Booker, Menendez, Durbin, Merkley And Gillibrand Urge Greater EPA Focus On Addressing Air Pollution From Port

Breaking news  – just released by Sen. Cory Booker’s office:

May 11, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to Environmental Protection (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging the EPA to coordinate additional action from the federal government to reduce emissions from ports and the freight network to help alleviate the impact on lower-income and vulnerable communities.

‘Across the United States, 13 million people-3.5 million of whom are children-live near major marine ports or rail yards. These low-income and minority communities are disproportionately exposed to high levels of air pollution resulting in serious health problems. Due to this environmental justice concern and the urgent need to transition to cleaner energy sources, we urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to coordinate additional action from the federal government to reduce emissions from ports and the freight network and help alleviate the impact on vulnerable communities,’ the senators said.

Of particular concern to Booker and Menendez is the air quality surrounding ports in New Jersey, including the Port of Newark. The Port of New York and New Jersey is the nation’s third-largest seaport and many of its terminals are located near low-income communities in Newark, Bayonne, and Elizabeth, where asthma is now a leading cause of absenteeism for school-age kids. According to the EPA in a recent report, 25 percent of Newark children have asthma and the bulk of asthma hospitalizations take place in children’s early years. Absences caused by this condition have an enormous impact on chronic absenteeism in grades K-3.

A recent Village Voice article detailed how air pollution from the Port of Newark is having an adverse impact on residents’ health and well-being.

Booker has worked in the Senate for years to improve the air quality and reduce emissions at America’s ports. In 2014, an amendment authored by Booker to expand funding eligibility to projects that reduce emissions at ports was passed by the Environment and Public Works Committee. The language authored by Booker to expand eligibility for projects that reduce port air pollution was also included in the highway reauthorization bill that was passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama in December.

A pdf copy of the letter can be viewed here.