Several people at the council meeting touched on the environmental challenges and alluded to the situation in southern California. So, I have consolidated a number of reports and studies concerning the region as it has been in the news lately.
Remember, we also posted photos of a similar size facility in Beaumont CA on the website.
Here are 69 pages related to environmental problems in California’s inland empire as a result of distribution centers and the number of big trucks required to move goods in and out.
For those in the Churchill Future group working on the environmental risks of Amazon in Churchill, they may provide ideas and approaches that are useful for us to use in bringing them to the attention of fellow residents and the borough council.
27 page PDF
Amazon Warehouses Linked to Environmental Injustice in Southern California, Report Finds
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images
Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.
The report, from the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice (PCEJ) and students from the University of Redlands, shared with The Guardian, is meant to serve as an “advocacy tool to help raise awareness related to the warehouse industry’s impacts on Southern California’s air pollution issues,” Earthjustice noted.
California’s Inland Empire, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has emerged as one of the largest “warehousing hubs” in the world in just the past few decades, according to Grist. Since establishing its first warehouse in the region in 2012, Amazon has become the largest private employer in the region, where 40,000 people now work in Amazon warehouses, picking, packing, sorting and unloading, as well as driving trucks and operating aircrafts, The New York Times Magazine reported.
“The company is so enmeshed in the community that it can simultaneously be a TV channel, grocery store, home security system, boss, personal data collector, high school career track, internet cloud provider and personal assistant,” The New York Times Magazine added.
In just the last year, Amazon has tripled its delivery hubs in the region due to the demand for online shopping during the COVID-19 crisis. But despite the economic boom, heavy air pollution mainly from trucks going in and out of the warehouses infects nearby communities, the new research showed, according to The Guardian.
The research found, for example, that the populations living within a half-mile of the warehouses are 85 percent people of color, while California’s overall population is 64 percent people of color, The Guardian reported. The research also found that communities with the most Amazon warehouses nearby have the lowest rates of Amazon sales per household.
“Amazon has boomed in 2020 and tripled the amount of money it’s making, and it is happening at a cost to the folks who live in these communities,” Ivette Torres, a PCEJ environmental science researcher and analyst, who helped put the research together, told The Guardian.
The research also demonstrated that the top 10 communities with the most warehouses in the region also experience pollution from other facilities, like gas plants and oil refineries, Earthjustice wrote in a statement.
“The Inland Empire, probably more than any region in the United States, has disproportionately [borne] the brunt of the environmental and economic impact of goods movement, and Amazon is driving that now in the Inland Empire,” Jake Wilson, a California State University, Long Beach, professor of sociology, told Grist.
Last year, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority ratified a decision to allow an air cargo facility development at the airport, allowing Amazon to operate more flights out of the region, Grist reported.
Among the local residents to oppose the decision was Jorge Osvaldo Heredia, a resident of San Bernadino in Southern California since 2005. “This whole region has been taken over by warehouses,” Heredia told Grist, and commented on the “horrible” air quality in the city on most days. “It’s really reaching that apex point where you can’t avoid the warehouses, you can’t avoid the trucks,” he added.
Advocates who published the research are pushing on the South Coast Air Quality Management District, a local air pollution regulatory agency, to move forward with the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule, which would require new and existing warehouses to take action to reduce emissions locally each year, The Guardian reported. Some solutions include moving towards zero-emissions trucks and mitigation fees.
“Last year, we saw some of the worst air quality, with wildfires adding to it, and the trucks were still in and out of our communities. So this is a huge change that we need right now, and that we actually needed yesterday,” Torres concluded, according to The Guardian.
Amazon’s warehouse boom linked to health hazards in America’s most polluted region
Amazon has tripled its hubs in southern California over the last year. Photograph: Courtesy of Anthony Victoria, People’s Collective for Environmental Justice
Research shows warehouses, which have proliferated in California’s Inland Empire, bring pollution that disproportionately affects people of color
Amazon has dramatically expanded its warehouses in southern California in the past year, part of an effort to speed up deliveries during the pandemic’s online shopping boom.
But new research raises concerns about pollution and other environmental harms from the logistics sector in low-income communities of color in the region, many of which already suffer from high rates of toxic emissions, traffic problems and some of the worst pollution in the US.
The research compiled by the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice (PCEJ) and other local groups and shared with the Guardian, shows how warehouses have proliferated in the Inland Empire, an industrial region 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The warehouses, which bring severe truck pollution to neighborhoods, are correlated with bad air quality and related health problems that disproportionately affect people of color, the data shows.
Advocates, who are pushing new environmental restrictions for warehouses, are particularly concerned about the expansion of Amazon, which has scaled up more aggressively than some of its competitors – tripling its hubs in southern California over the last year while reporting soaring profits. Some key findings from the data include:
- There are more than 3,000 large warehouses (over 100,000 sq ft) in southern California, and they are concentrated in areas that rank in the highest percentile for toxic emissions in the state (worse than 86% of the state’s census tracts).
- The populations living within half a mile of a warehouse are 85% people of color (compared with California, which is 64% people of color).
- There are 640 schools in the region that are located within a half mile of a warehouse.
- More than 450 warehouses are located in the top 10% worst census tracts for traffic-related pollution.
- The majority of warehouses are located in areas that do the least amount of online shopping in southern California overall. And the communities dominated by Amazon warehouses have the lowest rates of Amazon sales per household.
While the expansion of warehouses has brought jobs to a region that has long suffered from high unemployment rates, advocates say the environmental consequences have been severe and that the jobs are sometimes hazardous or exploitative.
“Amazon has boomed in 2020 and tripled the amount of money it’s making, and it is happening at a cost to the folks who live in these communities,” said Ivette Torres, a PCEJ environmental science researcher and analyst, who put the research together alongside the Sierra Club and University of Redlands students.
A number of sources contribute to the area’s extreme pollution, including rail yards and air traffic, but research suggests that the warehousing boom and related truck emissions are a major factor.
There was a record high square footage of warehouse and industrial spaces leased in the Inland Empire last year, and Amazon now has more than 50 locations in the region, according to advocates’ estimates and a recent OC Register analysis. Corporations like Walmart and Target have also expanded their warehousing in the area.
“We’re dealing with smoggy summers that are getting worse and worse,” said Yassi Kavezade, an organizer with Sierra Club’s My Generation campaign, who lives in Riverside in the Inland Empire, which has the second-worst air pollution in the US. “We’re sick of getting alerts that say avoid being outside … because of dirty air. This is not normal.”
The groups’ data illustrates severe inequalities in the broader region where some coastal cities with the best air quality rely the most on Amazon for shopping, with the highest rates of sales per household. San Bernardino, where Amazon is one of the largest private-sector employers, has the lowest sales out of 40 largest cities in the LA metro area, the group reported.
“The neighborhoods … are able to enjoy the benefits and convenience of online shopping and shipping without having to be in close proximity to these warehouses,” University of Redlands student researcher Vivian Pallares wrote in the report.
Warehouses are correlated with bad air quality and related health problems that disproportionately impact people of color. Photograph: Courtesy of Anthony Victoria, People’s Collective for Environmental Justice
Andrea Vidaurre, a PCEJ policy analyst who is from the Inland Empire, said she was used to seeing new warehouses pop up and grew up alongside kids who were forced to leave school due to asthma attacks. But she was shocked to see how frequently the warehouses were located so close to schools: “You put something so dangerous by a vulnerable population like kids … I didn’t realize there were so many. It almost feels endemic.”
The advocates are publishing the data as the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the local air pollution regulatory agency, considers new proposed warehouse restrictions that supporters say would be the first of its kind in the nation. The Warehouse Indirect Source Rule would require new and existing large warehouses to take actions each year to reduce emissions locally, such as using zero-emission trucks, or otherwise pay a mitigation fee.
“We have an immensely profitable industry that’s become even more profitable during the pandemic, and now environmental and community groups and regulators are saying it’s time to clean up your pollution and stop making us suffer from it,” said Adrian Martinez, an LA-based staff attorney with Earthjustice, which is advocating for the rule.
While some industry representatives have warned of potential job losses due to increased costs of business, Martinez pointed out that the air quality district estimates that the rule would result in 150 to 300 fewer deaths, as many as 5,800 fewer asthma attacks, and up to 20,000 fewer missed work days between 2022 and 2031. The public health benefits could save $2.7bn, according to the agency’s recent report.
The toxic air challenges in the Inland Empire are akin to a cancer on the community that requires an aggressive response, said Martinez: “The problems from warehouse pollution are so chronic and acute and are really targeting low-income communities of color, that we really need a strong medicine to solve it.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and the world’s richest man, last year pledged $10bn to fight the climate crisis, and the company has said it was acquiring more natural gas trucks to reduce pollution, and previously promised to be carbon neutral by 2040. Spokespeople did not respond to an inquiry about the data and proposed rule.
But Torres said the warehouse regulations could help bring about reforms that are urgently needed: “Last year, we saw some of the worst air quality, with wildfires adding to it, and the trucks were still in and out of our communities. So this is a huge change that we need right now, and that we actually needed yesterday.”
Garden of Hope In the shadow of Amazon, resistance takes root in San Bernardino
Daniel A. Anderson
Yvette CabreraSr. Staff Writer Jan 13, 2021
When Jorge Osvaldo Heredia moved to the Southern California city of San Bernardino in 2005, the logistics and warehouse industry was already encroaching on the neighborhood where he now lives. Over the span of 15 years, he’s watched with dismay as massive warehouses have overtaken the area, leading to more truck traffic and ozone pollution. That pollution weighs most heavily on residents of Heredia’s working-class, predominantly Latino neighborhood near the San Bernardino International Airport.
“Most days the air is horrible, especially during the summer months where everything is just a hot blanket of smog,” Heredia told Grist. During that same 15-year period, the city of more than 215,000 people was battered by economic downturns, a bankruptcy, and high levels of poverty and violence. Today, the city sits at a crossroads, both geographically and metaphorically. In the hardest-hit areas, ghosts of the past linger along the city’s thoroughfares in the form of empty storefronts, fading budget motels, and blighted public spaces. The unrelenting march of time has also taken its toll on residential neighborhoods where, in the stark daylight, even the festive holiday lights decorating people’s homes last month did little to mask the peeling paint, frayed edges, and parched lawns that hard times have brought.
