San Diego is among the most polluted cities in the United States. The situation is even worse in Latino areas of the county, where major highways intersect with huge warehouses that draw diesel trucks to areas like Barrio Logan as well as to the Port of San Diego.
The area is considered among the top 5% of the most polluted in California, according to the Environmental Health Coalition. Its residents are 85% to 95% more likely than the rest of the country to develop cancer.
That's why the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) regulation to replace current truck fleets with zero-emission vehicles gives new hope to our community that the quality of the air we breathe will finally improve. The new rule is estimated to save $26.5 billion in health benefits statewide as a result of cleaner lungs and less childhood asthma in minority communities, those which are most harmed by living in highly polluted regions.
The CARB plan was developed over three years of work, studies, and negotiations to agree on a timetable that would allow for the gradual transition over the next two decades. This will give fleets time to replace their current conventional medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with comparable zero-emission vehicles.
The measure is good and necessary, although it is not perfect.
We agree with Assemblyman David Alvarez (D-80th District) that California-based Latino truck drivers that own and operate their vehicles across the Mexican border must be prioritized to receive state assistance for the purchase of a new electric truck, but we disagree with Alvarez’s intention to require an audit, which we believe would create obstacles to the rule’s rapid and necessary implementation.
We fear that any delay could be exploited to dilute or eliminate the rule entirely. We believe that Alvarez's well-meaning effort to call attention to the regulation –and the plight of California-based Latino truckers – could lead to a bureaucratic nightmare that could ultimately harm everyone.
The alternative is to implement the standard while improving its efforts to achieve its goal over time. For that to happen, more funds need to be invested to support truck drivers that own and operate their vehicles in order to accelerate the transition to zero-emission and secure a just transition for Latino truckers.
Sacramento needs to understand that this investment for California-based Latino truck drivers that operate in the border region is essential to achieve the objective of combating the pollution caused by these trucks in local communities without harming the economy that benefits from this activity.
The purpose of the regulation is to have a clean fleet of zero-emission trucks in order to protect the community from pollution, regardless of where these vehicles come from. The lung diseases of Latinos living in San Diego know no flag or border.
The rule is a step forward in closing the historical inequalities that have placed some communities at the epicenter of environmental pollution and the resulting health consequences. The measure must go into effect as soon as possible and then it can be improved, and adjustments made. When it comes to health, there is no time for delays!