Trade Off For Funds Not Worth Added Harm From Trucks

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

COMMERCE – A bill recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will do little to alleviate health concerns over toxic vehicle emissions along some heavily-traveled truck routes in the region, and is instead raising concerns in cities along the I-710 corridor that there is not enough money in the legislation to alleviate the impact of changes to make truck emission rules less stringent.

Senate Bill 1, signed by the governor in late April, raises gas taxes and vehicle fees to generate funds to fix the state’s backlog of crumbling roads. The gas tax hike starts Nov. 1, while the vehicle registration fee increase takes force Jan. 1, 2018. The measures are expected to raise $5.2 billion over 10 years.

For cities like Commerce, however, a provision in the bill that exempts most diesel trucks on the road from future emissions reduction requirements for close to two decades is raising red flags.

The exemption was added to the bill at the last minute to gain the support of the trucking industry for the higher diesel fuel and registration fees, according to environmental groups who have slammed the legislation as not tough enough.

According to Commerce Director of Public Works & Development Services, Maryam Babaki, local residents will see minimal financial benefit from the signing of SB1, but will see a slowing of the movement to achieve zero emission trucks.

“This provision is one of the biggest drawbacks of SB1,” Babaki said, adding the policy change increases residents’ risk of health problems.

While the bill will result in much needed funds to repair state’s roads, Babaki told EGP it fails to provide relief to smaller populated industrial cities like Commerce. Large cities like Los Angeles will also see greater benefits.

The added pool of money is not worth the trade off to residents’ health, Babaki warned.

According to environmentalists, reducing or slowing emissions standards will affect residents who live near major truck routes, keeping their risk of cancer, heart problems, asthma and other lung diseases high.

The 710 freeway, a major goods movement corridor between the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the rail yards in Commerce and points further east, has long been identified as a pollution hot spot in large part due to the fumes from diesel trucks.

According to the California Air Resources Board, diesel trucks account for 2 percent of vehicles, but emit 30 percent of key smog-forming nitrogen oxides. The Environmental Impact Report for the I-710 Corridor Project states that in 2013, 182,000 vehicles passed through the I-5, I-710 and I-60 corridor, of which 20,000 were trucks.

While local residents health concerns are not to be taken lightly, SB1 also fails to provide adequate funding to smaller populated cities to do road repairs or to mitigate the health consequences of the trucking rules because it uses a funding formula based on population. With about 13,000 residents, Commerce’s share of revenue will be small compared to cities like Los Angeles, even though the city is disproportionately impacted by traffic along the corridor.

“Cities like Commerce have the largest number of truck traveling miles,” Babaki said. “They have to pay for the maintenance and repair of these roads from their own budgets, while getting very small sums to do it.”

“It is a double whammy,” Babaki said.

Babaki compared SB1 to the distribution of transportation funds through Measure M, which also uses a population-based funding formula. Commerce contributes $16 million in taxes annually, but only receives $350,000 from Metro, according to Babaki.

“Small industrial cities get deprived of their fair share due to their small population,” Babaki said. “Anytime distribution is merely based on population, rather than number of miles, or share of contributed revenue, small cities like Commerce get shortchanged.”

Babaki said city officials have voiced their concerns to state legislators to no avail.

“The practice and the laws of distribution based on population have been very difficult to change.”

Dates Set for Special Election to Replace Gomez in Assembly

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Campaigning has been underway for months, but Gov. Jerry Brown this week made official, announcing the dates for a Special Election to fill the 51st Assembly District seat left vacant when Jimmy Gomez was elected to the House of Representatives.

The primary will be held Oct. 3. If no candidate receives 50% plus one vote, a runoff will take place on Dec. 5.

Voters in the 51st district, which runs from Echo Park, through Eagle Rock, Highland Park and on to East L.A., have had to contend with an unusually high number of elections in recent months, a domino reaction to the governor’s appointment of former Congressman Xavier Becerra to California Attorney General at the start of the year. Gomez won election to Becerra’s congressional seat, leaving his state assembly seat up for grabs.

More than a dozen candidates have already announced their election bids.

Brown Signs Bill to Combat Air Pollution at Neighborhood Level

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Gov. Jerry Brown in Bell Gardens Wednesday signs AB 617 authored by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).

Gov. Jerry Brown in Bell Gardens Wednesday signs AB 617 authored by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).

BELL GARDENS – Gov. Jerry Brown was in Bell Gardens Wednesday to sign a bill state legislators say will help local communities monitor and fight air pollution in their neighborhoods.

Assembly Bill 617, authored by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) “establishes a groundbreaking program to measure and combat air pollution at the neighborhood level – in the communities most impacted.” Garcia said in a statement.

AB 617 is one of two bills aimed at fighting climate control. The other bill, AB 398 extends to 2030 cap-and-trade program, which allows industry to pay for permits to pollute.

Lawmakers in areas with high levels of air pollution lobbied hard for AB 617’s passage in return for their support of the governor’s cap-and-trade bill, one of his top legislative priorities. They s wanted to ensure that local neighborhoods like those surrounding the now shuttered Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon had additional resources and control mechanisms to combat the damage caused by industries polluting in their constituents’ backyards.

