One cancer-survivor’s take on diesel emissions

Protecting public health and the well being of our communities is a goal
that is dear to my heart. And, like other lawmakers, I seek to approach my
bill ideas with clarity and objectivity.

But in the case of diesel emissions, I am on a mission to raise public
awareness of a proven health threat–and hammer out solutions to help clean
our air.

As a long-time resident of Long Beach, home to one of the nation’s busiest
ports, I know daily exposure to diesel exhaust from airports, seaports,
trucks and trains can create negative long-term health effects.

It cannot be proven that more than 30 years of inhaling these toxic fumes
caused me to get cancer. But countless studies have shown that diesel
particulates lodged deep within our lungs cause numerous negative health


  • In 1990, diesel exhaust was listed as a carcinogen under Proposition
  • Two years later, the California Air Resources Board listed diesel
    particulate as a toxic air contaminant.
  • Last fall, state studies linked decreased air quality to increased
    cancer rates.
  • An American Lung Association study concluded that those who live near
    diesel sources suffer an elevated risk of asthma and other respiratory
  • A 2005 report released jointly by California’s Environmental
    Protection Agency and Business, Transportation and Housing Agency concluded
    that, “The greatest health impacts from exposure to diesel (particulate
    matter) occurs in areas” adjacent to diesel-emission sources.

    In short, we are poisoning our neighbors, our parents, our children and our

    More ominously, little relief is in sight. Port traffic could triple during
    the next 20 years. The fact is, any solution must mean we can only
    accommodate growth if we cut congestion and pollution. This would improve
    air quality and ease traffic congestion while creating jobs and improving
    our economy.

    How state leaders manage expected growth is a primary concern as voters
    consider fall ballot propositions to protect Proposition 42, which earmarks
    gas taxes for transportation projects but was often suspended, and provide
    almost $20 billion for transportation improvements.

    If approved, California would embark on a new era–one that reverses years of
    neglect and underinvestment in highway and transit systems.

    At the same time, however, we must also address the serious health issue
    increasingly raised by diesel exhaust.

    Assembly Bill 1101, which I have been pushing for two years, would help do
    exactly that.

    AB 1101, the Diesel Magnet Sources bill, attacks the issue by targeting key
    producers, such as diesel trucks, railroad locomotives, marine vessels and
    other types of diesel-powered equipment.

    This measure targets diesel emissions from large seaports, airports and rail
    yards by requiring these sources to follow the same standards currently
    required for oil refineries, factories and other stationary origins.
    AB 1101, which is scheduled to be reviewed by the Senate Appropriations
    Committee on August 7, also would require these facilities to work with
    local air districts to prepare inventories of emissions, determine the
    potential risk to surrounding communities, notify communities that are
    potentially at risk and develop a reasonable plan to reduce exposure over

    If signed into law, AB 1101 would be another advancement to get California
    in full compliance with federal clean-air standards and to make our air
    cleaner to breathe.

    Those who oppose the bill often call it a “job killer.” Please understand
    that I am not trying to put the burden on businesses and organizations. This
    bill is about saving lives by protecting Californians from potentially
    deadly diseases. There is no conflict between public health and a strong

    Indeed, one cannot exist without the other.

    But if we dramatically increase transportation expenditures, and it is
    essential that we do, we must move thoughtfully to protect public health.
    To act otherwise would squander a historic opportunity to improve both the
    economy and the environment. The economic health of our state, the
    efficiency of our transportation system and the physical health of our
    residents may depend on how well we do.

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