In his 1970 State of the Union address, Richard Nixon said: "Clean air, clean water, open spaces - these should once again be the birthright of every American." My friend Erika Zucker was the first to identify this quote when I put it up on Facebook. And although Nixon is reported to have said that the environmental movement is "crap" for "clowns," he signed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and NEPA, and he signed the legislation creating the EPA.
So, Dick, how is that working out? Today's New York Times reports that the risk of ischemic heart disease from the inhalation of soot particles is twice what had been previously observed. The Times article has this to say about the L.A. area ports where NRDC focuses a lot of attention: "Comparing exposure within the New York and the Los Angeles metropolitan areas, the study found that the risks were evenly distributed in the vicinity of New York while some areas around Los Angeles, including neighborhoods near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, had elevated health risks."
This is totally consistent with the findings of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's MATES III analysis, which found the highest cancer risk from inhalation of toxic substances to be in the areas near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The California Air Resources Board ("CARB") has also recognized the toll of illness and death caused by diesel particulates from the goods movement industry.
Solutions for these problems are at hand, but industry is stonewalling. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports' trucking concession plans are tied up in federal court in a lawsuit filed by the trucking industry. CARB's second attempt to force the shipping industry to use cleaner marine fuel is also under attack in court by the shipping industry. NRDC is active in both lawsuits, trying to protect public health and air quality.
Ultimately, Nixon resigned in disgrace. In the famous interview with David Frost, Nixon said that "if the President does it, that means that it is not illegal." Not so, Tricky Dick. Neither you nor powerful industries are above the law - including the Clean Air Act that you signed. NRDC is working to make sure that Nixon's promise from 38 years ago comes true.