Has California Hit The Brakes In Regulating Breath-Robbing Big Rigs?

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

OAKLAND, Calif. — James Lockett sits on his bed and opens the drawer of his nightstand, revealing a stash of asthma inhalers: purple disc-shaped ones he uses twice a day to manage his symptoms and others for full-blown attacks.

Lockett, 70, says he never leaves home without an emergency inhaler.

His senior housing complex in East Oakland is less than a mile from Interstate 880, a major corridor for freight trucks shuttling to and from the Port of Oakland. On the way to factories and warehouses, the trucks often roll through streets near homes, schools and libraries.

The diesel-fueled big rigs are a major source of air pollution, spewing soot and other pollutants that can cause or aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

Just walking while talking on his cellphone can leave him short of breath, Lockett said. “The [asthma] triggers here, without my medications, it would be terrible.”

California has cleaned up its diesel fleet significantly in recent years by phasing out older trucks and requiring operators to install the latest pollution-control equipment. But local air district officials and environmental advocates say more needs to be done and that the emissions goal should be close to zero.

Efforts to get there are stalled, they say, in part because of a provision in the $52 billion road improvement law signed in April by Gov. Jerry Brown. That provision exempts most diesel trucks on the road from future emissions reduction requirements for many years.

Regulators and environmentalists warn that, without further reductions in emissions, many residents who live near major truck routes or the port remain at high risk of cancer, heart problems, asthma and other lung diseases, especially children and seniors.

Asthma is a critical problem in Oakland for these two groups. Among other indicators, the rate of emergency room visits for asthma among seniors (age 65 and older) in East Oakland, where Lockett lives, is nearly three times higher than it is statewide, and the rate in West Oakland is nearly two times higher, according to state and county data.

Austin Carter, 13, learns how to properly use an inhaler during his visit at the Breathmobile clinic in Oakland in May. (Heidi de Marco/California Healthline)

Similarly, children in these neighborhoods go to the emergency room for asthma at more than double the rate of their peers statewide, according to 2016 data. In the heart of West Oakland, near the port, nearly 21 percent of children have been diagnosed with asthma, according to 2014 data from the California Health Interview Survey. That’s well above the statewide average of 15 percent.

A mobile asthma clinic called a Breathmobile regularly parks at elementary schools near the port, and Darryl Carter makes good use of it for son Austin, 13. During a recent visit, he recalled a terrifying attack eight years ago that sent Austin to the hospital. Since then, the boy’s been back to the hospital three or four times — not ideal, but the Breathmobile visits have made a difference.

Asthma has multiple causes and triggers, including poor housing conditions, a family history of the disease, certain weather conditions and exposure to cigarette smoke. Poverty, lack of access to health care and little knowledge of preventive care all can contribute to high rates of emergency visits, said Dr. Washington Burns, administrative director of the Breathmobile in Northern California.

However, “there’s often more asthma around corridors with trucks and cars than in areas where there aren’t,” Washington said.

Diesel trucks account for 2 percent of vehicles but emit 30 percent of key smog-forming nitrogen oxides and 65 percent of the soot attributable to motor vehicles, according to the state Air Resources Board (ARB).

A ‘Dirty Deal’?

In 2015, the Oakland City Council began diverting trucks from streets with homes, schools or senior centers. But some community activists say enforcement of these local ordinances has not been strong enough.

The provision in the state’s new law exempts all but the oldest or highest-mileage trucks from any new emission reduction rules the state might impose. The exemption lasts 18 years from the time they meet current emissions standards or until they have traveled 800,000 miles.

It’s unclear exactly how the exemption will affect local air districts and ports that want to cut emissions further. Environmentalists say these agencies may face resistance and risk being sued by the trucking industry if they forge ahead with more aggressive plans.

Critics say the governor agreed to the last-minute exemption to gain the trucking industry’s support for higher diesel and gas taxes that, along with vehicle fees, are expected to raise $5.2 billion annually over 10 years to repair roads and bridges and to expand public transit.

Bill Magavern, policy director for the Sacramento-based Coalition for Clean Air, said improving infrastructure is laudable but should not come at the cost of clean air.

“There’s a lot to like in that bill, and we hated to oppose it,” but there was a “dirty deal” thrown in at the last minute, Magavern said.

Gov. Brown’s office referred questions on the truckers’ amendment to the ARB, the state’s clean-air agency.

The ARB said it can provide incentives to further reduce emissions without imposing additional requirements. And the new law, it said, will strengthen enforcement of existing rules.

Under the law, “truck operators can be denied [Department of Motor Vehicles] registration if they’re not meeting the current rules,” board spokesman David Clegern said. “Diesel pollution will be reduced by bringing 300,000 more trucks into compliance.”

Local air managers in Southern California say greater enforcement of current rules is important, but it won’t sufficiently accelerate turnover of the truck fleet. And that’s crucial to helping Southern California meet federal clean-air standards, said Philip Fine, deputy executive officer of planning and rule development with the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The problem for local air districts and ports is that when it comes to directly regulating mobile sources of pollution like diesel trucks, the state is the boss. It approves local district plans, and the local districts more or less oversee the ports. So the most effective way to reduce trucker emissions is to set stringent policy at the state level, as California has aggressively done in the past.

