Inadequate and vague labor and environmental laws make America's ports more like a Third World country -- rather than world-class economic generators of green jobs that can fuel America’s recovery.
The EPA estimates that 87 million Americans live and work near port regions that violate air quality standards. They are exposed to diesel soot, putting them at grave risk for cancer, asthma and heart disease.
Lax regulation allows approximately 5,500 port trucking companies nationwide to shirk tax laws and push the costs of doing business onto their drivers and taxpayers. Workers are behind the wheel of heavy-duty container rigs up to 15 hours a day and average take-home pay is about $10.50 per hour. Health insurance and other benefits are almost non-existent.
It's clear there's an economic and environmental crisis at our ports. Communities need the right regulations so truck drivers and taxpayers don’t have to pay to clean up the industry’s diesel mess.
The good news is we've already seen what good regulation can do to clean up ports. Los Angeles is an example of what is possible. Their EPA award-winning Clean Truck Program has so far parked thousands of dirty diesel rigs and put 6,600 new clean vehicles on the road -- all while creating thousands of green trucking jobs. But industry polluters are trying to dismantle the green-growth model in court.
The Clean Ports Act of 2011 would help more ports follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles. It will give local communities more power to hold the trucking industry accountable for cleaner air and fairer labor practices.
Let's make sure the trucking industry doesn't stick taxpayers and truck drivers with their mess. Tell Washington leaders to support the Clean Ports Act of 2011.
Fortunately, many of your colleagues in the House have responded to several mayors, port authorities, and an alliance of environmental, labor and community groups’ urgent pleas for help from Washington. The Clean Ports Act of 2011 (H.R. 572) will allow local officials to meet state and federal clean air standards, protect public health, and ensure our nation’s port truck drivers and taxpayers do not foot the bill – with negligible impact on consumer prices.
Without the Clean Ports Act, the unaccountable industry – and its mouthpiece, the American Trucking Association – will continue to force workers and residents across the U.S. to breathe toxic, diesel-polluted air generated by tens of thousands of dirty port trucks.
The current system is broken and wrecking havoc on the lungs and livelihoods of millions of Americans, but with your continued leadership on this critically important issue we can transform this industry so it can grow and compete responsibly in the green economy, and put hard-working U.S. truck drivers at the ports on a path to the middle-class.
I am counting on you to help ensure that the Clean Ports Act is passed this year so we can all breathe easier. Thank you.