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Air pollution

A Battle Against Trucking Pollution Won by a Diverse Coalition in California

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 by: Jo Hartley
Tags: air pollution, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) The small community of West Oakland, California lies between three freeways and the fourth largest container port in the U.S. Unfortunately, the residents of this working-class African-American community are accustomed to the exhaust of the 1,500 diesel trucks that pass through on their way coming and going from the Port of Oakland. Trucks often park in the neighborhood idling for hours as they wait for their next load.

According to the Alameda County Public Health Department, at least one in five children in the community has asthma. But asthma is not the worst of it. According to a March report by the California Air Resources Board, there are 1,200 excess cancers per 1 million people in West Oakland. The average lifespan of the residents is six years less than neighboring communities approximately 10 miles away.

For years this issue has simmered between the truck drivers and the community residents. Over the past year, notable groups such as the Teamsters, the National Resources Defense Council and the American Lung Association have joined community members and truck drivers to create the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports. Their common goal, to take on the unsustainable trucking system.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Motor Carrier Act. This deregulated the trucking industry and turned truckers into independent contractors. Most drivers now own their trucks and are contracted by the trucking companies. The trucking companies then contract with businesses that ship through a port. Drivers are responsible for maintaining their semis, planning their route, and parking. This is an expensive task for people whose average annual salary is approximately $30,000.

Many drivers can afford only older diesel trucks that are highly polluting and they can only afford to park in free spaces. The trucking companies and the industries having their goods transported contribute almost nothing toward these expenses.

In 2000, California set a goal to cut overall diesel pollution in the state by 85 percent by 2020. In December 2007, the state began limiting diesel emissions from port trucks. Port traffic is expected to double by 2020; therefore, these decisions are considered sizeable victories for community and environmental groups.

In September the port will start to phase in new standards requiring drivers to purchase clean-burning diesel or natural gas trucks (or to retrofit older trucks). At the end of 2009, all trucks will be required to meet these standards. Unfortunately, under the current system not many truckers will be able to afford to do so.

A new semi costs approximately $125,000. The ports are now applying for state grants to help cover some of the costs of transitioning to the new regulations. Even under the best projections, however, grants would provide only $20,000 to $50,000 per truck. Obviously, maintaining new truck models will cost much more.

The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports has proposed regulations requiring businesses at the port to pay a fee and to provide information about truck noise, emissions, and labor standards as a prerequisite to doing business there. In addition, the coalition is requesting a local-hire policy. This would reserve half of the new jobs at the port for people who live in the areas with the highest poverty and asthma rates.

As might be expected, business interests are fighting this model and are attempting to divide the coalition. The American Trucking Association has threatened to sue if the ports adopt a plan like the one the coalition is proposing.

In late March the Oakland commission agreed to charge businesses a fee for each container that passes through the port and the proceeds are being used to retrofit and replace aging trucks. Port commissioners have also agreed to hire consultants to analyze the economic impact of a comprehensive truck management plan. They are expected to make a decision based on these results by late June.

About the author

Jo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
http://loftymatters.com - Current Events
http://winemaiden.com - Simply Abundant Living

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