NEW YORK, New York, November 10, 2008 (ENS) - Diesel trucks spewing plumes of visible exhaust and idling too long in violation of New York air regulations are the targets of a new long-term enforcement strategy aimed at protecting public health.
Under the plan, Department of Environmental Conservation personnel will carry out regular but unannounced enforcement actions in places where heavy truck traffic enters or leaves a neighborhood, as well as in areas where diesel trucks tend to congregate.
At those hot spots, DEC will conduct pullover operations that target trucks emitting visible exhaust.
Each time a "smoking truck" enforcement action is set up, DEC people and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will patrol the area for trucks and buses idling excessively.
In addition to implementing this plan in New York City, DEC plans to take similar enforcement actions in environmental justice neighborhoods elsewhere in the state.
"We owe it to ourselves and our children to make our cities livable. That means, at a minimum, the air we breathe should not make us sick," said New York State Environment Commissioner Pete Grannis.
"Emissions from smoking and idling trucks and buses are a problem - especially in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution. DEC is committed to dealing with this issue," said Grannis. "We intend to take aggressive enforcement actions wherever we find hot spots of smoking and idling trucks and buses."
The initiative comes as a result of a successful city-state crackdown on truck and boiler pollution last year in East Harlem, a neighborhood with high asthma rates and heavy truck traffic.
DEC law enforcement officers pulled over and inspected 361 diesel trucks and issued 163 tickets for violations of various state air and safety regulations. The officers also issued 10 tickets for excessive idling.
The New York City DEP issued 33 tickets for idling trucks and 11 tickets for boilers that violated city codes.
Based on that East Harlem experience, DEC estimates that close to 20 percent of the trucks traveling the area are out of compliance with state air regulations.
With transportation studies showing there are about 10,000 truck trips daily through East Harlem, that means that there could be nearly 2,000 trucks emitting illegal levels of pollutants every work day in the area.
"Aggressive enforcement is an important tool that can reduce asthma rates, improve air quality in East Harlem, and cut health-related hospitalization costs," said Peggy Shepard, executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice. "Though environmental enforcement has been lacking in lower-income communities, we appreciate that the state is maintaining this important initiative."
A key feature of the program will involve empowering communities to identify idling hot spots in their neighborhoods. New Yorkers can call 311 and help identify the locations where enforcement personnel will find hot spots of smoking and idling trucks and buses.
"PlaNYC, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's long-term sustainability plan, aims to give New York City the cleanest air of any city in America by reducing the harmful pollutants that decrease lung function and aggravate asthma and reducing emissions from vehicles is an important strategy of this plan," said DEP Acting Commissioner Steven Lawitts.
"There's little, if any, doubt that improving our air quality will help prevent asthma attacks in New York City's most affected communities," Lawitts said. "That's why we are committed to working with our state partners in enforcing emissions standards."
"Our goal is to identify and target hot spots where vehicles and diesel trucks tend to idle and congregate. So,Together with local agencies, advocacy groups and the public, we will continue to reduce air pollution and to protect our children and communities."
"We can solve New York City's diesel pollution problem," said Richard Kassel, NRDC Senior Attorney. "Enforcing the anti-pollution laws already on the books is a smart way to clean up our air and help children with asthma breathe easier."
"New York City has some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, particularly in communities affected by pollution," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "Through increased, sustained enforcement of regulations against smoking and idling trucks we take a significant step forward in the fight against asthma."
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