Jorge Osvaldo Heredia takes a break from clearing a field of weeds and debris to make way for a community garden plot for a family in San Bernardino, Calif. Daniel A. Anderson
By contrast, the warehouses, painted in neutral beiges and whites and bathed in winter’s sunlight, gleam pristinely against the backdrop of the San Bernardino mountains. They buzz with activity as heavy-duty trucks and commercial trailers rumble in and out of their gates. “This whole region has been taken over by warehouses,” said Heredia. “It’s really reaching that apex point where you can’t avoid the warehouses, you can’t avoid the trucks.”
In large part due to the consumer goods that flow from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Inland Empire region of Southern California, which encompasses San Bernardino and Riverside counties, has emerged as one the largest warehousing hubs in the world over the past few decades, due largely to the growth of e-commerce. “The Inland Empire, probably more than any region in the United States, has disproportionately [borne]the brunt of the environmental and economic impact of goods movement, and Amazon is driving that now in the Inland Empire,” said Jake Wilson, a California State University, Long Beach, professor of sociology who co-edited the recently published book The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy.
Amazon’s new commercial building at the east end of the San Bernardino International Airport. Daniel A. Anderson
Last year, residents discovered that the San Bernardino International Airport Authority planned to allow an air cargo facility development at the airport, which would allow Amazon to operate even more flights out of the region. Heredia joined a chorus of voices who protested at several public meetings and rallies, hoping that the airport authority commission would listen to residents’ concerns and halt the expansion. Instead, a year ago, in a special meeting called shortly after Christmas, the airport authority commission voted to ratify the final details of a lease that allowed the airport expansion to proceed.
Heredia was disheartened, especially given that so many in his community struggle to breathe because of respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Many were battling serious health issues even before COVID-19 struck the region with unique severity. Heredia’s own wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, and while he says it’s difficult to pinpoint the causes of diseases like cancer, there’s no question that a healthier environment with less pollution would improve the health of all residents. “To do that, it gets so much harder when you have things stacked against you, in terms of creating the environment that would allow us to truly be healthy,” said Heredia.
A trucker works in San Bernardino, Calif. Much of Southern California’s pollution gets trapped in this region by converging mountain ranges and daily ocean winds that push pollutants inland. Daniel A. Anderson
As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread in early 2020, Heredia said traffic decreased temporarily. But in a community where many are essential workers, that downward trend didn’t last long. As the year progressed and coronavirus cases skyrocketed, he then saw an increase in Amazon delivery trucks in his neighborhood as many consumers relied on e-commerce for their shopping needs as the state endured a lockdown. Congestion only worsened during the busy holiday season, said Heredia, who expects even more road and air traffic when Amazon begins operating flights over his neighborhood, which is bordered by several major thoroughfares and is about a mile and a half from the airport.
The airport will serve as a regional air hub for Amazon, which expects to begin operating this year with 12 daily flights — a number that will more than double within five years. (An Amazon spokesperson told Grist that its San Bernardino operations have not yet been formally announced and did not respond to follow-up questions in time for publication.) The Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center project, as the airport’s recent expansion is known, entails a 658,500 square-foot package sorting and distribution center with an air cargo hub. The upshot is more flights, more warehouses, more truck traffic, and a lot more pollution in a region that’s already endured the worst effects of the online commerce industry, according to Yasmine Agelidis, an associate attorney at the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice.
Agelidis is representing a group of community plaintiffs challenging the construction of the project. She pointed out that last year Southern California experienced the highest number of bad air quality days since the mid-1990s. “The pandemic has created this boom in retail that’s just made it a lot worse, and this impact is particularly felt by black and brown communities who are also being hit the hardest by COVID-19,” said Agelidis. “This case — it’s fundamentally about human health, and it’s really about protecting people in a part of the country that has literally the worst air quality in the nation.”
San Bernardino has long been a transportation and distribution hub for the west coast of the U.S. Daniel A. Anderson
In early February, the next showdown between the warehouse industry and the community is scheduled to take place in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will field oral arguments challenging the construction of the Eastgate project. Earthjustice is representing a coalition of community residents, workers, and environmentalists contesting the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval of the Eastgate project in late 2019.
In the lawsuit, filed in early 2020, the plaintiffs contend that the FAA greenlit the Eastgate project in violation of federal environmental law after completing a “faulty and incomplete environmental review” and making a determination that the development will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment. In its own environmental assessment, the FAA estimates that the new facility will emit about one ton of pollution daily starting in 2024. “Most fundamentally this case is about the kind of air that we’re going to breathe,” said Agelidis. “And it’s really about the whole premise that we shouldn’t have an online commerce industry that can dump one ton of pollution into people’s backyards every single day without the federal government taking the proper required environmental evaluation of the project like it’s required to do under federal law.”
The San Bernardino International Airport Authority and the developer of the air cargo facility are also named as defendants in the case. Last year, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued all three entities for unlawfully approving the controversial airport expansion without adequate environmental analysis, and his agency has intervened in the Ninth Circuit case on behalf of the state. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs petition the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to require the FAA to prepare a more thorough review, known as an environmental impact statement, to provide the community with a better understanding of the impacts of adding around-the-clock flights and truck traffic through the adjacent neighborhoods and the surrounding region.
The plaintiffs are asking the court not only to set aside the FAA’s original findings but also to void the ground lease agreement until the FAA properly complies with requirements set out in the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. That federal law requires that federal agencies assess the environmental consequences (including those that might be cumulative or indirect) of federal infrastructure projects such as pipelines, airports, and highways.
The FAA and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority told Grist that they do not comment on pending litigation, and the developer of the project did not respond to Grist’s request for comment before publication. In court documents filed in response to the lawsuit, attorneys for the FAA and the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the FAA had fulfilled its NEPA obligations by thoroughly evaluating the potential environmental impacts of the Eastgate project. “Petitioners’ NEPA arguments are meritless, lacking record support and failing to show that FAA’s decision-making was arbitrary or capricious,” the attorneys state in a reply brief filed last fall.
Cesunica Ivey, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside, told Grist that more research is needed to demonstrate the links between logistics and warehouse activity and the worsening air quality in the Inland Empire. Ivey oversaw a pilot study, published in October in the Journal of Aerosol Sciences, that monitored 18 adults from five different Inland Empire cities over seven days. The study found that San Bernardino residents had higher median exposures to lung-damaging fine particulate matter in their homes than participants from other cities. This particulate matter, called PM 2.5, can lodge in respiratory tract tissues and lead to diseases such as asthma.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg, meant to inspire people to look at these issues in a different way from the research standpoint,” Ivey told Grist. “What we’ve seen is that pollution overall is going down. The disparity gap is not. So how are we going to address the disparity gap?”
A community garden volunteer moves waste in a wheelbarrow in the shadow of a commercial building in San Bernardino, Calif. Daniel A. Anderson
Amazon expanded into the Inland Empire after bix box store competitors like Target, Home Depot, and Walmart were established, but it has expanded at breakneck speed and is now the largest private employer in the Inland Empire region, said Wilson. The company has opened 15 warehouses in the region since establishing its first California fulfillment center in San Bernardino in 2012, according to The Cost of Free Shipping. While big box stores and e-commerce systems are both carbon-intensive enterprises, e-commerce relies far more on air shipping to process frequent and smaller shipments under tight deadlines. University of California, Riverside, Professor Juliann Emmons Alison found that average warehouse size more than doubled between 2007 and 2017, with Amazon’s Southern California fulfillment centers consuming far more space than the typical warehouse — between 600,000 and 1.5 million square feet.
The bottom line is vastly more traffic in surrounding neighborhoods. Wilson has found that the number of daily Amazon deliveries per driver can hit as many as 400 deliveries per shift during peak holiday periods, with profound effects on local air quality, congestion, and noise pollution. “Here you have all of these communities in the Inland Empire region in Southern California who are really absorbing the cost — and it’s the environmental cost, the economic cost for globalization,” said Wilson, who has been studying the logistics and goods movement industry for nearly two decades.
One resident of San Bernardino’s working-class, predominantly Latino West Side community told Grist that the online shopping boom and two-day shipping craze have resulted in “an invasion of warehouses” in the region’s communities of color, which are largely poor and undocumented. “Our land has been taken up because this logistics industry has grown so much,” said Sara, 26, who has lived on the West Side since the age of 5. “And we’re paying the ultimate price here in the Inland Empire with our health, with our land being stolen.” (The resident requested that her real name be withheld because she is undocumented, so Grist is using the pseudonym Sara).
Raised on the West Side near the 215 freeway, Sara said she’s been healthy most of her life, but that began to change in high school, when she started having difficulty breathing. Then, about a year ago, she moved about a block away from the BNSF Railway Company’s rail yard on the West Side, and her breathing became more laborious. She said that residents are bombarded at all hours of the day with noise from trucks and trains that transport imported goods shipped from the ports to the rail hub, which is one of the busiest in the country. Researchers have found that the air around the rail yard is more toxic than other Southern California rail yards and that residents nearby face an elevated cancer risk. One 2005 state assessment of the health risks from pollution surrounding California’s major rail yards found that the yards posed a significant public health risk. Four rail yards presented an excessive cancer risk, with San Bernardino’s posing the most risk of any rail yard in the state.
Poverty is evident in this neighborhood near the San Bernardino International Airport. Daniel A. Anderson
While some politicians and community leaders have welcomed the warehouse and logistics industry and touted the development of the new air cargo facility as economic progress, Sara said that narrative doesn’t ring true for residents who live in blighted neighborhoods plagued by violence and crumbling infrastructure. They have seen few resources invested in areas they describe as “diesel death zones” for their proximity to freeways, rail yards, ports, and warehouse clusters. This is why, on last year’s Cyber Monday, Sara spearheaded a banner drop to counter the message promoted by some politicians. With a small group of activists from the newly created People’s Collective for Environmental Justice, Sara constructed banners with messages like “the air is toxic thanks to cyber Monday” and strung them across several 215 freeway overpasses in San Bernardino.
The Inland Empire-based collective launched last summer to eradicate systemic racism, tackle issues such as pollution and police brutality, and establish ways to protect public health and build community self-reliance. The banner drop, while a small action, was nonetheless empowering, said Sara, because it sent a message about a growing resistance to the warehouse industry. “It feels like rebellion a little bit: standing up, and saying ‘no more’… because that’s what we want. We don’t want to be exploited any longer,” said Sara, a nonprofit community organizer.
