Environmental Justice Leaders Call for Zero-Emission Strategies at Ports

Image Credit: Reinhard Link

There has been clean air progress at ports, but more leaders are calling for zero-emission strategies

When surveying the clean air progress in freight hubs like ports, community leaders and environmental advocates can see hard work has paid off.

But they also see we must do more as a nation to fully protect the health and environment of communities near goods movement corridors.

And when faced with the expected 45 percent growth in freight transportation from 2012 to 2040 – as well as the sound science linking diesel exhaust to damaging health effects like asthma – many leaders are calling for the next generation milestone for clean air efforts: zero-emission strategies.

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That was one of the key messages when environmental justice leaders from across the country gathered in San Diego late last month to address the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). The NEJAC is a federal advisory committee that provides input and guidance to EPA on critical environmental justice (EJ) issues like ports. Goods movement issues are a key part of the overall agenda at NEJAC and at EPA – meaning attention to port air issues is growing.

The ports work is taking place in the context of EPA’s pending release of the new EJScreen tool and finalization of their EJ 2020 Action Agenda. EJScreen is a map-based screening tool that will help EPA and stakeholders better understand demographic and environmental challenges facing all communities, especially those overburdened with pollution. The 2020 Action Agenda will lay out EPA’s vision and strategy for addressing EJ issues at the local, regional, and national levels. Both will help facilitate the work of improving air quality near freight hubs.

Juan Parras, the Director of the Houston-based Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), understands this issue all too well. He has been working for many years to reduce emissions near the Manchester community, a neighborhood close to the Port of Houston which bears the brunt of industrial and transportation activity nearby. Juan’s perspective as a community voice was critical in helping NEJAC understand port issues and strategize what steps need to be taken to reduce emissions and protect public health.

EPA is paying close attention to these voices and has expanded their national Ports Initiative and other activities related to reducing emissions at ports. Now is a crucial time for the environmental community to work with EPA in developing the next generation of strategies, including zero emissions, that will safeguard the health of those who work and live in and around ports. EDF has been helping to move these important conversations forward and we are excited to build on collaborative successes like clean truck programs, which help replace older, more polluting heavy-duty trucks at ports with newer, cleaner models.

We join our partners – like TEJAS and others in the environmental justice field – in calling for healthier communities and cleaner air at ports in Texas and around the country.


Image Source: Flickr/Reinhard Link

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