By: Erandi Treviño, Texas field coordinator, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: April 13, 2022
About: Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehicles: Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards Proposed Rule, Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0055
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Good afternoon. My name is Erandi Trevino. I am the Texas state organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, and I live in southeast Houston.
EPA’s proposal is a positive step forward. But it doesn’t go far enough. The proposal must be strengthened, to better protect children, people with asthma, older adults, and other vulnerable groups from the harms of air pollution. Parents across the country want to see a rapid transition to zero-emitting trucks, to provide cleaner air for our children and our communities.
Southeast Houston is known to have poor air quality. The location of the Houston Ship Channel, the refineries, and other industrial facilities make the region vulnerable to excessive pollution.
For a while, I felt lucky that I no longer lived close to the Ship Channel as I did when I was a kid. Children who live within two miles of the Ship Channel are 56% more likely to contract leukemia than children living more than 10 miles from the channel. We now live just over 10 miles away. But the truth is, our family is still suffering because of where we live. Houston does not have zoning laws, which allows an excessive number of heavy-duty trucks to surround my home.
Air pollution from trucks is a major public health problem. According to EPA, more than 45 million people in the US live within 300 feet of a major roadway or transportation facility, and 72 million people live within 200 meters of a truck freight route. People of color and those with lower incomes are more likely to live near truck routes.
My house sits immediately next to a large 18-wheeler parking lot on one side. I can easily see them over the fence. To the other side, there is a demolition company, and on the other, a crate company. The fourth side is a small road that sees a lot of movement from heavy-duty trucks all day long. These are trucks that are going to and from the various companies in my neighborhood. My home is surrounded on all four sides, and the airport is less than five miles away! As I worked on preparing my notes for today, I could hear crates beeping and trucks moving things. Some days a big wave of dust from their activities washes over our home, and every day, we hear the heavy-duty trucks operating and 18-wheelers idling next door. When I bought this house, I felt proud. An immigrant Latina woman buying a house with a pool no less. I felt I had made it. Now that decision and accomplishment give me fear for the health of my family.
As an Ecomadres organizer and advocate, I speak out on behalf of those who are most affected by air pollution and work with community members to help them strengthen their voice and speak out for their children. But the truth is, I am also speaking up for myself and my family. My home is multi-generational. My youngest niece is three, and she has severe allergies and breathing problems that sometimes disrupt her sleep. My seven-year-old niece has eczema and, in her young life, already has anxiety about extreme weather events. My mother and I both have fibromyalgia. We often experience shortness of breath and a heavy pressure on our chest. Of course, these issues make me consider whether or not we should just move. But that’s not the answer because more than 40% of Americans—over 135 million people—live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Moving is not the solution. The solution is to address the root of the problem.
The two proposed options for the rule represent, respectively, a bare minimum floor for regulations and a weak, industry-friendly option that is full of giveaways and accommodations to the worst-polluting truck companies. We urge EPA to consider the urgency of a stronger proposal.
These standards must go further in reducing deadly NOx pollution, and they must put our national bus and truck fleet on a clear path to 100% zero-emission all-electric vehicles as quickly as possible.