Oakland Toxic Tour

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Oakland: Port Vote Paves Way for Cleaner Trucks

By Kwan Booth
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Part of the Bay Area Toxic Tour
Tuesday night saw the end of two years of negotiations between the Port of Oakland, environmentalists, truckers and West Oakland residents, with a vote to reduce toxic emissions from trucks serving the busy shipping center. The Comprehensive Truck Management Plan aims to reduce the levels of diesel particulates in the air around the port, by banning diesel trucks built before 1994 -- as well as newer trucks that lack air filters. The plan also authorized a registration system for all trucks doing business with the port, and $3 million for independent truck who need to upgrade their vehicles. However, a vote to implement findings from a study conducted by the consulting firm Beacon Economics was postponed until a later meeting. This includes a controversial recommendation that larger trucking firms hire contractors as employees, thereby making companies responsible for truck upgrades and maintenance. Continue Reading →

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Port of Oakland Truck Meeting Spins Wheels

By Kwan Booth
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Part of the Bay Area Toxic Tour
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. Continue Reading →

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Ship Pollution Escapes Oakland Diesel Debate

By Kwan Booth
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Part of the Bay Area Toxic Tour
While much of the debate on reducing emissions from the Port of Oakland has revolved around trucks, diesel pollution from the trucks is estimated to make up only 4 percent of West Oakland's overall toxic burden. A much larger percentage has been attributed to the international shipping companies that rent the ports -- yet attempts to impose fees to pay for pollution controls have been sidetracked by global trade regulations and opposition by the state of California and even special interest groups in Oakland and the Bay Area. Fees targeting the shipping containers that pass through the Port of Oakland are usually opposed by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, Alameda County Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley, and the Waterfront Coalition -- a Washington, D.C.-based group of importers, exporters, and shipping companies. These parties have repeatedly expressed concern that any new fees would only encourage shipping companies to abandon the Port of Oakland in favor of cheaper competitor. However, a 2006 study conducted by Energy and Environmental Research Associates, and funded by the Coalition for Clean Air and the Natural Resources Defense Council, found little evidence to support this theory. Continue Reading →

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West Oakland Neighbors Tackle Toxic Legacy

By Kwan Booth
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Part of the Bay Area Toxic Tour
Just about any long-term West Oakland resident can rattle off a list of health issues effecting their community: toxins from cargo ships docking at the nearby Port of Oakland, diesel smoke from Port-bound trucks, pollution from the two freeways that border the neighborhood, illegal dumping, and lack of accessible health care. In fact, research funded by the Pacific Institute found that some of the area's 403 toxic hot spots date back to post-World War II construction -- and that nearly 82 percent of West Oakland residents live near one of these potentially contaminated sites. A 2008 study by the California Air Resources Board indicates that West Oaklanders are exposed to diesel toxins at almost three times the levels of the rest of the city. As a result, children living in the 94607 zip code are seven times more likely than other California youth to be hospitalized for asthma and related issues. "We're still talking years"
Incremental changes have been made on both state and local levels, including the port's current Comprehensive Truck Management Plan -- yet many locals feel that significant improvements are still a long way off. Continue Reading →

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Toxic Tour Blog: Inside West Oakland’s ‘Breathmobile’

By Kwan Booth
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Part of the Bay Area Toxic Tour
Talking to Dr. Washington Burns the other day I learned some pretty shocking information: 37 percent of the adults and 20 percent of the kids living in West Oakland have asthma and children living in this community are seven times more likely to be hospitalized for breathing related illness than any other children in California. And Alameda County as a whole is no prize, with one of the highest overall hospitalization rates among 5-17 year old youth. I learned this bit of info while sitting inside the Breathmobile, the new mobile asthma testing facility run by the Prescott Joseph Center, where Dr. Burns is executive director. And while the numbers are shocking on the first mention, it's something West Oakland residents have been battling for a years. For the last 14 years the Prescott Joseph Center has been somewhat of an oasis for west Oakland residents seeking information on a variety of health and wellness issues. Continue Reading →

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Port’s Diesel Pollution Stirs West Oakland Protest

By Kwan Booth (article) and Kim Komenich (photography, audio)
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Part One in a Series

West Oakland's struggles over diesel pollution linked to high local rates of asthma and cancer brought a confrontational protest to a recent Port of Oakland meeting -- the latest in a year-long clash between residents, port officials and the trucking industry. Heads turned and presentations stopped mid sentence as approximately 50 community activists and union truck drivers stormed the meeting early on, equipped with protest signs, a bullhorn and calls for "good jobs, clean air." "Protesters interrupt May 2 Port of Oakland meeting"
At issue is the proposed Comprehensive Truck Management Program, which would require new pollution controls for trucks serving the port. Although the protesters said the plan wouldn't be effective, many independent truckers said it would put them out of business due to added costs for pollution controls. Emotions ran high, and one truck-company owner who attempted to speak was repeatedly shouted down by protesters. Continue Reading →

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