Emissions Way Down

But truckers say the state has imposed enough requirements. Chris Shimoda, vice president of government affairs for the California Trucking Association, said diesel emissions from trucks in California ports have fallen dramatically in recent years.

“This is attributable to the current $1 billion annually being invested by truckers in the cleanest available technology throughout the state,” Shimoda said.

He also said that being exempted from any future state emissions-reduction requirements reassures the trucking industry that it will recoup the investment it is making in new engines to meet current state standards.

Under existing state rules, owners of heavy-duty trucks must have 2010 or newer-model engines by 2023.

Those rules have dramatically improved air quality. A study by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, among others, found that from 2009 to 2013 emissions of black carbon from trucks at the Port of Oakland dropped by 76 percent and nitrogen oxides by 53 percent.

People living near ports like the one in Oakland have benefited from the state’s efforts to clean up the truck fleet — by phasing out older models and requiring operators to install the latest pollution-control equipment. (Heidi de Marco/California Healthline)

Critics: More Progress Needed

Still, ports throughout the state rely mostly on diesel to power vessels, yard equipment, trains and trucks. Ports in Southern California remain the single-largest fixed source of smog-forming pollution in the region. And the Port of Oakland is the largest fixed emitter of diesel pollution in the Bay Area, local air managers say.

That’s why local districts were alarmed by the governor’s concession to the trucking industry, said Tom Addison, legislative and policy adviser for the Bay Area air district.

It “gives the trucking industry a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said David Pettit, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It bars any kind of state regulations that might require truckers to move to a different kind of truck — natural gas-powered, electric or hydrogen fuels — when those become available in the market.”

Last month, the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach set ambitious goals for the ports to transition to zero-emission truck and yard equipment over the next 20 years. The mayors affirmed that the ports’ 2017 clean-air blueprint, which is expected to be released Wednesday, will include further emissions reductions from ships and the development of a zero-emissions truck pilot program.

But the new state law calls into question whether those plans — and others in coming years — will be enforceable.

If the ports in Southern California announced that in five years they’re going to have an all zero-emissions fleet, Pettit said, “they’d be sued [by the trucking association] in a heartbeat.”

Updated 4:30 p.m.: Includes entire text of original story published by California Healthline.

Fondos No Suficientes Para Evitar el Daño de Camiones

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

COMMERCE – Un proyecto de ley firmado recientemente por el gobernador Jerry Brown hará poco para aliviar las preocupaciones de salud sobre las emisiones de vehículos tóxicos a lo largo de algunas rutas de camiones de gran tráfico en la región, y en cambio plantea preocupaciones en las ciudades a lo largo del corredor 1-710 dado a que no hay suficiente dinero en la legislación para aliviar el impacto de los cambios para hacer las normas de emisión de camiones menos estrictas.

El Proyecto de Ley Senatorial 1 (SB1), firmado por el gobernador a fines de abril, eleva los impuestos sobre el gas y las tarifas de vehículos para generar fondos para arreglar la acumulación de carreteras en desuso. El alza del impuesto de gas comienza el 1º de noviembre, mientras que el aumento de la cuota de registro de vehículos toma fuerza el 1º de enero de 2018. Se espera que las medidas recauden $5,2 mil millones en 10 años.

Sin embargo, para ciudades como Commerce, una disposición del proyecto de ley que exime a la mayoría de los camiones diésel de los requisitos de reducción de emisiones en el futuro por cerca de dos décadas esta aumentado las banderas rojas.

La exención se añadió a la factura en el último minuto para obtener el apoyo de la industria de camiones por el aumento del combustible diésel y los derechos de matrícula, de acuerdo con grupos ambientalistas que han criticado la legislación como no lo suficientemente duro.

De acuerdo con el Director de Comercia de Servicios Públicos y Servicios de Desarrollo, Maryam Babaki, los residentes locales verán el beneficio financiero mínimo de la firma de SB1”, dijo Babaki, agregando que el cambio de política aumenta el riesgo de los residentes de problemas de salud.

Mientras que el proyecto de ley dará lugar a fondos muy necesarios para reparar las carreteras del estado, Babaki le dijo a EGP que no proporciona alivio a las ciudades industriales más pequeñas pobladas como el de Commerce. Grandes ciudades como Los Ángeles verán los mayores beneficios.

Cities along I-710 corridor say SB1 makes truck emission rules less stringent, increasing the health risk to local east and southeast Los Angeles County residents. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez)

La autopista 710, un importante corredor de movimiento de mercancías entre los puertos de Los Ángeles y Long Beach y los ferrocarriles de Commerce y puntos más al este, ha sido identificado como un punto de contaminación en gran parte debido a los humos de los camiones diésel. (EGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

Los fondos que generan no beneficiaron la salud de residentes, advirtió Babaki.  

Según los ecologistas, la reducción o disminución de las normas de emisiones afectará a los residentes que viven cerca de las principales rutas de camiones, manteniendo alto el riesgo de cáncer, problemas cardiacos, asma y otras enfermedades pulmonares.

