Photo: Image of truck traffic in Newark, NJ by Tolani Taylor. On April 24th, 2023 Clean Water Action and other grassroots environmental justice organizations took a tour of the Port of Newark to see the burden this pollution places on a community.
Out of all the April activities I immersed myself in, experiencing the Environmental Justice (EJ) Port Tour at one of the busiest ports in America-Port of Newark was the most riveting. This tour highlighted the overall magnitude of the freight industry here in New Jersey and how much progress still needs to be made.
One of the biggest takeaways from the EJ Port Tour is the continued lack of care and urgency for people's health and quality of life. The Newark Airport, the never-ending truck traffic, the idling of old diesel-fueled trucks, and piles of toxic scrap metal that spontaneously caught fire just a few months before were overwhelmingly horrifying.
Port-adjacent communities, like Newark’s Ironbound and South Ward neighborhoods, are home to high concentrations of polluting facilities and have some of the country's highest rates of childhood asthma - double the national average, or 1 in 4 children. Toxic diesel pollution does not just stop at the port terminal gate. Drayage (container) trucks are dispatched to cities and warehouses all over NJ and the region. Approximately 20,000 trucks go in and out of the port daily – a 27% increase since 2019.
Undoubtedly, better and more stringent regulations at the ports, warehouses and other freight facilities are needed. Recently, the EPA released a draft of the proposed Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy Duty Vehicles Phase 3. On the plus side, it will revise the limits of Greenhouse Gas Emissions for heavy-duty trucks and affirm State's rights to regulate locomotive and rail emissions. Unfortunately, the most stringent option in the proposal only sets a 50% by 2032 sales goal for zero-emissions vehicles when it should require 100% by 2035. Zero-emission heavy-duty truck technologies are available now, proven to work and are cost-effective. Every day a diesel truck is allowed to be purchased, it means 10+ years it will be on the road, spewing dirty diesel pollutants into our lungs and harming kids. See Clean Water Action’s full set of recommendations for improving the proposed rule.
The EJ and ports tour was very much an eye-opening experience. It was a prominent reminder of how significant my role as the Zero Emissions Warehouse Organizer truly is. Although the Greenhouse Gas Rule's public hearing sessions have commenced, there is still time to submit comments. Take action now by submitting a public comment on this critical rule on or before June 16 to ensure that the transition to zero emissions solutions is swift in communities all over NJ, but significantly where families are most affected by the harms of the goods movement!