On October 23rd U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was joined by local community leaders and advocates from across New Jersey and the nation in announcing a landmark bill that represents a major step toward eliminating environmental injustice.
This Bill would strengthen protections for communities of color, low-income communities and indigenous communities.
More specifically the Bill:
Codifies and expands the 1994 Executive Order on Environmental Justice.
Codifies the existing National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) and environmental justice grant programs.
Establishes requirements for federal agencies to address environmental justice.
Requires consideration of cumulative impacts and persistent violations in federal or state permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
Clarifies that communities impacted by events like the Flint water crisis may bring statutory claims for damages and common law claims in addition to requesting injunctive relief.
Reinstates a private right of action for discriminatory practices under the Civil Rights Act.
“For too long low income and communities of color in this country have suffered under the weight of cumulative, chronic and disproportionate pollution. This bill is a reminder of how critical it is to protect and restore these communities,” said Ana Baptista, Board Member, Ironbound Community Corporation.
“We must adopt substantive policies that will provide protections for communities Of Color and low-income communities from harmful pollution. This bill would help those communities and we hope everybody gives it the serious consideration it deserves,” said Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq., New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
“As a Newark School Board member and a mother of 3 kids with asthma, it’s clear environmental justice is a civil right. In my city and so many other EJ communities, there’s too much lead in our drinking water, raw sewage in our waterways and diesel emissions sending kids to the ER. Those are the kind of cumulative impacts Senator Booker’s legislation takes on,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action’s Environmental Justice Organizing Director.
Port’s plan will add 800 diesel truck trips through Barrio Logan – per day
SAN DIEGO, August 23, 2016 – The Port of San Diego plans to expand the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, including a tremendous increase in the use of diesel trucks and ships operating dangerously close to Barrio Logan. According to Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), an organization fighting toxic pollution in San Diego and Tijuana, the project’s draft environmental impact report outlines imminent impacts of the plan, while neglecting to address its damaging repercussions on the quality of life caused by increased air pollution and effects of climate change on the neighboring community.
“Within one-half mile of the proposed terminal expansion are parks, schools, neighborhoods and health care facilities that would be impacted by a nearly 600 percent increase in air pollution and the resulting health hazards,” says Diane Takvorian, executive director of EHC. “The Port needs to go back to the drawing board to reduce its plans for expansion and increase its use of zero-emission trucks and electric shore power for ships.”
The expansion plan for the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal proposes to increase cargo throughput to as much as 589 percent of the current volume and could increase greenhouse gas emissions by up to 540 percent of the current level. The draft environmental impact report estimates the expansion will add more than 800 diesel truck trips through Barrio Logan – every day — for a total of close to 982.
In response to the plan, EHC submitted a letter outlining its concerns. The National City-based organization cited increased health risks for cancer and respiratory disease that would result from the added air pollution. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) also submitted a comment letter with similar concerns.
“The long-term operation of diesel vehicles and equipment will have significant impacts in the region, especially given the proximity to residences,” says Heather Arias, freight transport branch chief at the California Air Resources Board. “Although the draft environmental impact report includes some features that begin to mitigate the air quality and health impacts from the proposed project, as recommended in our NOP comment letter, and given the health and air quality impacts, ARB suggests further incorporating more zero and near zero technologies that are commercially available now and by full build-out in 2035.”
Barrio Logan residents have lived alongside the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal for decades and remain a community with one of the highest rates of children’s asthma hospitalizations in San Diego County. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency and its cumulative impacts screening tool, CalEnviroScreen, Barrio Logan is among the worst five percent of neighborhoods suffering from cumulative pollution burden in California.
“The Port has an opportunity and a responsibility to bring freight practices to our communities that won’t harm our families, won’t pollute our air and won’t destroy our future,” says Takvorian. “We urge the Port to revamp this plan into a model of sustainability and environmental leadership. By working together with the community, both economic growth and healthy communities are possible.”
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH COALITION: Founded in 1980, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) builds grassroots campaigns to confront the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use and unsustainable energy policies. Visit us online at http://www.environmentalhealth.org.
After a year of campaigning by the Moving Forward Network (MFN), a coalition of residents and their local organizations living near the nation’s sea and inland ports and freight corridors, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has agreed to take the immediate steps requested by the group to address the environmental health and climate impacts from freight facilities.
In a June 2, 2016 letter to Angelo Logan, MFN’s Director, McCarthy announced her intention to meet the MFN’s requests to:
Set up an agency-wide working group to address toxic freight pollution, which medical and public health researchers have found to cause extremely high rates of asthma in children and premature deaths from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and neurological disorders in adults.
Develop a strategy to take the measures necessary over the next two years to ensure that commercially available lower- and zero-emissions truck technology be used at all of the nation’s sea and inland ports.
Develop an engagement planto work with affected communities to develop a freight transportation strategy aimed at reaching zero-emissions as quickly as possible.
MFN’s year-long campaign included petitions to McCarthy signed by tens of thousands of port area residents and their supporters, thousands of letters, meetings with EPA Regional Administrators and other managers and staff, and expert testimony at meetings of EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
MFN’s affiliates are located in nearly all of the nation’s sea and inland ports, including Los Angeles/ Long Beach, the largest U.S. port complex; Newark/NY, second largest; Savannah, the second largest container port on the East Coast; Baltimore; Charleston SC; Houston; Oakland; Seattle; and the inland ports of San Bernardino, Kansas City, and Chicago.
MFN members have responded positively to Administrator McCarthy’s decision. Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action and MFN Regional Representative for NY/NJ, expressed what many members feel when she said, “Kudos to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for hearing and responding to the concerns and letters from residents in port communities and taking action to address the air pollution.”
Angelo Logan, Moving Forward Network Director, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, and the need for the MFN and EPA to work hard to achieve success, “We are pleased that Administrator McCarthy has responded by making these commitments to mobilize EPA to work closely with us to end deadly diesel emissions poisoning port communities, particularly now that the technology to do so is available. We will pay close attention to the effectiveness of this process as we participate. EPA’s efforts over the next few months and during the next administration will be crucial to getting the job done.”
The importance of solving this serious public health problem cannot be overstated. Forty-five million people live in neighborhoods adjacent to ports and rail yards and along freight routes with heavy diesel truck traffic. As a result, many suffer serious and life-shortening illnesses. These neighborhoods often have extraordinarily high rates of asthma in children, and similarly high rates of premature death from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and neurological disorders in adults. The overwhelming majority of the affected areas are working class, poor communities of color, making deadly diesel pollution one of this nation’s most important environmental justice issues.
The two major problems created by diesel exhaust—illness and climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions—have available solutions. For example, technology now exists that can substantially reduce emissions from long-haul trucks and entirely eliminate them from trucks that serve local routes or are used in ports and railyards. A growing number of major international manufacturers have expanded production of zero-emission technologies for the freight industry, such as shore power for ships, battery-powered electric trucks, and electric cargo handling equipment.
The problem to overcome is the resistance of the logistics industry and their allies in political office and on the boards and staff of port authorities to shouldering the cost of the new technology. For years, these companies have been allowed to shift the nearly incalculable costs of the illnesses their diesel trucks have imposed—medical bills, lost work days, on top of pain and suffering—on the residents of port communities.
No voluntary programs have worked to reduce diesel exposure significantly. It is now time for the EPA, the nation’s lead environmental regulatory agency, to prevail upon the port authorities in every port city to require the use of low- and eventually zero-emission vehicles as a condition for entry into their ports. The cost of ensuring that shipping and trucking companies purchase and use new, cleaner technology pales in comparison with the social costs imposed by the pollution and its health impacts.
Clean Water Action, the Ironbound Community Corporation, and the Coalition for Healthy Ports are members of the Moving Forward Network.
They were joined by Municipal Council President Mildred C. Crump, Union leaders, Clergy, environmentalists and community activists to press for the end to discriminatory port hiring practices and the Port Authority to reinstate its scheduled ban on trucks with pre-2007 engines (similar to a ban at the nation’s largest port complex in Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA).
