90% of California residents live in a county where air pollution hits unhealthy levels, according to the American Lung Association. However, pollution impacts are not shared equally across the state. Residents in the communities where we live and work near the border between California and Mexico and those near the Port of San Diego, experience concentrations of this pollution that are so high they are referred to as “diesel death zones.” These are primarily low-income communities of color, making exposure to tailpipe pollution one of the clearest examples of environmental racism in our state.
The most dangerous form of air toxins comes from the soot and smog-forming diesel-truck pollution, which is known to cause and worsen asthma, lung disease, and even cancer. In 2018, cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and lung disease caused 53% of all deaths in the San Diego South Bay Region, where Port terminals and busy border crossings draw hundreds of thousands of heavy duty diesel trucks each year. For those in “diesel death zones,” that amounts to an early death sentence. The fact is that cutting pollution from diesel trucks will save lives across the state.
Despite this urgency, San Diego’s own Assemblymember David Alvarez is attempting to undermine a lifesaving rule which will gradually replace deadly-diesel trucks with pollution-free medium- and heavy-duty trucks across California – the Advanced Clean Fleets Rule (ACF). The ink is barely dry on this measure, which will deliver more than $26 billion in benefits to society, and Alvarez is prematurely moving forward with an audit of the regulation that would delay implementation.
This is not the first time Alvarez has tried to block the ACF. He sponsored AB 1372, an ACF “kill” bill that failed. He’s now attempting to leverage the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit, a committee that he chairs, to again make another run at undermining this clean vehicle standard.
Who benefits from delaying action to clean up diesel trucks? No one stands to benefit from this unwarranted action. No one except the fossil fuel industry, which has consistently opposed zero emission rules. If left up to polluters, they’d allow outdated, highly-polluting trucks to circle California neighborhoods forever. But technology has advanced and we can now deliver our goods with pollution-free truck technology.
There is no justification for delaying the ACF or interrupting the government review process that is currently taking place. More than 50 organizations throughout the state have expressed their opposition to this maneuver. We call on Assemblymember Alvarez to withdraw this proposal and if he does not we call on the members of the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit to reject it at the hearing on June 26.
Lisa Cuestas, Executive Director, Casa Familiar
Franco Garcia, Executive Director, Environmental Health Coalition