Back in May, Assemblywoman Garcia took the governor on a close-up tour of Commerce and Bell Gardens so he could sample first hand the traffic, pollution, and industries that have long wreaked havoc on the health of residents living in east and southeast Los Angeles County.

The tour included stops around the 710 overpass at Florence, the perimeter of the Commerce rail yard, Bandini Park and the brownfield at Garfield and Gage (in Commerce).

“Today, the Governor got to breathe the same air as I have all my life,” the assembywoman said in a statement following the tour. Gov. Brown “looked across the brownfields that surround my communities and met with my neighbors who share our communities’ concerns,” she said.

The authors of AB 617 did not believe governor’s cap-and-trade program was doing enough to protect local communities from pollution-related health hazards.

On Wednesday, their effort to allow greater local control was signed into law.

“We passed these bills today for people like Maria who takes care of her five grandchildren in a one bedroom apartment in Bell Gardens but is afraid to let the kids play outside in the poisoned air, and for Rocio who grows vegetables for her family in Commerce, but worries they could be toxic from the contaminated soil,” said Assemblywoman Garcia, Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

“This package, though historic, is only a strong down-payment. We have much work ahead of us to address regions, like mine, that have been treated like wastelands for generations. Justice is never swift. Environmental justice won’t be either. California is at the tipping point of greatness and I have no intention of letting my home go backwards again.”

AB 617 establishes a statewide program to address air pollution in neighborhoods with the dirtiest air. It aims to improve local air quality “through neighborhood air monitoring and targeted action plans that require pollution reductions from mobile and stationary sources with strong enforcement and timetables.”

The new law also requires large industrial facilities, including oil refineries, in California’s most polluted communities to upgrade old, dirty equipment with cleaner, more modern technology by December 2023 at the latest. It also increases penalties against polluters for the first time in more than 35 years.

Groups Slam Cap-and-Trade Deal as Too Industry-Friendly

July 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

SACRAMENTO, CA – Some environmental groups are criticizing the cap and trade bill passed in the California Legislature on Monday, calling it a corporate giveaway that paralyzes local regulators.

Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign a package of bills that passed the Legislature on Monday and will extend the state’s cap-and-trade program through 2030. The cap-and-trade system encourages industry to clean up its act by putting a price on carbon emissions. But environmental groups say Big Oil got too many concessions. Amy Vanderwarker with the California Environmental Justice Alliance says the governor should have started with a bolder vision to move away from oil and gas – and then could negotiate, rather than meeting behind closed doors with big companies from the start.

“There has to be a transition off of fossil fuels, and there has to be a transition to regenerative economies that actually put people and the planet first, instead of profits for our largest corporations in the world – who are the very drivers of the issue we are trying to solve.”

Vanderwarker faults the primary bill, Assembly Bill 398, for preventing local air-quality management districts from further regulating carbon emissions from stationary sources, like heavy industry and power plants. Governor Brown defends the package, saying it’s the best he could do and still achieve the main goal of extending the program, which had to pass by a two-thirds margin and thus required bipartisan support.

Alvaro Sanchez from the Greenlining Institute says the devil will be in the details, He urges regulators to prioritize the needs of low-income communities that stand to bear the brunt of climate impacts first – and worst.

“We need to make sure that the revenues generated by cap-and-trade are directed at much higher levels to the communities that are burdened the most, so that they can benefit the greatest.”

A companion bill from the Republican caucus also passed. It places a measure on the June 2018 ballot asking voters to make any major expenditures from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund subject to a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, starting in 2024.

Gov. Signs Bill to Cut ‘Super Pollutants’

September 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

At a Long Beach ceremony, Gov. Jerry Brown Monday signed into law a bill imposing what he called the nation’s toughest restrictions on “super pollutants” such as black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane.

“Cutting black carbon and other super pollutants is the critical next step in our program to combat climate change,” Brown said at the event, held near a playground in the shadow of an oil refinery. “This bill curbs dangerous pollutants and thereby protects public health and slows climate change.”

SB 1383, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, mandates a 50 percent reduction in black carbon and 40 percent reduction in methane and hydrofluorocarbon from 2013 levels by 2030. The pollutants are generated by sources including waste-disposal, petroleum-based fuel, agriculture and synthetic gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol products.

Lara said the pollutants “are powerful climate forcers that have a profound effect on climate change and global warming.”

“They also have detrimental effects on public health,” he said. “This bill represents a unique opportunity to balance our global vision for the future with a much more local and immediate perspective. With these bold and ambitious goals, we’ll continue to set the standard for climate policy worldwide.”

The National Federation of Independent Business criticized the legislation, with the organization’s state director Tom Scott saying it creates an inconsistent policy that will “further increase the cost of doing business in California,” particularly for the agricultural industry.

The mandated reductions represent “a direct assault on California’s dairy industry and will hurt manufacturing by creating an arbitrary limit on natural gases which dissipate quickly,” he said.

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