Mitsubishi Cement Corp. reignited its nearly decade-long campaign to build a warehouse at the Port of San Diego that would dramatically increase diesel truck traffic in Barrio Logan. The company now seems set to present an updated vision, recently dotting the neighborhood with shippers.
The Harbor Board of Commissioners shelved the proposal at the end of 2020, fearing it would unfairly burden the community, which already suffers from one of the worst asthma- and cancer-causing air pollution in the state.
Instead, the seven-member board asked the company and agency staff to draft strict requirements for incorporating electric trucks or other zero-emission trucks into the proposal.
Port officials this week suggested such a plan was nearing completion, but would not provide details.
“Mitsubishi and port personnel are in talks to phase in the use of zero-emission trucks and other emission-reduction strategies to reduce air quality impacts and greenhouse gas emissions. “, said the agency in an email Tuesday.
Community advocates and at least one harbor commissioner have expressed concerns that Mitsubishi may attempt to dodge responsibility.
The Union-Tribune has reached out to several commissioners for comment, including Chairman Dan Malcolm and Vice Chairman Rafael Castellanos. Agency staff responded that its board would not comment on the matter at this time.
Commissioner Mike Zucchet, who also works as chief executive of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, spoke out despite the agency’s response. He said he was frustrated that more progress had not been made.
“After two years, there doesn’t appear to be a specific, committed plan to reduce diesel truck travel in port neighborhoods, and that was the specific direction,” he said. “I feel like there are only alternate worlds here, and maybe there will be a clash.”
Cement industry officials said a commitment to electrification is coming. They hope the commission will reconsider the warehouse proposal at its November 8 public hearing.
“Our project addresses diesel truck emissions…with the significant value of providing jobs and local access to cement, a fundamental construction product currently accessed primarily by trucking from the high desert or the port of Long Beach,” Mitsubishi said in a statement. statement by email on Wednesday.
While Mitsubishi and the port have yet to release new details on their truck pollution strategy, the Nevada-based company has in recent weeks sent flyers to residents of Barrio Logan, saying the project would create jobs and would “reduce truck travel in the region. .”
The glossy cards read, “MCC has a shared vision with the community and the Port of San Diego to reduce harmful air emissions in Barrio Logan.” They also said an information booth would be available at a Halloween gathering in Chicano Park on Saturday, October 29.
The company – part of the family of companies that owns Mitsubishi Motors – has long sought to build a warehouse and transportation facility at 10e Avenue Marine Terminal, which would be served by up to 296 new diesel truck trips per day. The project, which would distribute up to 600,000 metric tons of cement per year, could triple the terminal’s current truck traffic.
Barrio Logan has been plagued for decades by big, rumbling freight trucks coming and going from the port. Massive freighters can also spit pollution when unloading containers. Residents lament the sticky black grime coating windows and kitchen tables from a myriad of sources.
Pollution from diesel engines, such as those used in boats, cranes and trucks, contributes to the formation of fine particles, known as PM2.5, which when inhaled exacerbate conditions such as asthma and heart disease. The tiny particles lodge deep in a person’s lungs, even in their bloodstream.
In response to neighborhood concerns, the San Diego City Council banned heavy trucks from certain residential streets in the port community several years ago. However, enforcement has been spotty at best.
A Union-Tribune analysis of San Diego Air Pollution Control District data last year found that heavy trucks accounted for about 17% of diesel pollution in Barrio Logan. More than 75% of these emissions came from harbor craft and ocean-going vessels, as well as handling and construction equipment. Passenger vehicles, buses and trains only contributed 4%.
The local nonprofit Environmental Health Coalition has fought Mitsubishi’s warehouse plan, demanding that it include an aggressive timeline for adopting electric trucks. Supporters pointed out that last year the port adopted a target for its terminals to be served by 100% zero-emission cargo trucks by 2030.
“This proposal would completely eliminate the possibility of achieving this goal and increase childhood asthma, already more than three times the county average,” said Diane Takvorian, executive director of the coalition.
The port’s previous environmental analysis of the project found that it “would cause significant direct environmental effects with respect to air quality and health risks, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards and hazardous materials, noise and vibration, and transportation, traffic and parking. ”
However, the agencies said the economic benefits outweighed these negative impacts, including the creation of 52 full-time jobs.
The state has increasingly stepped up its efforts to electrify freight trucks and passenger vehicles in recent years. Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order last year calling for all new cars sold in the state to be zero emissions by 2035.
More than half of all heavy-duty trucks sold in California must also be zero-emission vehicles by 2035, according to a landmark rule approved by state aviation regulators in 2020.
Volvo has boasted of selling only “fossil-free” trucks by 2040, with Daimler Truck setting a similar target. However, behind-the-scenes industry lobbyists have reportedly been working to slow federal and state regulations targeting these vehicle emissions.
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