East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice info@eycej.org 323.263.2113

New Study Examines Race and Income Near California’s 18 Major Railyards

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This past Monday, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health released a first-of-its kind study entitled, “Global Trade, Local Impacts: Lessons from California on Health Impacts and Environmental Justice Concerns for Residents Living near Freight Rail Yards,” which assesses issues of race and income near California’s 18 major rail yards.

The study describes the cancer risk for residents living in close proximity to rail yards. This risk is increased due to the toxic emissions of diesel particulate from locomotives, trucks and equipment used to operate a rail yard. The study also examines the demographics (income, race/ethnicity) of populations living in the highest estimated cancer risk zones near the 18 major rail yards in California; and suggests policy efforts that might provide more public health protection, which can result in more “environmentally just” siting of rail yards.

The article concludes that diesel pollution from rail yards, which creates significant diesel cancer risks for those living near the facilities, is an often overlooked public health issue, which continues to create health disparities and environmental justice issue in the United States.

KCET Departures: I-710 Corridor

 

Image Source: KCET Departures
Image Source: KCET Departures

KCET Departures has begun a series of stories that focus on the I-710 Freeway and its impact on the nation, both economically and culturally. The first story covers the history of the Ports of LA and Long Beach. Writer Gilbert Estrada shares the history of the twin ports, as they are often referred, and their impact on the surrounding communities and corridors. He writes:

Although the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach are the economic one-two punch for the region, it comes at a great cost. The ports are part of the region’s mobile sources that account for 94% of our ambient carcinogenic risk. The dual ports are the single largest fixed source of air pollution in the entire L.A. basin, and before recent improvements (after years of community uproar), they emitted as much diesel exhaust as 16,000 trucks running for 24-hours straight.

Even with the successes in regulating port operations, the health impacts on the surrounding communities continue to be detrimental. Estrada further discusses the growing operations at the Port and the need to build infrastructure for transporting goods and products from the Port to the rest of the nation; and, in the second story, Estrada discusses the construction of the I-710 Freeway:

 …[T]he freeway was constructed to serve business generated by the harbor and local industry; commuter vehicular traffic was secondary, at best. Any negative impact to communities during or after the construction of the freeway was seen as all but non-existent.

Estrada shares Bob Eula’s story, an East Yard member and lifelong resident of the City of Commerce. Bob saw the construction of the I-710 freeway happen and saw how it changed the community he knew so well.

Join the discussion!

As part of the series, KCET asks the question: How would you improve the 710 Corridor? For those that know about the 710 Corridor Project, this is a discussion that many community members, elected officials and organizations along the 710 corridor have been involved in for many years. We encourage you to join the conversation, visit the KCET website and share what you envision for this project!

Below are links to the first two stories:
1. Brief History of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach 
2. The 710 Long Beach Freeway: A History of America’s Most Important Freeway

Angelo Logan Reflects on Executive Order 12898

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(Vernice Miller- Travis, Charles Lee, Rita Harris, Angelo Logan and Richard Moore)
Angelo Logan joins longtime Environmental Justice leaders at the NEJAC 20 year anniversary of the Presidential Executive Order 12898- addressing Environmental Justice.

Twenty years have passed since President Clinton signed an executive order meant to address environmental injustice in communities of color…yet our communities continue to struggle. I say this with respect and gratitude for people like Rita Harris, Vernice Miller-Travis, Richard Moore, Charles Lee and many others who have paved the way for environmental justice (EJ) work and helped get Executive Order 12898 signed.  Today, I had the honor of participating on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) panel, which included a group of strong EJ leaders discussing the Executive Order and the past and future of EJ work. I heard many of my colleagues express similar thoughts. Inspiring words were spoken during the panel discussion, such as, “remember where we come from,” “keep up the struggle,” and “together we can create the visions we need”. In short the message was: we have come a long way but we have an even longer way to go.

