The long road leading to cleaner air in West Oakland was stretched just a little farther Tuesday night, as Port of Oakland commissioners postponed voting on a controversial new program to control diesel pollution from thousands of trucks serving the port.
West Oakland’s high rates of childhood asthma and lifelong illnesses, such as cancer, are linked to exhaust from truck and international ship traffic through the port.
Approximately 100 representatives from the trucking, environmentalist and West Oakland communities packed Tuesday’s meeting as the board considered adopting the Comprehensive Truck Management Plan, which aims to reduce diesel emmissions from the port by 85 percent by 2020.
The plan requires that all early-model trucks be fitted with new diesel filters by January 1st, 2010.
Opponents of the plan expressed cautious optimism at amendments to include a proposed truck registration system as well as a complete ban on pre-1994 trucks, as recommended by the study.
“This plan recognizes that you need to have a direct relationship with the trucking companies that operate on your property, and a mechanism to hold them accountable, that’s why we support the truck registry,” said Doug Bloch, Director of the Oakland Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports.
He also said that the ban on older trucks will lead to significant air quality improvements shortly after implementation.
While these amendments seemed to quell complaints, the last minute additions also pushed back voting on the project until June 16, when the board will also discuss whether to adopt more specific recommendations from a 2008 study by Beacon Environmental Services.
The most contested issue is whether trucking companies should be required to hire independent truckers as full time staff, thereby making companies responsible for any necessary upgrades.
Supporters of this motion, including Alexandra Desautels of the Alameda County Public Health Department, said it will give the port more leverage as future details of the plan are hashed out.
“[It] will set the board up to be able to move towards holding the shipping and trucking industries accountable once the laws are changed at the federal level,” she said.
Yet many truckers said they opposed losing their independent status, further complicating regulatory efforts.
In the next two weeks, some of these organizations are planning to meet and discuss issues before port commissioners reconvene for a vote on June 16.