Hearing on Port of Oakland air quality worries

Assemblyman Jerry Hill said he’s temporarily shelving his bill to crack down on pollution at the Port of Oakland, at least until the Legislature’s Select Committee on Ports holds a hearing by the end of next month on pollution controls being implemented by the ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

“One thing has remained the same since I served on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District: the Port of Oakland continues to drag its feet when it comes to cleaning up the air,” Hill, D-San Mateo, said in a news release today. “This hearing will review the steps California ports are taking to control pollution and highlight areas of improvement that need to be made.”

Hill said research has found truck pollution alone at the Port of Oakland brings health costs of $153 million as well as 18 early deaths per year; West Oakland residents are exposed to three times more diesel particulate matter than other Bay Area residents.

The Port of Oakland commissioners recently adopted a Maritime Air Quality Improvement Plan which Hill said didn’t include meaningful commitments to achieve clean air goals such as improvements recommended by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, local environmental, labor and community groups.

Statewide, goods movement pollution already accounts for a quarter of the diesel pollution in the air. The Air Resources Board recently estimated that, if left unregulated, ports alone will constitute the largest source of pollution in the state by 2020—larger than the combined impact of every car on the road in California. Controlling pollution from ports and the rest of the goods movement system is vital to the state’s ability to attain federal and state health-based air quality standards.

“While the recession is putting new pressures on our ports, we still have to prepare for a future of greener operations,” said Ports Select Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.