I am in Kansas City, Missouri this week to speak at the New Partners Smart Growth Conference. I am also here to meet with nearly 50 different advocates from across the country who are working to reduce the effects of our freight transportation system on their communities. Operations at ports, rail yards, distribution centers and freeways are notorious for creating toxic air pollution for local residents. So, why are we all meeting? To share strategies, develop collaborations, and identify ways in which we can work more cohesively as a “national network.”
On Thursday, I will be presenting on a panel with D. Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer of the NJ Environmental Federation, Alexandra (Lexi) Bambas Nolen, PhD, MPH, Director of the Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, Denny Larson, Executive Director of the Global Community Monitor/Bucket Brigade, and David Fukuzawa, Program Director of The Kresge Foundation on the topic of “Cleaning-Up Freight Projects Through Community Tools And The National Environmental Policy Act.”
My presentation will recommend that community advocates use the National Environmental Policy Act process as a tool for cleaning up freight projects. NEPA applies to many federal permitting activities, including permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, Federal Highway Administration, and Surface Transportation Board, among other agencies. The law requires federal agencies to consider and disclose the environmental consequences of their actions before approving projects or granting permits. NEPA also requires a public process in which members of the public can voice their concerns about a project, offer alternatives, and recommend mitigation to reduce anticipated pollution. While the NEPA process is not the only tool to clean up freight projects, or even the best tool in all cases, it is an important process that advocates should feel is accessible.
This week I will be distributing two community guides NRDC recently produced: a NEPA 101 for freight projects, as well as a “Clean Cargo Toolkit” that includes recommended clean air initiatives that should be adopted to reduce air pollution from the freight transportation industry. We developed these guides to serve as a resource for communities across the country as they examine local projects and develop targeted campaigns. Tackling diesel pollution from freight transportation activities can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned advocate, so our hope is these toolkits will help break down barriers and enhance public participation.
These toolkits are located here. Happy reading!