In January 2016, PANYNJ rescinded its announced plan to ban older trucks from entering the port starting January 1, 2017 on the grounds that it would cause the port to close. CHP and its allies have noted that NYNJ shippers and trucking companies would conform to the new rule as they did 10 years ago on the West Coast when they understood that the port authority out there would not back down. Lower and near-zero emission truck technologies have been proven effective, are readily available and in use wherever required by port governing bodies. There is no excuse for the PANYNJ’s reneging on its prior commitments to significantly clean the air and improve public health conditions in the NYNJ port region.
“Newark’s residents bear the brunt of the deadly diesel pollution that keeps the billions of dollars of goods pumping through the ports in our backyard. It’s time that our residents see the benefits of a clean and healthy port that employs local residents and operates with zero emissions,” stated Kim Gaddy, South Ward resident and Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action.
“On a normal day in the East and South Wards in Newark, we see and hear hundreds of trains and planes, and thousands of trucks. But the invisible nuisance is the particulate matter created by burning diesel fuel using outdated technology. It’s slowly killing us. We want the Port Authority to divest from fossil fuels and invest in our community now in the form of good jobs for Newarkers, correct classification for truckers and benefits for our community,” stated Melissa Miles, Environmental Justice Organizer, Ironbound Community Corporation.
As we prepare for our Independence Day celebrations, I want to share two victories that we are proud to have accomplished.
For the past two years, Clean Water Action as part of the Coalition for Healthy Ports (CHP) and national Moving Forward Network (MFN) have led a campaign to reduce deadly diesel emissions in our transportation sector and in port communities. Together, we have gathered hundreds of thousands of letters and petitions urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action for clean air and healthy ports. I am excited to announce that Gina McCarthy, national EPA Administrator, responded to our request that the EPA establish an internal “freight team” charged in the next 2 years with developing strategies to significantly reduce diesel emissions from freight operations.
As the NY/NJ Regional Representative for the MFN and Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action who Chairs CHP, I am thankful to our members, canvassers, and coalition partners, including the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy, who went door to door in their communities urging people to take action and sign the EPA petition. Our voice was heard.
“We agree that now is the time to integrate and build upon EPA’s existing work on goods movement and to ensure that front line communities are an integral part of that process,” said Administrator McCarthy during the announcement.
In addition, CHP recently held a joint press conference with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on the steps of City Hall. Together with Newark Municipal Council President Mildred C. Crump, U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s Aide Zach McCue, Newark resident Lito Miranda, Teamsters, clergy, environmentalists and community activists, we told the Port Authority of NY&NJ (PANYNJ) – “Employ us, Don’t Poison Us!”
The PANYNJ should be requiring diesel trucks serving the port to use already-available low emission engines, pollution controls on ship smokestacks while at dock, as well as hire more Newark residents for higher paying port jobs. The Coalition for Healthy Ports is pressing the PANYNJ to reinstate its scheduled ban on trucks with engines older than 2007 (similar to the nation’s largest port complex in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California). In January 2016, the PANYNJ rescinded its announced plan to ban older trucks from entering the port starting January 1, 2017 on the grounds that it would cause the port to close. CHP and its allies noted that NYNJ shippers and trucking companies would conform to the new rule as they did 10 years ago on the West Coast if they understood that the Port Authority would not back down.
“It’s time for the Port Authority of NY&NJ to become a good neighbor to the residents of Newark, and support a clean air plan that includes a fleet of 2007 and newer model engine trucks,” said Amy Goldsmith, Clean Water Action State Director and Coalition for Healthy Ports Chair.
The price of continuing to allow diesel truck pollution to flow through Newark’s neighborhoods is the extraordinarily high incidence of childhood asthma and premature deaths of adults from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and neurological disorders, as documented by medical doctors and public health researchers all over the U.S. including Robert Laumbach, MD at Rutgers University, and Andrea Hricko, Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, advisors to the Coalition for Healthy Ports. The PANYNJ is enabling irresponsible shippers and trucking companies to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in medical expenses and lost days at work in port communities, costs that are unfairly shifted onto the backs of Newark residents.
“Hire us, don’t poison us,” said Mayor Baraka. “The Port Authority has the power to end the diesel-truck poisoning of port communities like Newark. It can require shippers to use lower and near-zero emission truck engines, as some other ports have done. Yet the Port Authority continued to allow shippers to profit at the expense of our health and our lives. This must end here and now.”
As a resident of the South Ward and mother of three children with asthma, I think it’s time for the City of Newark to secure a community benefits agreement from the PANYNJ that provides mitigation funds to address the health injustices our families are experiencing due to the diesel pollution from the Newark Port. Let’s continue to keep the pressure on and remember the fight for environmental justice is a civil rights issue. As we celebrate Independence Day and reflect on our rights and freedoms, we can’t forget the overburdened port communities who are disproportionately polluted upon because of the zip code they live in.
Physician, epidemiologist, and Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health Dr. Sandro Galeajust wrote a fascinating opinion piece for Newsweek Magazine on health care, and used asthma as an example of how non-health sectors of the economy affect health.
He pointed out that asthma costs the U.S. over $56 billion annually, and that reducing traffic-related particulate matter and other air pollution would be the most effective way to reduce asthma.
How could this be done? A few key facts show that it is doable.
Given the $700 billion annual revenue of the trucking industry – over $230,000 per truck – all old trucks could readily be retired and replaced with modern low-emissions vehicles – if we had the political will.
And if as a nation, we decided the health of our children is worth the investment, we could ditch dirty diesel in just a few years.
One option is to transform our heavy duty truck fleet to all-electric. Electric terminal and short haul trucks are readily available today (check out the OrangeEV and BMW trucks), and their range is being improved every year. Another option is to replace trucks (and dirty diesel locomotives) with Hyperloop freight networks along existing routes, as proposed by Elon Musk.
Making the leap to long-haul electric trucks and/or hyperloop freight systems would not be easy or inexpensive, but it wouldn’t be as difficult as putting a man on the moon, and would improve the health and lives of tens of millions of people – adults as well as children.
Dr. Galea makes an interesting point that I hope becomes true, ‘A transportation industry that is aware of its consequences for asthma will consider emission controls to be within its remit, and it will work to reduce the environmental consequences of its products.’
Check out Dr. Galea’s excellent editorial below:
Obamacare Is Not Enough – Americans are unhealthy and to fix it we need to address the root causes, Newsweek Magazine
In partnership with Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals L.P., and funding from theCalifornia Air Resources Board, the port recently announced the Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project, which use modern, cleaner technologies to dramatically reduce air pollution.
Among on-shore technologies promised are electric terminal trucks, which are available commercially from vendors like Orange EV, and electric on-road drayage trucks, which are being demonstrated, but not yet sold on the open market.
What do you call a public agency with an $8 billion annual budget that poisons and sickens thousands of its neighbors?
How about “Failure”?
That’s exactly what the influential New Jersey news site NJ.com called the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in an editorial yesterday.
“In short, the trucks and barges around the busiest container terminal in the East are poisoning children and ruining lives by spitting emissions that have been linked to everything from heart disease to developmental defects, and the $8 billion agency that can reverse this trend is doing as little as possible.”
How do we stop this assault on public health? As NRDC attorney Melissa Lin Perellatold the Wall Street Journal, “Until there’s pressure from outside, ports and industry stakeholders will not clean up unilaterally.”
The Moving Foward Network is leading the battle to exert that pressure. The EPA has the authority to clean up ports and railyards, and millions of us have joined to ask them to stop this assault on our health.
The technology exists to make this possible. All it takes to make port and railyard operators act responsibly is the political will.
To add your voice and help save lives, please visit the Zero Campaign website, sign our petition to EPA asking them to clean up port and railyard air pollution, and enroll your organization as an endorser.
In the report, the CARB details the ground-breaking work California has done to reduce black carbon, and proposes an approach to doing even more.
Black carbon is a potent climate change forcer which kills millions of people worldwide every year. In U.S. urban areas, diesel engine exhaust – primarily from diesel freight trucks, is the primary source of black carbon. Diesel exhaust black carbon is particularly insidious, because it is covered by as many as 40 carcinogenic and toxic compounds, and acts as a very effective toxin delivery system. When inhaled, the black carbon particles and their toxic payload is absorbed into the bloodstream, which delivers the poisons to every organ in the body, including the brain.