dump pollution on poor
chides billion-dollar shipping industry for ignoring its
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
-- The freight industry places a "staggering burden" on
Californians, particularly low-income minorities, as it
hauls in billions of dollars in profit distributing goods
arriving at the state's major ports, according to a report
released Tuesday by a coalition of community and
percent of the nation's containerized cargo travels via
ports in Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles. It arrives on
oil-burning ships, gets unloaded by soot-belching cranes,
reloaded onto diesel-powered trucks and trains and then
rumbles through some of the state's poorest neighborhoods
makes money -- lots of it for the companies involved.
Ditching Dirty Diesel, a collaborative of 15 environmental,
community, activist and labor organizations issuing the
report, estimated the freight industry generated $231
billion in revenues from their California operations in
industry doesn't pay for the soot, smog, asthma and
shortened life spans in the poor neighborhoods around
California's freight hubs bearing the brunt of that
activity, according to Dirty Diesel's report on the "real
cost" of freight transport in California.
companies benefit from being able to use the port," said
Margaret Gordon, a collaboration member who lives a mile
from the Port of Oakland.
the ones paying with our health."
companies and ports countered Tuesday they are working on
Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine Corp. is building a fleet of
environmentally friendly cargo ships. Copenhagen-based
Maersk has voluntarily switched from dirty bunker oil to
low-sulfur diesel, said Port of Oakland spokesman Harold
a subsidiary of Singapore-based Neptune Orient has
retrofitted yard tractors in both Oakland and Los Angeles
and eliminated 6,000 to 10,000 truck trips a week in Los
Angeles by extending rail lines to the dock.
absolutely understand community concerns about the
environment," said APL spokesman Mike Zampa. "We've seen the
industry and APL innovate and improve to better manage
not enough, said Swati Prakash, program director at the
Pacific Institute and a report co-author.
to significantly clean up industry -- 30 suggestions
identified by regulators that range from buying out old
diesel trucks to modernizing port equipment -- would be a
fraction of the benefits derived from freight transport, the
group said. Yet little progress is being made, they say.
companies using California's ports could pay that cost -- $6
to $10 billion over 15 years -- by kicking in one-third of a
cent on each dollar earned. Wal-Mart alone could pay for it
with less than a penny from every dollar of
California-generated revenue, Prakash said.
Instead, citizens of hub cities like Richmond, West Oakland,
San Leandro, Long Beach and Merced bear the cost of
California, 3,000 school children stay home from school any
given day with a freight-related illness, usually asthma,
according to the California Air Resources Board. Some 2,400
Californians will die prematurely this year because they
lived too close to a freight hub. The 11 communities near
hubs analyzed by Dirty Diesel have a median income of
$31,829, two-thirds the California average.
a staggering burden." Prakash said. "Some of the biggest
companies in the world are making billions at the expense of
low-income communities in California.
residents, she added, "cannot continue to subsidize industry
with their health."
getting industry to change isn't easy. The international
shipping industry is a combination of national interests and
private owners and wants an international standard, said
Doug Webster, spokesman for the California Maritime Academy
fiercely competitive industry where a few cents extras in
fees could send millions of containers north to, say,
Seattle. Which is why local or even state efforts to tack a
few extra bucks onto the containers invariably fail, Webster
"Everybody wants to add their $10, $15, $100," he said.
there are powerful interests -- Sears, J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart
-- that don't want to pay for that."
Douglas Fischer at
or at 510-208-6425