Cites Current Board Failure to Reduce Diesel Exhausts Producing High Rates of Asthma, Lung Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease from Trucks Using NYNJ Ports
Opponents to "fast-tracking" the raising of the Bayonne Bridge who believe that the project can and must be done in a way that avoids increased rates of asthma, lung cancer and cardio-vascular disease made their case today at the regular board meeting of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ). They presented evidence, based on a recent multi-site truck count of the continuing failure of the PANYNJ to deal with existing health hazards generated by exposure to toxic diesel exhaust from trucks moving in and out of the NYNJ ports. (See truck count findings and other background info at http://www.cleanwateraction.org/page/bayonnebridge )
They maintain that the Port Authority has not only failed to implement its current clean trucks program effectively but in the process has done significant harm to truck drivers who attempted to participate. One truck driver, 20-year owner-operator Jacinto Diaz, recounted his disastrous experience with the Port Authority's "Truck Replacement Program." (see transcript for his account).
Spokespeople for the Coalition for Healthy Ports (CHPs), consisting of over two dozen organizations in the affected communities surrounding the ports in New Jersey and New York, demanded a full review of the anticipated health consequences of port expansion projects estimated to double container volume, truck traffic and corresponding health hazards. They reject the idea that a fast-tracked Coast Guard "Environmental Assessment" is equal to the task. The coalition believes there are solutions to the problem, but that the Port Authority is failing to implement them.
"The much needed trade, jobs and economic development do not have to come at the expense of the public's health," said Amy Goldsmith, Chair, Coalition for Healthy Ports and State Director of the NJ Environmental Federation, a state chapter of Clean Water Action. "The current clean trucks program stinks and is a waste of everybody's time and money."
"While we welcome the prospect of much-needed jobs, we question the Port Authority's ability to manage projects that are estimated to double the volume of cargo and truck traffic when it seems unwilling or incapable of handling the current level of activity in a way that protects the community's health," said Cynthia Mellon, Community and Environmental Justice Organizer, Ironbound Community Corporation, Newark, NJ.
"The Port Authority sees its role as promoting port commerce, regardless of the cost," said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith. "Year after year, community members pay because those in power don't see themselves as accountable to moral standards when it comes to their neighbor's health. We've negotiated before, and the Port Authority has failed on its commitments to creating cleaner trucks and fair working conditions. We believe we're in the right. We're going to fight as hard as we can to protect the health of the community."
*Coalition for Healthy Ports is a bi-state alliance of over 2 dozen organizations, environmental activists, community advocates, truck drivers, faith leaders, and labor unions fighting for environmental and economic justice at the ports of New York and New Jersey. The Coalition for Healthy Ports is the East Coast arm of the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports.