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Amid e-commerce surge, California cities want relief from truck pollution

PHOTO BY www.routexl.com / Flickr / Creative Commons

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Community and clean air advocates are fighting to curb pollution and electrify trucks in a distribution center hub.

The new expectation of next-day delivery is contributing to an old problem for California’s valley communities: smog.

Online and big-box retailers in recent years have erected giant distribution centersin Southern California’s Inland Empire, an area east of Los Angeles that includes Riverside, San Bernardino, Fontana and Moreno Valley. The area is sought after in part because of its proximity to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which service about 40 percent of all trade in the United States.

Amazon reportedly invested $4.7 billion in the Inland Empire between 2012 and 2016, and it’s not alone. Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ikea and Nike all have distribution centers in the region. Many are larger than 500,000 square feet, with soaring ceilings and numerous loading bays, all designed to gain economy of scale and improve operational efficiency. A surge in truck traffic and air pollution has accompanied the buildup.

“One of the issues we’re dealing with in our region is the immense air pollution from the thousands and thousands of diesel trucks” that are coming to the area, said Allen Hernandez, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, one of the groups helping to push back against the logistics industry with lawsuits and demands for better pollution controls and cleaner vehicles.

More than a third — 37 percent — of California’s emissions stem from the transportation sector, according to the state’s air resources board. Cars and trucks are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions California, and — despite the state’s reputation among conservative critics as being run by radical environmentalists — many cities here are plagued by terrible air pollution, some of the worst in the U.S.

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