Environmental group sues Port of Oakland new tenant to clean up project over air pollutant concerns
Now, a local environmental justice group has taken legal action to block a new port tenant from moving forward over fears of potential environmental impacts.
Brian Beveridge, co-founder and director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, has been teaching West Oakland residents how to monitor local air quality for decades.
“It’s not just the pollution (that’s a concern), it’s how close the pollution is. How far are you from the source,” Beveridge said.
West Oakland residents are extremely close to highly concentrated levels of air pollutants — reducing life expectancy by an average of seven years compared to the rest of the county — according to 2016 Alameda County public health data.
VIDEO: West Oakland air pollution disproportionately affects black and Latino residents, report says
The disproportionately high level of air pollutants is due in part to the thousands of heavy trucks that wind their way down side streets each month carrying goods to and from the Port of Oakland just blocks from where people live, learn and play.
“We are already impacting the community with ships, trains, cargo handling equipment and trucks arriving 24/7,” said Ms. Margaret Gordon, co-founder and director of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.
“We do a lot of advocacy work based on data and research, citizen science,” she said.
Now WOEIP has filed a lawsuit against the Port of Oakland and Eagle Rock Aggregates to stop this new project from moving forward.
Earlier this year, the Port of Oakland approved the 18-acre open-air gravel and sand facility that would be managed by Eagle Rock Aggregates.
This facility that would produce concrete to supply construction projects in the Bay Area.
The environmental justice group fears that these raw materials plus wind will equal additional air pollution for this already burdened community.
“There shouldn’t be an increase in pollution, we should have had a decrease in pollution,” Gordon said.
Our previous ABC7 News report showed that in West Oakland, children under 5 are already 1.5 times more likely to be rushed to the ER with severe asthma than other parts of Alameda County, according to Health Data.
Laura Beaton of law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, the group representing WOEIP, says the new facility would only make matters worse.
“The California Air Resources Board, the Bay Area, the Air Quality Management District and the Attorney General’s Office also submitted letters telling the port it needs to improve its analysis to comply with its obligations,” Beaton said.
The lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court under California’s Environmental Quality Act asks the company and the port to work to reduce the environmental impacts of the project by covering raw material with tarps or placing it in silos, requiring trucks to haul the materials through the streets of West Oakland. to cover, and ships carrying raw materials to run on cleaner electric power instead of diesel fuel when in port.
ABC7 News has reached out to the Port of Oakland and Eagle Rock Aggregates for comment. Both the port and Eagle Rock Aggregates declined to comment given ongoing litigation.
Beveridge is worried about what those mobile air monitor readings will say if the court doesn’t require the port and its new tenant to make changes.
“You can’t just outsource the pain to a local community because you want to make money,” Beveridge said. “It’s like ‘we’re trying to make a living’, ‘we’re trying to live’. And they forget about it.”
A WOEIP attorney said a settlement meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17 between the environmental justice group, the Port of Oakland and Eagle Rock Aggregates.
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