Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley joins call to cut air pollution at ports, railyards

NEWARK, N.J. — Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley and four other Senate Democrats are asking federal regulators to do more to cut air pollution around port cities and railyards.

New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin joined Merkley on Wednesday in a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions at ports and freight railyards.

“The large volumes of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emitted by heavy duty diesel trucks, ocean-going vessels, cargo handling equipment, railroad locomotives and harbor craft are heavily concentrated in the communities,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

The lawmakers said many of the ports and railyards are located near lower-income neighborhoods and those residents are disproportionately exposed to high levels of air pollution resulting in serious health problems.

“The impacts, especially on children, result in increased risk for cancer, missed school days and more hospital visits,” the lawmakers said.

They urged the EPA to act before the end of the Obama administration to promote the use of zero-emissions transportation technology and to minimize freight emissions.