FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 20, 2007
CONTACT: Barb Maynard, 213-387-0780; Jania Palacios, 520-404-7643
One Year Later: Thanksgiving Reflections on the Ports’ Clean Air Action Plan
Today marks exactly one year since the LA and Long Beach Ports jointly adopted the landmark Clean Air Action Plan, a set of green-growth goals that if successful, could lift the legal obstacles that currently stand in the way of desired expansion.
The first test of that plan was introduced this past Spring and would reduce deadly diesel emissions by 80 percent over five years, but the Clean Trucks Program still remains under review by harbor commissioners. Every week the Ports fail to act, two more people from our community die from truck-pollution related illness.
However, for every delay on the only meaningful proposal that would ensure clean air, good jobs, healthy communities, and green port growth, the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports continues to build key political and community support. As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we reflect on the following accomplishments and mounting evidence that a comprehensive Clean Trucks Program is the only true solution to truck pollution:
- Over 300 truck drivers were joined by several hundred community allies to pack an auditorium at Banning’s Landing at a special joint LA-LB forum in June to express their support for a strong Clean Trucks Program.
- 5,000 port truck drivers misclassified as independent contractors signed a petition stating their desire to become employees of the trucking firms they haul for. They were backed by over 6,500 signatures from Southern California residents expressing support for employee status and the cleanest available trucks. Both petitions were presented to both Ports in July.
- Thousands of additional petitions and postcards were presented by truckers and community activists at the Ports’ public workshop in October, totaling nearly 17,000 voices collected by the Coalition and representing over one-third of the entire port driver workforce.
- A $4.2 billion boost would benefit the regional economy in the first five years of the Clean Trucks Program, a Labor Day study showed. LAANE calculated the combined economic impacts as a result of better driver pay, reduced public expenditures for drivers’ medical expenses, and savings from health care costs associated with toxic emissions.
- 74% of voters polled in the “diesel death zones” in mid-August said they favor the plan to reduce truck emissions by making the trucking companies and their shipper clients responsible for buying and maintaining clean trucks – they agreed this can only happen by making so-called independent contractor drivers into employees.
- Nearly 70% of voters across the state surveyed by the Public Policy Institute of California in July said they back environmentally-sound goods movement, even if it means higher cost to business. That translates to 7 cents on the price of a $45 pair of shoes, the Ports’ own independent economic analysis showed.
- Reflecting these overwhelming findings, thousands of Long Beach residents have displayed lawn signs proclaiming “Enough is Enough: Make the Industry Responsible for Clean Air” that further urge the Ports to adopt a strong Clean Trucks Program now.
- 500 people joined drivers on a Saturday afternoon in September to rally for the trucks program at Cesar Chavez Park in Long Beach. Speakers included the top-rated Spanish DJ “El Cucuy,” Councilwomen Bonnie Lowenthal and Tonia Reyes-Uranga, and LB Harbor Commission President Mario Cordero.
- The leading Spanish network Univisión devoted 5 days and 52 minutes of air time to the struggle of independent contractor drivers and the environmental crisis created by a broken port trucking system during its morning news series for the recent “sweeps” week. Statewide, the segments reached 132,600 households, with a total of 530,652 viewers in all.
- Two mayors stood together in partnership at a rare joint press conference earlier this month to proclaim that the Ports’ recent vote to ban dirty trucks is only the beginning. Eluding to the stalled China Shipping terminal and six years of failed expansion projects, both leaders called for real and meaningful standards to be implemented – or our pollution-plagued Ports will continue to sicken and kill residents, and threaten the green growth needed to accommodate increasing trade demands.
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster: “The truth is that the cost of moving these goods is already in the system. The wrong people are paying for it. Kids in Long Beach have been contracting asthma to ensure that someone in Kansas can get a cheaper television. And that’s not acceptable at all.”
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: “We know if we don’t push ourselves, we won’t make the goal, folks. The one thing that you’ve seen under Mayor Foster’s leadership and mine in the city of Los Angeles, if you are not setting high expectations, whether it’s in schools, at the ports, whatever it is, you will never meet them.”
We are thankful that the days that the trucking companies and their shipper clients can profit from little accountability on labor and environmental standards are numbered. It is clear that support for the Clean Trucks Program is powerful enough to thwart industry attempts to kill the clean-air goals we share with the Ports.
But make no mistake: For the Clean Trucks Program to be successful and win final support of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the over 30 other environmental, public health, community, labor and religious partners united in the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports, harbor commissioners must require the cleanest available trucks and force the profitable goods movement industry to take responsibility for the 16,000 port drivers who are in no position to purchase or upkeep a modernized, green fleet.
Appeasing a largely unscrupulous industry with piece-meal policy is no substitute for real reform. Clean air will take enforceable standards, a comprehensive approach, and above all, moral courage and political will. It’s not enough to imagine clean air – we need action, and a strong Clean Trucks Program will get us there.