‘710 Freeway Mayors’ Back Change to Cleaner Trucks

By Jacqueline Garcia, EGP Staff Writer

Growing up with asthma and constantly winding up in the hospital is not something Jorge Morales wants for his 11-month-old baby.

As a kid, “I remember the faces of my parents looking at me when I couldn’t breath at 2 or 3 in the morning and running to the hospital,” the now Mayor of South Gate told EGP Tuesday morning.

Air quality is an issue that he considers personal.

“Every second there’s a truck going by,” said the mayor, pointing at the 710 Freeway from a spot at South Gate Park where he and others had gathered to push for a solution to the dirty heavy-duty trucks traveling on the 5 and 710 freeways through their heavily polluted cities.

“All those emissions are coming down in the communities here in the southeast, all the way from Long Beach, from the 60 and 10 freeways and we are all impacted,” he said.

Joining Morales were the mayors of Commerce, Maywood, Bell and Compton, and representatives from the Waste Management Company (WM), the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas).

“We want to encourage owners and operators of those heavy-duty trucks to transfer the trucks over to cleaner energy vehicles,” the Mayor of Maywood Eddie de la Riva told EGP.

He said a study of Los Angeles County revealed that residents of Maywood suffer from some of the highest rates of asthma, cancer and other respiratory diseases.

“It is very important for me because it is something that affects my community and my residents,” he explained.

In 2013, nonprofit East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and their student led group at Bell Gardens High School, Youth in Action, conducted “Truck Thruthing,” a study that looked at truck traffic on the busiest streets in Commerce. The study found that approximately 47,000 diesel trucks travel the 710 Freeway daily, exposing Commerce residents and workers to large amounts of diesel, leading to the same illnesses as in Maywood.

“All the trucks that start at the Long Beach Port end up in Commerce,” Commerce Mayor Lilia Leon told EGP. “We have the two largest railroads and two largest freeways in the nation,” so “it’s very important to have these type of low-emission trucks for the community’s health” she said.

Going green can be an expensive proposition for the owners of heavy-duty trucks, but there are options to help them convert, supporters of the change to cleaner fuels sources said.

One of the options is SoCalGas’ truck loan program, which can help qualified operators of medium- and heavy-duty trucks explore how trucks using compressed natural gas (CNG) works compared to diesel-fueled vehicles in terms of drivability, power and range.

Another option are government incentives, which the mayors said are a practical and affordable way to accelerate the reduction of harmful emissions and improve air quality

According to Rodger Schwecke, SoCalGas vice president of customer solutions, natural gas is one of the most affordable and cleanest burning alternative fuels available today.

Southeast community leaders and representatives from entities advocating for cleaner air gathered on Tuesday to push for a solution so heavy-duty trucks go green. (Southern California Gas Co.)

Southeast community leaders and representatives from entities advocating for cleaner air gathered on Tuesday to push for a solution so heavy-duty trucks go green. (Southern California Gas Co.)

“Heavy-duty natural gas vehicles can reduce smog by about as much as 90 percent. We need to be part of the solution to help clean the air by giving incentives for the transition from polluting heavy-duty trucks to clean alternative fuel vehicles such as near-zero emissions trucks that run on natural gas,” he said.

Janine Hamner, municipal and community relations manager for Waste Management of Southern California, said she’s also pleased to join the movement and talk about the efficiency of the largest fleet—over 45,000—of heavy-duty natural gas trucks in North America.

“Since natural gas-powered collection trucks run cleaner and quieter, we’ve made the commitment to use more in our local operations as we work to keep communities clean in the most sustainable manner possible,” she said.

These trucks have nearly zero particulate emissions, cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 20 percent and are far quieter than their diesel counterparts.

Morales said it is important to get behind the green movement. “We have all the technology right now, we have natural gas vehicles here and they can make a big difference on the air quality of our communities.”

For more information about this movement, visit CleanerAirAhead.org.

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November 19, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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