Clean Air for West Oakland
Community & Health Impacts from the Port of Oakland
Toxic diesel pollution from the Port of Oakland has major health impacts on the neighboring West Oakland community:
- people living near the Port live a decade less than Oakland Hills residents;
- one in five West Oakland children suffers from asthma.
The Port of Oakland loads and unloads 99% of the containerized goods in northern California. All cargo containers there must be transferred to truck before arriving at consumer stores like Home Depot and Costco. The 2,000 trucks operating out of the Port pollute West Oakland, East Oakland, and the I-880 Corridor, contributing to premature death, asthma, cancer, and heart disease.
At the heart of the problem is the strategy of the trucking companies (and their clients such as Target and Wal-Mart) to save money by paying drivers as contractors rather than as employees. This way the companies don’t have to buy trucks and diesel fuel, maintain equipment, or contribute to Social Security, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation. Individual drivers – impoverished according to most credible studies – must assume all costs and liability associated with port hauling. Old polluting trucks are all these low-wage drivers can afford; that's why U.S. seaports are dubbed “the place where old trucks go to die.”
Nearby communities and workers suffer the effects of toxic air: unnaturally high rates of asthma, cancer, and premature death. Toxic diesel pollution is choking our neighborhoods.
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The San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club urges the Port of Oakland to become a worldwide leader in environmentally friendly port operation, using cutting-edge solutions to reduce pollution, including greenhouse-gas emissions. We envision the Port implementing business practices that reduce harmful environmental and health impacts.
We believe the Port can achieve this vision by adhering to the following principles.
Sustainability. The Port must commit to being a leader, bringing to market the most promising emission-reduction technologies and generating secure green jobs that pay a living wage to meet the economic needs of Oakland. The Port should move beyond fossil fuels to zero-emission fuels for its trucks, ships, harbor craft, and electricity.
Efficiency. The Port needs to set and meet energy-efficiency targets. In particular, it must prevent unnecessary idling of trucks and ships, eliminate dirty diesel fuels, and prioritize direct ship-to-rail transport.
Worker Justice and Public Health. The cost of greening our ports and cleaning up our environment should not fall on hard-working truck drivers already burdened with low wages and deplorable working conditions. Misclassified as independent contractors, they lack health insurance and most of the legal protections of employees, including the right to form a union. We urge the Port of Oakland to follow the example of the Port of Los Angeles and implement a Clean Truck Program requiring trucking companies to purchase and maintain new, less-polluting trucks, and to hire their drivers as employees rather than as contractors. For more about this worker-justice campaign, see http://www.cleanandsafeports.org/
Accountability. The Port of Oakland must take responsibility for the impacts of the trucks that serve it. It must make sure that all trucks are low-emissions, utilize off-street parking, and avoid residential neighborhoods.
Open Space. One of the few shoreline parks available to Oakland residents is Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, accessible only by a public road that crosses the Port. For many Oakland residents, this park represents a rare connection with nature, including endangered California clapper rails, brown pelicans, and California least terns. There should be better public access to the park, and people using the park facility should not need to be afraid of the air quality.
To join the Sierra Club’s fight to improve the environmental impact of the Port of Oakland, contact email@example.com.