The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it has entered into a final voluntary resolution with the City and Port of Oakland in response to a civil rights complaint filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.
The complaint stated that the City and Port of Oakland have been engaging in a pattern of conduct for decades that expanded freight activity at the expense of increased pollution in predominantly Black communities in West Oakland Wednesday, after more than two years of negotiations, the final resolution acknowledges the problem, but lacks the meaningful requirements and real commitments by the City and Port of Oakland that are necessary to finally address the freight pollution crisis in the surrounding community, according to community advocates.
Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, recipients of federal funds, like the Port of Oakland, have an obligation to avoid actions that result in unjustified unequal impacts on the basis of race, and to consider the risk of unequal impacts before approving projects.
“The EPA has concluded that the Port of Oakland is violating our civil rights in West Oakland with the pollution they’re pumping into our air, but the agency hasn’t given us a plan with real teeth to make the Port do something about it,” said Brian Beveridge with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP). “The complaint brought us a lot more process, and several new plans, but we’re still waiting for the clear targets and measurable actions that will quell the toll on human health in West Oakland. It’s time for Mayor Schaff to do something about it.”
According to Margaret Gordon, also with W.O.E.I.P., “The City of Oakland has yet to form a budget or add the necessary staff to make policy decisions and provide public health protections for this community.”
Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation agreed to initiate an investigation of the complaint after it was filed in 2017, effectively agreeing, along with virtually every state and regional public health agency, that the City and Port of Oakland cannot continue to ignore the impacts their decisions are having on this community. The final resolution represents a missed opportunity to reduce deadly diesel emissions in West Oakland, say the W.O.E.I.P. leaders.
W.O.E.I.P., together with Earthjustice, say they will continue to push for greater protection and fairer treatment of the community surrounding the Port of Oakland and look forward to working with the city to achieve a forward-looking, zero-emissions port.