Moving Forward: A Modern Freight System for California that can cut pollution and lower impacts in freight-side communities.
What if parents of asthmatic kids in freight impacted communities like West Oakland, Wilmington and Riverside could breathe a little easier knowing that they no longer have to endure hundreds of dirty diesel trucks in their communities? Measures detailing how we could accomplish that were released in a new report today, Moving California Forward: Zero and Low-Emission Freight Pathways. The report was commissioned by NRDC together with roughly 20 other community, environmental justice, health and green groups who make up the California Cleaner Freight Coalition. Our Coalition, CCFC, is working for transformational changes in the way we move our goods in California to protect the public’s health, clean the environment, and promote social justice and equity.
Look around your home and chances are that you bought much of the food you eat and the goods you use from local stores, but these goods came from far-away places in cargo containers by some combination of trucks, trains and ships. While our current freight transportation system allows a dizzying array of products to reach consumers quickly, it exacts a damaging toll on the dozens of communities that shipping containers go through before the products reach store shelves. Despite decades of improvements to diesel engines and measures to clean up transportation, diesel pollution from the freight industry continues to contribute to higher asthma rates, elevated cancer risks and far too much illness in neighborhoods around marine port terminals, rail yards, distribution centers and truck routes. But, what if we could change that?
What if we could replace dirty trucks hauling shipping containers with trucks that don’t even have a tailpipe? It turns out that there are four different ways to move goods a short distance without any pollution whatsoever in the communities the goods travel through. Battery electric trucks, plug-in hybrid electric trucks, fuel cell trucks, and fixed-guideway shuttles all offer zero-emission transport solutions over short distances. When overall power use is considered, all of these technologies outperform the cleanest diesel truck available, reducing ninety percent more smog- and soot-forming pollution (nitrogen oxides - NOx and particulate matter - PM) and global warming pollution (greenhouse gases - GHGs).
What if we could eliminate the trucks that shuttle our goods between ships and trains? It turns out that eliminating that extra truck trip, as many ports have started doing, can reduce up to 70 percent or more of NOx, PM and GHGs.
What if we could take trucks off congested freeways transiting the San Joaquin Valley and put them on clean trains instead? It turns out that doing so would cut pollution from those trucks in half in this already over-burdened region that suffers from some of the highest asthma rates in the nation.
What if we could electrify major rail lines, eliminating the dirty diesel locomotives that run through our cities? It turns out that electrifying a 25 mile stretch of rail through Los Angeles would reduce pollution from those trains by 94 percent or more.
Moving California Forward contains a technical analysis of dozens of measures that, if implemented, would dramatically reduce pollution from the freight sector. We have an opportunity to leave fossil fuel pollution behind and move California forward with modern, clean transportation technology. But how? The California Air Resources Board is slated to kick off a Sustainable Freight Initiative this Thursday at their board hearing in Sacramento. Come to the hearing or write the Air Board to let them know if you support moving California forward to zero emission freight transportation.
If the freight sector is part of the economic backbone of our state, the communities alongside freight centers are our lungs, and they need relief from ongoing pollution. Isn’t it time we leave fossil fuels behind for a cleaner, modern transportation system?
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