Most people in our communities do not know about the Executive Order, and don’t depend on it for environmental protection. Our communities depend on each other, on community organizing, to build power and fend off the continuous toxic assaults on our communities.  Nonetheless, the Executive Order and the creation of NEJAC have helped foster a movement for environmental health and justice. The value of the Executive Order and NEJAC, in my opinion, is the convergence of EJ allies from North to South and East to West. There is great value in the discussions and partnerships that arise among EJ advocates in the hallways of meetings, summits, and panels such as this one. The sense that “together we can create the vision we need”, that we are not alone in this struggle, and that our allies can act as mentors, helps reenergize us to continue the fight for environmental justice. Today, I celebrate the EJ movement and hope the Order can continue to help foster this collaboration.

Although the future of EJ work will continue to be a struggle, I look forward to many more years, fighting for Environmental Justice with our brothers and sisters.

East Yard Youth Advocate for Bicycle Infrastructure

IMG_0917In the rain and on the road, East Yard youth members rode their bikes for 16+ miles in order to be part of the decision-making process for a project happening in their community: the I-710 Corridor Project.

The I-710 Corridor Project is the largest infrastructure project in the nation. Currently, there are up to 260,000 cars and over 40,000 diesel trucks traveling on the I-710 daily. Members of Youth in Action met at Bell Gardens High School and rode along the LA River trail to Progress Park in Paramount, where the first I-710 Project Committee (PC) meeting of the year was being held.

Bikes are the primary form of transportation for many youth living along the corridor, yet a lack of bike paths makes it a difficult experience. East Yard youth attended the PC meeting in order to advocate for the community benefits of the Community Alternative 7, which include improvements to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructures along the I-710 Corridor.

At the meeting, the youth spoke to the PC about the need to make the I-710 freeway safer and healthier for the people using it for transportation as well as for the communities living alongside it. The youth mentioned that expanding the freeway would mean more traffic, which would negatively impact the local air quality. An expansion would also mean displacing families living alongside the freeway.

Metro presented the PC members with changes to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), including the reintroduction of Alternative 5C and an updated Traffic Analysis. PC members expressed that a Zero Emission Freight Corridor needs to be included in order to get us closer to meeting the Diesel Particulate Matter and NOx federal standards.

East Yard Youth plan on riding their bikes to the next Project Committee (PC) meeting, which has not been scheduled. For more information about upcoming meetings regarding the I-710 Corridor project, please visit: http://www.metro.net/projects/i-710-corridor-project/

City of Commerce – Scoping Meetings for Retail Center

The City of Commerce is conducting two scoping meetings to obtain input from local residents and businesses regarding the proposed Commerce Retail Center Project which will be located at the southwest corner of Atlantic Blvd. and Washington Blvd.

On Thursday of last week, the City of Commerce held one of two Scoping Meetings regarding the proposed retail project. Over 60 community members were present to ask questions and raise concerns about the proposed project. The proposal includes spaces for restaurants and retail stores. (Take a look at the blueprint here.)

The meeting began with a presentation from City of Commerce staff explaining the process in which this project would be developed. Once the presentation was over, community members were invited to ask questions and raise concerns about the project. As community members gave public comment, it was noticeable that the majority of residents were unified in their stance against the retail center project. The hot topic of the night was the potential of a Walmart being developed.

Residents felt that the retail center could potentially bring jobs to local residents but bringing a Walmart into Commerce would not be the answer to the community’s need for a full-service market, quality jobs, nor improve the overall quality of life of the community. Concerns raised were based on Walmart’s reputation of not paying a living wage and not offering benefits to its employees. Many commented on the potential increase of criminal activity and its impacts on the local police department.  Having a giant retailer would also increase truck and car traffic on Washington Blvd, which would impact the quality of life and air for local residents.

Some residents left the meeting feeling unsure whether or not their concerns would be taken into account in the final decision. In order to ensure that community members are included in the decision-making process, EYCEJ and its members will again participate in the next scoping meeting.