The grassroots movement that’s been growing around the resistance to the airport expansion is ultimately a fight for a just transition to a clean economy, said Anthony Victoria Midence, a cofounder of the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice. For more than a year, a coalition of residents and labor and environmental advocates have been calling for Amazon to enter into a community benefits agreement that would guarantee jobs with fair wages. Although that agreement never materialized, Victoria Midence said that residents plan to continue to apply pressure and push for the same measures, including worker protections, more training and educational opportunities, as well as a reinvestment in the communities that serve as the workforce for the warehouse and logistics industry.
“Do we want a workforce that will continue to be untrained and provided temporary jobs? Or are we really going to move toward a just transition that is going to center an economic recovery with clean energy jobs and also with better protections,” said Victoria Midence. Residents also want these companies to work more aggressively to mitigate pollution that is generated by the industry, including the adoption of zero-emissions policies such as the electrification of truck fleets.
Last summer, California became the first state in the country to require that automakers sell more electric trucks starting in 2024. By 2045, all trucks sold in the state will be required to be emissions-free. Now, environmental justice advocates in California are working to advance what’s known as a clean fleet rule, which would pressure employers to more rapidly transition to all-electric truck fleets.
While this movement is promising, Victoria Midence’s concern is that local officials have failed to adopt policies to protect vulnerable communities from further pollution exposure. “What’s been missing in this community for decades is community inclusion and community participation,” he said.
A community garden volunteer jumps from a trash bin after making room for more waste as he and others clear the land for plots behind a commercial building. Daniel A. Anderson
Now, advocates are gathering evidence to make their case for a cleaner, greener future. Earlier this year, policy analyst Andrea Vidaurre began collaborating with San Bernardino residents to collect data on truck traffic and air quality before and after the Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center begins operating. “Residents know that it’s going to have a huge impact,” said Vidaurre, noting that the FAA’s final environmental assessment projects that Eastgate operations will generate 500 daily truck trips by 2024. “But what does that really mean for somebody who lives and works and walks in that area? We’re hoping to elevate [the issue] even more in the new year,” said Vidaurre, a senior policy analyst for the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, a nonprofit based in nearby Ontario that works to improve working conditions in the warehouse industry in Southern California.
Ivey, the professor who studies particulate matter pollution in the Inland Empire, is advising Vidaurre and described the data collection effort as a way for the community to take matters into their own hands. Another area that requires further study is land-use policy, she said. She recently wrote in the research journal Nature that land-use policy disparities may be an important predictor of COVID-19 disparities. Decades-long practices and policies of placing industrial sources adjacent to vulnerable residential communities inevitably lead to greater exposure to toxic air pollutants in those communities. The question is to what degree. In the case of the Eastgate project, those are questions that should be answered by developers before moving forward, she said.
On San Bernardino’s West Side, Sara told Grist that community awareness around these issues is growing. While she’d prefer not to have to wake up at 4 a.m. to conduct banner drops, Sara said she’s willing to make that investment if that’s what it takes to inform residents. “The movement, I hope, is only going to keep growing. There are a lot of people who have a lot of the same concerns,” said Sara. “And I think we as a people need to rise up.”
Community garden participants in San Bernardino, Calif., decorated a scarecrow used to keep birds away from their plots. Daniel A. Anderson
Heredia is doing just that. Although Amazon’s Eastgate construction project is nearly complete, for Heredia this doesn’t mean that the battle for a healthier environment is over. On the contrary, in the midst of a neighborhood choked by industry, Heredia is helping to nurture the one asset he believes can still help make a difference in the battle to protect his neighborhood from more pollution: community. Last summer, the academic medical center Loma Linda University Health, in partnership with an Ontario-based urban community farm initiative called Huerta del Valle and local residents like Heredia, helped bring to life an organic community garden in the shadow of one of the warehouses near the airport.
Named the “Garden of Health,” the 1-acre community garden and outdoor activity center offers residents plots of land to grow their own vegetables, with the requirement that they all volunteer several hours a week in the community planting area. Heredia considers the garden the last battleground in the neighborhood’s fight against the warehouse industry in a region considered a food desert due to high poverty levels, food insecurity, and a lack of access to grocery stores. It’s a healthy haven where residents can nurture life with their vegetables and vines, and an oasis of green in a neighborhood where industry is firmly entrenched. “For me being in the garden … it’s like my last hope for what can possibly be here in the community,” said Heredia.
Jorge Osvaldo Heredia, left, and other community garden volunteers clear a field early on a recent Saturday morning in San Bernardino, Calif. Daniel A. Anderson
At a time when many people are working from home — including Heredia, who is the director of a community arts venue in San Bernardino — the garden is also one of the few spaces where residents can safely talk at a distance in an outdoor space. Last summer, they dug trenches to create the garden’s irrigation system, and as they’ve planted their crops residents have shared gardening and composting tips. When they harvest, they exchange the fruits and vegetables they grow: everything from eggplants to tomatoes to peas.
Heredia hopes that this kinship will strengthen the community’s resolve to continue to advocate for their neighbors, and that it will pressure companies like Amazon to be more environmentally responsible by adopting zero-emissions trucks, for example, and supporting more green spaces in the community. It’s a fight that Heredia considers crucial to ensure future developments take the health of the community into consideration. Without these protections in place from the outset, the community will continue to suffer the consequences, he said.
“The community is well aware that it’s impossible really to stop all these warehouse developments,” said Heredia. “It’s really an uphill battle to prevent these warehouses from popping up. What the community is asking for is something to benefit us.”
Community garden volunteer Samuel Armando Castro Marron, 28, of San Bernardino, Calif., helps create a new plot for a future garden. Daniel A. Anderson
One Saturday in early December, Heredia joined a handful of young volunteers clearing a patch of weeds in a space where the group hopes to plant berry bushes and cactus plants. As cumbia songs played in the background, they diligently rolled wheelbarrows full of the weeds to a nearby dumpster. Heredia pushed his rake into the earth and yanked out mound after mound of dry weeds, shook the dirt off, and dumped the tangle of weeds into a growing pile. It was sweaty work in the glaring morning sun, but Heredia carefully separated the valuable earth from the yellowed, dry weeds as a parade of trucks and trailers whizzed by on nearby Tippecanoe Avenue.
Heredia took a break and explained how the work, while tough, has always given him a sense of community. “I feel so let down by elected officials all the time, but then I always get reinvigorated by people in the community who are so willing to help out, lend a hand. Even here within the garden, you have an amazing community of people who are just so open to share — share their knowledge and share their harvest with other gardeners.”
A year after the airport authority commission decided to move forward with the airport expansion, Heredia still feels the sting of a decision that he describes as an outright dismissal of the community. “That moment was really the key moment where I was like: They don’t care. They don’t care what the community has to say whatsoever,” said Heredia. It’s why, week after week, he returns to the garden for that nourishment.
After the fall harvest, a marigold flower remains between drip watering lines. The marigold is a popular flower to decorate Day of the Dead memorials. Daniel A. Anderson
He wants that sense of community for all San Bernardino residents, so Heredia is working across spaces and generations to make that happen. As a member of San Bernardino’s Generation Now, a group of volunteers that promote initiatives like voter registration drives, mural creations, and community festivals, he’s helping others participate in events that can nourish their mental and physical health, while also giving them a voice on community issues. “This area needs to improve on its quality of life,” he said. “For our mental health, for our physical health, definitely this environment is not ideal. That’s why a lot of people leave this area too.”
He points to the motto of California State University, San Bernardino: “Come Here, Go Anywhere.” It’s a message that he interprets as subtly encouraging people to leave the area. “If you escape, it’s like you made it,” said Heredia. He understands why some might leave; there aren’t many job options. His first job at the age of 17 was at a warehouse. He also briefly worked at Amazon about five years ago, pulling warehouse items from the shelves, but the work was isolating and stressful. Ultimately, he left the job to pursue a teaching credential. Heredia plans to stay put in San Bernardino, because he believes it’s important that he do what he can to help his ideas for change take root in the city.
“I guess I’m a fighter in that sense,” said Heredia. “I always have hope that change can happen.”
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Fossil fuels are inherently dirty and harm health as well as the climate. The COVID-19 pandemic exposes compounding health vulnerabilities.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice is presenting a shareholder resolution to Amazon’s Board on May 27 about Amazon’s environmental racism. Read our statement.
Communities around the world are suffering from environmental harm. The climate crisis is rapidly destroying the world as we know it, and toxic pollution from burning fossil fuels is bringing illness to communities through contaminated water and air. It is well known that the extraction, transportation, processing, and burning of fossil fuels is causing climate change; what is less discussed is the way that fossil-fuels pollute water systems during extraction and transportation, and pollute the air when burned. The root of these forms of environmental degradation is the same: an economy that relentlessly extracts resources from the earth and ignores the resulting damage.
Globally, air pollution leads to 7 million deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization. Fine particulate matter from sources such as diesel trucking enters the lungs and bloodstream, leading to chronic inflammation and illness, increased cancer rates, and premature death. The air pollution from heavy-duty diesel trucks is particularly harmful to developing children, stunting their lung development and causing asthma and respiratory illnesses that will impact them the rest of their lives.
Chronic exposure to diesel air pollution weakens the lungs and immune system, putting vulnerable people at more risk of dying from COVID-19. These results reflect studies of a similar coronavirus outbreak in 2003 which found that infected patients from regions with high air pollution were twice as likely to die from that SARS coronavirus than patients in low-pollution regions.
Environmental harm is inequitable
For all of us, a healthy environment is a priority for our families. Think about your own community and the place you live in. Some of us can trust that our children can step outside and breathe the air without damaging their lungs. But for many people in the US, especially people of color, every breath of air means harm to the body. Many are forced to contend daily with the transgression of polluting industries.
Access to a clean environment is widely disparate between communities, and the disparities are not random. Pollution is systematically situated in communities that have less wealth and political power to stop it. The principle that all people have equal right to a clean and safe environment is termed environmental justice. In the US, the communities most impacted are Black, Latinx, and Indigenous. The fact that pollution disproportionately harms people of color is an effect of systematic racism and is termed environmental racism.
You may be familiar with some examples of environmental racism: The water crisis in Flint, where a majority-black community has been denied the necessary resources to keep lead out of the water supply. An area in Louisiana, with a high percentage of black and poor residents, is known as “Cancer Alley” because it has the highest cancer rates in the nation from roughly 150 fossil fuel and petrochemical facilities. In Texas, an Exxon oil refinery has been pumping toxic chemicals into the air of a mostly African American neighborhood for decades, despite civil rights complaints with the EPA.
Like other environmental harms, air pollution is disproportionately concentrated in communities of color. A 2014 study found that people of color are exposed to 38% more toxic air pollution, on average, than whites, and the racial gap remains even when accounting for differing income levels. Similarly, A 2019 study found that Black and Latino people experience 56 and 63 percent more air pollution (respectively) than they cause by their consumption, while white people experience about 17 percent less air pollution than they produce through consumption.
In all of these cases, communities of color are sidelined and forced to bear the environmental damage of our economy.
Amazon is complicit
Amazon’s operations are complicit in environmental racism. Amazon’s logistics network of trucks spew climate-change-causing greenhouse gases and toxic particles as they drive to and from warehouses that are concentrated near Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. Public warehouse facility location data from MWPVL International indicates 80% of Amazon’s non-corporate facilities are located in zip codes that have a higher percentage of people of color than the majority of populated zip codes in their metropolitan area. This is represented by the facilities shown above the line in the graph below.
The graph shows that the majority of Amazon’s facilities are located in zip codes that have a higher percentage of POCs than the majority of zip codes in their metropolitan area. This indicates that when Amazon builds its logistics infrastructure in a metropolitan area, it’s likely to put them in neighborhoods where a high proportion of the community is Black, Latinx, or Indigenous. In contrast, Amazon’s corporate offices are in zip codes with smaller percentages of Black, Latinx and Indigenous residents, falling below the line in the graph above. Amazon’s logistics infrastructure, and its associated pollution, is concentrated in communities of color.
A major hub of Amazon’s logistics network is in the Inland Empire, an area east of Los Angeles comprising San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Amazon has 23 warehouses in the Inland Empire, centered around the city of San Bernardino. Amazon is the largest private employer in the area, and its presence in the region continues to expand: Amazon was recently announced as the tenant for a highly controversial airport expansion, where Prime Air planes will bring even more harmful pollution. EarthJustice.org reports that “The [new] airport terminal threatens to generate one ton of toxic air pollution every single day,” with over 500 new truck trips a day.
The residents who face this pollution are majority Latinx, and many are immigrants. These residents already face the worst ozone levels in America, according to reports from 2020 and 2019. The same reports rank San Bernardino and Riverside counties in the top 10 worst year-round soot levels nationwide.
The American Lung Association reports that exposure to ozone pollution can lead to increased asthma rates, increased risk of respiratory infections, increased risk of needing to be hospitalized related to asthma or other lung diseases, low birth weight and decreased lung function in newborns, and premature death. Year-round soot, or particle pollution, exposure has similar negative effects. Research has linked year-round particle pollution to the development of asthma in children, the worsening of COPD in adults, and slowed lung growth function in children and adolescents. A recent report found that people with COVID-19 who are exposed to higher levels of soot are more likely to die from the disease. Air pollution also damages the immune system, leaving those who have been exposed to air pollution at greater risk.
This reality cannot be brushed aside as an inevitable downside of economic progress: it results from calculations to ensure maximum profit, backed by the economic and political clout to get away with the resulting damage. Without considerations for whose communities will be harmed, Black and Latinx communities will continue to bear the brunt of Amazon’s pollution. We must understand the stories from community members, realize that this injustice is unacceptable, and fight for a possibility that respects and values all people.
Communities are fighting back
Communities on the front lines have not been silent. In the Inland Empire, several community groups are fighting back against the expansion of the San Bernardino airport. The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), Sierra Club, Teamsters Local 1932, Warehouse Worker Resource Center, Inland Congregations United for Change and more have joined together as the San Bernardino Airport Community Coalition and are fighting for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between Amazon and the community surrounding the San Bernardino airport. If Amazon signs the CBA, the company would be required to provide living wage jobs for local residents, zero emissions electric trucks, and other mitigations against pollution that the development will cause.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), a group of tech workers allied in the effort for environmental justice, supports CCAEJ in their fight for a CBA with Amazon. Communities like the Inland Empire are affected by pollution that they didn’t create. This may sound familiar: globally, the people affected by climate change first and hardest are often minority communities that have polluted the least. The goals of climate justice and environmental justice are aligned: ensure that the effects of pollution and climate change are not disproportionately borne by communities of color.
AECJ and CCAEJ want Amazon to address the racial equity gap that its current Climate Pledge is missing, including:
- Zero emissions by 2030 while investing first in communities most impacted by Amazon’s pollution.
- All new warehouse development projects or warehouse leases require that the developer has signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). The already proposed CBA addresses concerns for both clean air and good jobs, including: zero emission delivery vehicles and permanent jobs with living wages and health benefits.
- Racial Equity Impact Assessments integrated into business decisions to determine whether communities of color will be disproportionately harmed.
Appendix: Distribution of Amazon’s warehouse operations
80% of Amazon’s non-corporate facilities are located in zip codes that have a higher percentage of people of color than the majority of populated zip codes in their metropolitan area.
