Group Files Civil-Rights Complaint Over Port of Oakland Pollution

Studies show diesel emissions are 90 times higher near the Port of Oakland in West Oakland than the state average. Photo Credit: Chris Jordan-Block/Earthjustice

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

OAKLAND, Calif. – Millions of Californians live close to a major port and just last week, community leaders in West Oakland filed a federal complaint alleging that the continued pollution in their community of color is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, says her group has tried for years to get the port and the City of Oakland to do something about the dirty air.

She says a Pacific Institute study showed that diesel fumes in West Oakland are 90 times higher than the state average.

“Our complaint is that since 2010, the City of Oakland and the Port of Oakland would not do a comprehensive emission-reduction plan around this property, which they are expanding to bring in new commodities,” she explained.

The group wants the federal government to investigate its allegations of environmental discrimination. It’s asking the city and the port to implement strategies similar to those at other California ports, which promote zero-emissions vehicles and equipment.

In a statement, Mike Zampa, communications director for the Port of Oakland, claims the port is one of the cleanest in the country, reducing diesel emissions by 98 percent and ship emissions by three-quarters since 2005.

Earthjustice attorney Yana Garcia helped file the complaint. She says the health impacts to the area remain severe.

“The rates of hospitalizations are much higher in West Oakland than other places in the city,” she said. “The hospitalizations are specifically for asthma, often in children around five years of age.”

The Alameda County Department of Health reports that life expectancy is nine years shorter in West Oakland than other parts of the county.

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