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Experts and Advocates: Pollution from Ports A High Cancer Risk to Urban NJ

Clean Air Council Hearing spotlights lack of pollution controls in NJ – State Urged to do more to regulate powerful port interests
Diesel fumes called NJ’s “greatest cancer risk” http://www.northjersey.com/news/northernnj/Diesel_fumes_called_NJ_greatest_cancer_risk.html
[See our Jan 18 post: In Harm’s way http://blog.nj.com/njv_bill_wolfe/2008/01/what_they_dont_want_you_to_see.html

John Maxwell, a well known Trenton oil industry lobbyist, is a “public” member of the Council. His introductory quip: “I’m a lobbyist for the oil companies doing god’s work on the environment” prompted laughter

The little known Clean Air Council held their annual public hearing today at DEP’s Trenton Headquarters. The topic was “Improving Air Quality at our Ports and Airports.” The Council, formed by the Legislature to provide recommendations to DEP, holds an annual public hearing and meets monthly.
The hearing was well attended by business interests and lobbyists, with a few environmental group representatives and citizens. Tellingly, the Hearing Officer was Michael Engeton, chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce. For the Council’s membership and issue agenda, see: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/cleanair/

Michael Engeton, lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, was Hearing Officer at today’s Clean Air Council Annual Public Hearing.
Irwin Zonis, an original public member of the Council since 1968 – traced the Council’s history.

Refreshingly, one Council member had the courage to mention the conflicts between business interests and the Council’s mission. Original member Irwin Zonis remarked that the legislature, in forming the Council, wisely realized that it would “not be a good idea to have regulated industries craft [air quality] regulations”[Side Note: we urge Mr. Zonis to look into the powers of the Fish and Game Council – which include exactly such powers plus veto power over DEP regulations.]
Expert testimony to the Council spotlighted significant adverse air quality and severe human health impacts caused by unregulated emissions from diesel powered ships, port equipment, and trucks plying NJ’s ports.

Peter Greenwald, California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (Los Angeles region)

The Council heard stunning testimony from Peter Greenwald of California’s South Coast Air Quality management District. Greenwald emphasized that proximity to residential neighborhoods was critically important. His data showed that air pollution levels caused by unregulated diesel powered ships and trucks using Los Angeles ports caused dramatic loss of lung function in young children, increased morbidity and mortality rates, and posed cancer risks thousands of times above regulatory levels. Greenwald urged NJ regulators to aggressively use existing state and local laws to ratchet down on port pollution. He also urged NJ policy makers and Congressional delegation to supoort US Senate bill # S1499 (Boxer) to regulate emissions from ships
The work being done by in California FAR surpasses the meagre efforts of NJ DEP – NJ lacks California’s community outreach, air monitoring, staff and financial resources, and aggressive regulatory controls. Because similar pollution problems and health risks are posed by NJ’s ports, Greenwald’s testimony posed a major challenge to DEP and the pro-business Corzine Administration. For California’s air toxics work, including emission inventories, cancer maps, and control strategies: http://www.aqmd.gov/prdas/matesIII/matesIII.html
Compare that effort to NJDEP’s: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/airmon/airtoxics/

Dr. Monica Mazurek, Rutgers University, testifies to NJ Clean Air Council

Rutgers professor Dr. Monica Mazurek, presented her work on fine particulate pollution, a serious health threat caused by diesel motor emissions (ironically, more work done in NY State than NJ). Dr. Mazurek stressed the need for additional air monitoring, emissions measurements, and modeling. http://www.engineeringplanet.rutgers.edu/mazurek.php

Amy Goldsmith, NJ Environmental Federation, testifies to Council

Environmental justice and community groups testified to the Council. Valorie Caffee (NJ Work Environment Council) Amy Goldsmith (NJ Environmental Federation) and Christina Montorio (Change to Win) emphasized cumulative pollution levels from multiple pollution sources.

Valorie Caffee, NJ Work Environment Council, testifies to Council

Their data showed gross disparities in adverse health impacts to NJ’s urban minority residents versus suburban communities, largely caused by diesel pollution. Data from Newark’s Ironbound community – nearby Ports Newark and Elizabeth and where ball fields are located nearby heavily truck trafficked highways – showed that predominately black children suffered far higher pollution levels and more than double the asthma rates, hospital emergency admissions, and lost school days than their counterparts in suburban NJ. http://www.cleanwateraction.org/njef/campaigns-cleanair.html

Christina Montorio (Change to Win Coaltion) testifies to Council

For WEC website, see: http://www.njwec.org/
For Change to Win, see: http://www.changetowin.org/

  1. betternj
    April 17th, 2008 at 11:35 | #1

    So why are childrens ball fields allowed to be built next to highways?
    Why don’t we improve our highways so congestion is reduced?

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