Sen. Boxer tackles air pollution at field hearing

| 10/12/2007

The trucking and rail industries have worked with federal and state governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but ships haven’t been pulling their fair share, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer told a meeting of residents and activists in San Bernardino, CA, recently.

“Good people in these industries, including the trucking and rail industries, have expressed a willingness to work with us to clean up the air,” Boxer said.

Oceangoing container ships, bulk carriers and tankers have gone largely without emission regulation, Boxer said, even as they have become the fastest growing source of air pollution in the U.S.

“The federal government should regulate these ships,” Boxer said. “Most oceangoing vessels are foreign-owned and these foreign ships emit almost 90 percent of the vessel pollution in the U.S.”

Boxer – who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – called a field hearing in San Bernardino titled “Air Pollution Challenges for California’s Inland Empire.”

Several residents with lung conditions testified. Some panelists testified that goods movement by trains, ships and trucks is linked to those lung conditions.

The California Air Resources Board is considering starting a $1.1 billion goods movement emission reduction plan that would give trucking companies incentives to replace or retrofit older, dirtier trucks.

Lynn Terry, deputy executive officer with CARB, told Boxer that “cleaning up existing diesel fleets on this scale poses significant challenges … the Board is exercising its authority to the maximum.”

“These fleet programs to retrofit or replace dirty engines are essential to clean air in this region,” Terry said. “The natural replacement rate is far too slow to meet our public health needs.”

Later in the meeting, Boxer brought up U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman’s investigation into the Department of Transportation’s lobbying efforts to kill California’s waiver request that is currently pending with the Environmental Protection Agency. That waiver would allow California to supercede federal standards and enforce strict, new tailpipe emission for cars and light trucks. The governor asked for the waiver in 2005. He has threatened to sue the EPA if the federal agency doesn’t sign off by Oct. 25.

Boxer implored residents of the San Bernardino area to tell EPA head Stephen Johnson to approve the waiver.

“Clean air is not a luxury,” Boxer said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer