Pollution from goods movement kills almost 2,500 Californians annually. That means the industry claims roughly the same number of lives each year as does homicide statewide.
So ask leading environmentalists at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and other major green groups what they think about the mitigation initiative the Port of Los Angeles recently adopted to deal with this crisis that has stalled expansion since 2001.
They’ll tell you the “Clean Trucks Program” is bold – and holds the promise of becoming the sustainable model to dramatically reduce deadly carbon emissions from diesel rigs at our nation’s seaports.
Pose the question to anyone at LA City Hall or at the harbor commission. First they’ll expound on the public health benefits lauded by statewide organizations like the Coalition for Clean Air and the American Lung Association of California. Then they’ll cite a $4.2 billion boost to the regional economy in the first few years. And let you know the very same policy will beef up security at one of the most vulnerable terrorist targets in the nation.
Jobs? LA’s plan creates a pathway to the middle class for thousands of independent port truckers who now drive “sweatshops on wheels” – immigrant workers who are vital links in the global supply chain but currently sit on the bottom rung of it.
If it sounds like we’re drinking lime-flavored Kool-Aid, it’s because we finally can: We’re a pair of community organizers admittedly familiar with being on the right side of history but not necessarily victory. It’s rare to witness the brand of moral courage and political will it took for port officials and elected leaders to tackle the intertwined issues of deadly air and dead-end jobs, and it’s inspiring other ports on the West Coast to examine the issues and hopefully follow suit. (One Port of Oakland Commissioner has even publicly referred to LA’s effort to restore good jobs and bring environmental justice to surrounding communities of the nation’s busiest trade hub as one of civil rights.)
We built strong alliances amongst air quality advocates of all stripes, along with local residents, unions and clergy across the Bay Area and Southern California to get this done. Not an easy task, but well over 100 hugely diverse organizations under the banner of the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports agree that the LA Clean Trucks Program as passed is smart 21st century policymaking at its finest.
It also appears as if LA’s answer to the “inconvenient truck” – a solution that enjoys unusual support by a strong blue-green alliance and allows industry to meet exploding trade demand – could catapult port trucking into the green economy revolution. The best part is the groundwork is being laid by both ranking Democrats and the Party’s rising stars alike at the local, state and federal level. (Hint: Think Obama, Pelosi, Boxer, Villaraigosa, etc…)
With a nod to Vice President Al Gore, is this market-based policy at the center of the new progressive movement? We’ll explore that more fully in the Progress Report tomorrow…
Patricia Castellanos of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy is chair of the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports. Doug Bloch directs the Oakland CCSP.
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