisions on climate change, Wheeler is also challenging the state of Oregon over what he considers insufficient state action to reduce air pollution in Portland.

In response to a decision announced by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality in late July it would adopt less stringent air pollution limits than Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat like Wheeler, had proposed in 2016, Wheeler told The Oregonian on July 21 he will no longer wait for the state to fix Portland’s air quality problems.

Wheeler endorsed the formation of a regional air pollution district under which local jurisdictions would impose more stringent air pollution limits than the federal or state governments set.

“The state is moving in the wrong direction,” said Wheeler to The Oregonian on July 21. “It’s our responsibility at the local level to move forward.”

City Limits

Steve Milloy, founder and publisher of JunkScience.com, says Wheeler and other mayors pushing fossil fuel restrictions to fight climate change can’t control the climate, and their efforts will harm public health.

“Mayor Wheeler’s jurisdiction does not extend to the planet,” said Milloy. “The thought that local governments are going to save the climate or change the weather is ludicrous.

“Reducing carbon dioxide cannot improve the environment, nor do the mayor’s efforts improve public health,” Milloy said. “The world’s emissions are going up, and efforts to restrain them don’t make sense. They will only make people poorer, and since wealth equals health, it will hurt peoples’ health.”

Resistance and Tax Increases

John Charles, president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute, says Portland is a leftist city committed to fighting the Trump administration at every turn.

“This is nothing Portland should casually get into,” said Charles, “Portland views itself as a resistance city, resisting the Trump administration. It is a very left-wing city.”

Charles says Wheeler’s plans to reduce carbon dioxide and air pollution will end up increasing taxes on Portlanders.

“This plan proposed by Wheeler would directly impact Portland residents by increasing taxes,” Charles said. “It will cost more money to create an entirely new bureaucracy, and my guess, based on past experience, is it will not improve air quality.

“Portland would have to hire at least several dozen paid professionals to run this new bureaucracy and implement Mayor Wheeler’s plan,” said Charles.

Usurping Feds’ Authority?

Dr. John Dale Dunn, a physician and attorney who is board-certified in emergency medicine and legal medicine, says the plans various mayors and governors have hatched to tackle air quality and climate on a state or local level represent a possibly illegal attempt to usurp the authority of the federal government.

“These mayors, and governors like California’s Jerry Brown, have no authority to tell the federal government how to handle climate change,” said Dunn. “Mayor Wheeler is inventing authority he does not have.

“They are saying, ‘We are going to create a local district that will engage in nullification of federal and state legal authority,'” Dunn said. “Mayor Wheeler has to work within the boundaries of the law as outlined in the 1973 Clean Air Act.”

Veronica Harrison ([email protected]) is marketing director at The Heartland Institute.