La autopista 710, un importante corredor de movimiento de mercancías entre los puertos de Los Ángeles y Long Beach y los ferrocarriles de Commerce y puntos más al este, ha sido identificado como un punto de contaminación en gran parte debido a los humos de los camiones diésel.

Según la Junta de Recursos del Aire de California, los camiones diésel representan el 2 por ciento de los vehículos, pero emiten el 30 por ciento de los principales óxidos de nitrógeno que forman una nube. El informe de Impacto Ambiental para el Proyecto del Corredor I-170 que en 2013, 182,000 vehículos pasaron por el corredor I-5, I-170 y I-60, de los cuales 20,000 eran camiones.

Mientras que las preocupaciones de salud de los residentes locales no deben tomarse a la ligera, la SB1 tampoco provee financiamiento adecuado a las ciudades con menor población para hacer reparaciones de carreteras o para mitigar las consecuencias de las reglas de camiones porque usa una fórmula de financiamiento basada en la población. Con cerca de 13,000 residentes, el ingreso de Commerce será pequeña en comparación con ciudades como Los Ángeles, a pesar de que la ciudad está afectada de manera desproporcionada por el tráfico a lo largo del corredor.

“Ciudades como Commerce tienen el mayor número de millas de camiones”, dijo Babaki. “Ellos tienen que pagar por el mantenimiento y la reparación de estas carreteras de sus propios presupuestos, mientras que obtener sumas muy pequeñas para hacerlo”.

“Es un doble golpe”, dijo Babaki.

Babaki comparó SB1 con la distribución de fondos de transporte a través de la Medida M, que también utiliza una fórmula de financiamiento basada en la población. Commerce contribuye $16 millones en impuestos al año, pero sólo recibe 350.000 dólares de Metro, de acuerdo con Babaki.

“Las pequeñas ciudades industriales se privan de su parte justa debido a su pequeña población”, dijo Babaki. “En cualquier momento la distribución se basa simplemente en la población, en lugar de numero de millas, o la parte de los ingresos aportados, las pequeñas ciudades como Commerce sale perdiendo”.

Babaki dijo que los funcionarios de la ciudad han expresado sus preocupaciones a los legisladores estatales en vano.

“La práctica y las leyes de distribución basadas en la población han sido muy difíciles de cambiar”.

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.”

California Sube Impuestos para Reparar Vías

April 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

En un esfuerzo legislativo relámpago las dos cámaras del Congreso de California aprobaron en un solo día un serie de aumentos de impuestos, entre ellos uno del 40% a la gasolina que va a encarecer el precio del galón en 12 centavos.

La SB1, aprobada por la Asamblea cerca de la medianoche del jueves, tras su paso por el Senado, también aumenta el impuesto al diesel y las tarifas del registro de vehículos y crea una tarifa para los automóviles eléctricos, cuyos propietarios deberán pagar 100 dólares al año, todo ajustado a la inflación anual.

Con estas medidas, respaldadas por el gobernador Jerry Brown, se espera recaudar 52.400 millones de dólares en los próximos 10 años, que serán destinados principalmente a la reparación de vías de transporte.

Para el ponente de la iniciativa, el senador demócrata de San José Jim Beall, la medida es un “plan inteligente” aunque modesto.

“Esta medida ofrecerá cientos de miles de trabajos para gente pobre que necesita trabajar y estimulará la economía”, opinó el legislador.

La votación tanto en el Senado como en la Asamblea siguió la línea partidista con pocas excepciones y fue la primera vez que los demócratas aplicaron el poder que les otorga la súper mayoría de dos tercios en las dos cámaras legislativas, necesaria para la aprobación de impuestos.

La bancada republicana de ambos cuerpos legislativos que se opuso en su gran mayoría al aumento, criticó duramente la nueva ley.

“Hay que estar ebrio para apoyar esta medida esta noche, ebrio de poder, lo que está arruinando esta institución y que está haciendo cada vez más y más difícil el vivir en este estado”, reclamó en el debate el asambleísta republicano de Yuba City, James Gallagher.

Para el presidente encargado del Senado, el hispano Kevin De León, la medida es una muestra de responsabilidad en el gobierno.

“Otra vez, California se levanta en un contraste marcado con (Washington) D.C.”, dijo De León en su cuenta de Twitter.

“La SB1 debería servir como modelo de gobierno responsable para el Congreso y la administración de Trump”, agregó el demócrata.

La SB1 aumenta el pago de la tarifa anual de registro de vehículos entre 25 y 175 dólares dependiendo del precio del automotor, e incrementa los impuestos al diesel de 16 a 36 centavos por galón entre otros cargos.

De los primeros $52.000 millones recaudados, $34.000 millones se deberán destinar ha la reparación de carreteras, puentes, autopistas y drenajes, con un reparto equitativo entre proyectos locales y estatales.

Otros $7.000 millones estarán dirigidos a proyectos de tránsito masivo, mientras otros fondos buscarán el mejoramiento de corredores comerciales, incluidas las carreteras que conducen a los puertos de Los Ángeles y Long Beach, así como el alivio de la congestión de las rutas más utilizadas en horas pico.

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