California has struggled for years with the challenges of moving goods without damaging human health. Our state’s massive freight system generates huge revenues and creates many jobs, but the ships, trucks, and trains carrying our stuff also spew excessive amounts of toxic diesel exhaust that causes heart and lung disease, premature death, and global warming, in addition to imposing noise, accidents and other burdens on the mostly lower-income communities of color that are hosts to ports, freeways, rail-yards and warehouses.
To address this challenge, Governor Brown last year issued an executive order on freight, telling his air, transportation, energy and business agencies to work together on an integrated action plan that increases efficiency and competitiveness while moving to zero-emissions technology. Those agencies have held 3 workshops in the last 2 weeks to present their work so far on the Sustainable Freight Action Plan and take comments from the public, and they are holding a webinar tomorrow. You can register for the webinar here.
16 members of The California Cleaner Freight Coalition, which brings together environmental, health and environmental justice groups working to transform the freight sector, have published a “Vision for a Sustainable Freight System in California,” and many of the groups have spoken at the workshops.
In order to protect public health and our environment, the Sustainable Freight Action Plan needs to set a target of reducing air pollution from the freight industry sufficiently to attain state and federal air quality standards. Furthermore, California should realign its transportation spending so that any freight projects funded with state dollars make meaningful reductions in emissions.
And these reforms need to take hold this year, not in some distant future after all the pollution-increasing projects already on the books are built and lock us into more diesel exhaust poisoning our communities and warming our planet.