The next Scoping Meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at the Commerce Senior Citizens Center. The meeting is set to begin at 6 PM.

Goods Movement 101 Workshop Series Begins!

Flyer - Goods 101

What is Goods Movement?

Goods Movement refers to the system of industries working to move goods and products from where they are made to where they are sold. Learn how this diesel-fueled system of trucks, trains, freeways, rail yards and warehouses impacts your health. Get updates on current local and regional campaigns concerning goods movement, and find out how you can help improve your community’s quality of life.

Take part of our workshop series at any of the following locations:

Springdale West Apartments (Long Beach)
2095 West Spring Street Long Beach, CA 90810
Tues, Jan 21 & Jan 28 11 AM – 1 PM

Union Pacific (East L.A. at the YWCA)
4315 Union Pacific Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90023
Monday, Jan 27 & Feb 3 12:30 – 2:30 PM

Bell Gardens High School (Room 41)
6119 Agra St, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
Weds. Jan 29 & Feb 5, 4 – 6 PM

Commerce (EYCEJ Community Room)
2317 S. Atlantic Blvd, Commerce, CA 90040
Thurs. Feb 20 & Feb 27, 6 – 8 PM

California State University, Long Beach (Building: Liberal Arts [LA] 1, room 204)
1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA, 90840
Wednesday, March 5 & 12, 5-7 PM

Villages at Cabrillo (in the social hall)
2001 River Ave., Long Beach, CA, 90810
Thursdays, March 13 & 20, 6-8 PM

For more details or to RSVP for a workshop series, please e-mail Jacqueline Munguia (jmunguia@eycej.org) or call our office at 323.263.2113.

Electrification is Key to Improving Freight Transportation in California

Moving California ForwardThe California Cleaner Freight Coalition (CCFC) released a report today entitled, Moving California Forward, Zero and Low-Emissions Freight Pathways, which evaluates alternatives to conventional diesel vehicles for the purpose of freight transportation. One of the key findings in the report was that electric transportation technologies provide the greatest overall reduction of pollutants. The report indicates that regulating freight and improving air quality is possible through technologies that are either available today or can be commercialized with appropriate investments and support from policymakers. The CCFC has developed this report urging the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to implement long-term strategies for a sustainable freight plan sooner rather than later.

“It is critical that California has a clear plan to clean up our freight industry in 2014,” said Jesse Marquez, executive director of Californians for a Safe Environment.

The report findings also include:

  • Electric transportation technologies could eliminate tailpipe emissions in communities impacted by freight movement.
  • Moving goods by train and ship for regional trips could reduce emissions well beyond today’s cleanest diesel trucks.
  • Transporting containers double-stacked on railcars powered by the cleanest locomotives can reduce particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 75 percent.

The Coalition cautions that any shift in freight movement to rail or ship, while providing regional pollution benefits, would need to ensure reduction in emissions, exposure, and health risks to those communities close to rail yards, rail lines, ports and shipping lanes.

“The cost of cleaning up the trucking and freight industry in California is nothing compared to the lost lives, elevated cancer risk, chronic respiratory conditions and other costs Californians have shouldered for years,” said Margaret Gordon, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “Low-income communities, in particular, are paying with their health to allow the freight industry to do business in California.”

Planting Seeds of Change

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Ending 2013 on a strong note, East Yard hosted its annual year-end brunch at Tamayo Restaurant in East Los Angeles on December 14, 2013. Planting Seeds of Change is an opportunity to celebrate our victories and recognize members and allies for their continuous support. This year we had the honor of awarding the Emerging Leader Award to Maria Tafoya, the Margarita Holguin Award to Evelyn Knight, and the Ally Award to the Liberty Hill Foundation.

Emerging Leader Award Recipient: Maria Tafoya

The Emerging Leader Award goes to someone who is passionate and dedicated to environmental justice issues in their community. This is someone who takes initiative and has the ability to activate other community members.

With a baby granddaughter by her side, Maria Tafoya has inspired us by being a fierce advocate in the I-710/Community Alternative 7 campaign. In 2013, she participated in the SB 811 Press Conference and traveled to advocate for SB 811 in Sacramento. She also organized support for the Green Zones campaign in Commerce.

“When my grandchildren look back to these years, I want to be able to tell them that I did something about this pollution.” – Maria Tafoya

Margarita Holguin Award Recipient: Evelyn Knight

This award was named in honor of Margarita Holguin, an EYCEJ member who passed away due to cancer. She raised her family in Commerce and was one of the first people to support EYCEJ by become a member. Even thought she became ill, Margarita continued to speak on behalf of her community at local, regional, and state public hearings and meetings.

This year’s recipient, Evelyn Knight, has been committed to her community of Long Beach for many years. She has been a strong leader in the NO SCIG campaign. In 2013, Evelyn participated in various meetings regarding the SCIG and also participated in the SCIG Hunger Strike.

Ally Award Recipient: Liberty Hill Foundation

This award goes to an ally who goes above and beyond to support, collaborate, or partner with EYCEJ, in fighting for environmental justice.

Liberty Hill’s relationship with EYCEJ has grown and strengthened over the span of 11 years. In collaboration with Liberty Hill, EYCEJ has been able to continue base building, movement building, and affecting policy change. Thanks to Liberty Hill, our Steering Committee was able to participate in the Wally Marks Institute, which has given our Steering Committee the necessary tools to become EYCEJ’s official Board of Directors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljAVPAkiACM&feature=c4-overview&list=UUpU0Hv9k6GAda0cH8tP4k9g

Youth in Action Members Ready for 2014!

YouthinActionpicEYCEJ’s Youth in Action (YA!) is preparing for the approaching I- 710 Corridor Project Committee Meeting, which will discuss the 18-mile I-710 Corridor project between the Ports of Long Beach & Los Angeles and the Pomona Freeway (SR-60). Youth members will attend the meeting to show their support for the Community Alternative 7 (CA7), a holistic corridor improvement project that focuses on community needs as well as projected truck traffic.

The CA7 includes a comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle element, which will prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist safety needs, especially when trucks pass through community streets. Because bikes are the primary mode of transportation for our youth members, Youth in Action members will participate in a ROAR (Ride on All Roads) ride to the City of Paramount where the I-710 Project Committee meeting will be held.

Youth members are also looking forward to the growth of their group in 2014, and gaining additional support for the Community Alternative 7 through outreach and education.

To learn more about the CA7, visit our campaign page.

The Commerce City Council Passes a Green Zones Policy!

Green Zones Yard Sign

ON TUEDAY NIGHT, the Commerce City Council reviewed recommendations for a Green Zones policy. EYCEJ presented recommendations based on a four-pillar system of prevention, reduction, revitalization and reinvestment. The purpose of the policy is to create healthy communities and job opportunities in Commerce.

While the city-sponsored Green Zones Policy Working Group recommended only three of the four pillars, EYCEJ recommended that the City Council secure the prevention pillar in order to stop toxic exposure by amending the zoning law to restrict new toxic land-uses close to homes, schools, churches and senior centers.

Toña Lupercio, a Commerce resident and EYCEJ member, testified in favor of Green Zones and presented the City Council with hundreds of signatures from community residents in support of EYCEJ’s recommendations for the Green Zones policy. She also spoke about the overwhelming community support for this policy. “This policy is critical and we need your leadership,” she told the Council.

After a long deliberation, the council members voted unanimously on the three pillars of the Green Zones Policy as recommended by the Green Zones Policy Working Group. They also decided to have study sessions on the zoning ordinance that would help to prevent new hazards.

Thank to the work of residents, the City of Commerce now has a Green Zones policy! This is one of the first Green Zones policies in the nation and our members and allies will be celebrating this historic victory.