Notes on methodology:
- For the purposes of this investigation, we focused on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities of color in the United States. We approximated the percentage of people belonging to these groups in each zip code using ACS variables B03002e4, B03002e5, and B03002e12.
- We chose zip code as the most granular connection between ACS data and building address. Zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) to zip code mapping is approximate; more info can be found on the Census website.
- Median zip code is calculated by sorting all zip codes in a given metropolitan area (e.g. Seattle, WA) by the percentage described above, then selecting the middle zip code (or, averaging between the two middle zip codes in cases where there was an even number of zip codes). Zip codes with 0 population were excluded. A value in the x-axis of the graph can be read as follows — a data point in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA region with an x-axis value of 11.38% implies that half of populated zip codes in the Seattle area are less than 11.38% Black, Latinx, and Indigenous.
- We chose percentage in the median zip code rather than aggregate percentage in the metropolitan area as a comparison point to include the impact that disproportionate population density has in exposing people of color to the effects of environmental racism — white communities are often less dense, with zip codes that are both larger in area and less populated. This tends to mean that there are a lot of zip codes to choose from that don’t include a high population of people of color within a given city, even in metropolitan areas with large communities of color. In a non-segregated metropolitan area, median and aggregate percentages would be equivalent.
- Amazon Fulfillment Center, Sortation Center, Air Hub, and Inbound Cross Dock Locations: MWPVL 
- Corporate Locations: We were unable to source a publicly available list of Amazon corporate offices. We searched for for office addresses for the biggest Amazon corporate locations  in the United States (Seattle , Northern Virginia [4, 5], New York , the Bay Area [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14], Boston , and Los Angeles .
- Demographic Data: American Community Survey 2014–2018 5-Year Data by Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) 
- Metropolitan Area Data: HUD Crosswalk 
- Jeff’s Houses [19, 20]
book ordered from Pluto Press by Murray to be read as time allows
Satellite images show online shopping’s growing footprint
Warehouses are moving closer to neighborhoods and bringing pollution with them
A box travels down a conveyor at Amazon’s San Bernardino Fulfillment Center October 29, 2013 in San Bernardino, California. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
You might not see it each time you make a purchase, but online shopping takes up a lot of space in the real world. The number of warehouses built to keep e-commerce running smoothly is growing quickly, and they’re creeping closer to neighborhoods in order to meet consumers’ expectations for quick deliveries.
ONLINE SHOPPING HAS CHANGED THE LANDSCAPE
These images taken by satellite show how dramatically online shopping has changed the landscape of one county in California. I grew up in this county, and I’ve seen that transformation happen in person. A lot of the stuff that Americans buy passes through here. The nearby ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle about 40 percent of all goods Americans import. Once it gets off a ship, most of that stuff is quickly sent inland to “dry ports,” another term for warehouses and distribution centers that sort packages and send them off to their final destinations.
Visual of warehouse development around the San Bernardino airport from 2005 (Left) to 2018 (Right). The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice has a more interactive map of the warehouses surrounding the airport.Images: CCAEJ / ESRI
The satellite imagery shows the explosive growth of warehouses surrounding the San Bernardino International Airport between 2005 and 2018. On Google Maps, you can see what businesses occupy some of those huge structures: Amazon, PepsiCo, Clorox, Kohl’s, and Mars Petcare (the parent company for well-known pet food brands like Pedigree and Iams). San Bernardino County and neighboring Riverside County together — a region called the Inland Empire — make up one of the biggest logistics and distribution hubs in the US. San Bernardino alone has enough warehouse space to fill more than 5,100 football fields, about 300 million square feet, according to a 2018 report.
“When you press purchase on Amazon or online, it doesn’t just magically appear at your door. There’s an entire infrastructure that moves those goods and the impact is really felt in different places, especially in the Inland Empire,” says Faraz Rizvi, a special projects coordinator at the local nonprofit Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ). (CCAEJ’s webpage has an interactive map of the warehouses surrounding the airport.)
WAREHOUSES ARE MAGNETS FOR TAILPIPE POLLUTION
CCAEJ took these images with the help of geographic information system company Esri to show how this community is in some ways paying for the environmental and health costs of purchases people are making elsewhere. What you can’t see in the photos is the flurry of trucks, trains, and planes taking goods to and from these warehouses. The warehouses are magnets for tailpipe pollution. And San Bernardino County has consistently had the worst smog in the US, according to annual reports from the American Lung Association.
More warehouses are on the way in the Inland Empire and will probably bring more truck traffic and pollution with them. (Some city leaders welcome the boom in warehouse jobs. Rizvi, on the other hand, worries that many of those jobs are seasonal or temporary and don’t necessarily come with a living wage.) The San Bernardino airport is expanding with the construction of a $200 million air cargo facility into which Amazon is moving. Globally, the warehousing industry is expected to keep growing over the next several years.
San Bernardino, Sept. 7th, 2007: An aerial view of San Bernardino International Airport which has attracted some major businesses, like Kohl’s, Pep Boys Auto, Mattel, and Stater Bros. to establish warehouses. Photo by Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The pandemic isn’t slowing this trend down much. There’s more demand for warehouse space because people are shopping online more. On top of that, some retailers are keeping more inventory on hand because of disruptions to supply chains during the global crisis. And items that didn’t sell as much this year as they normally do — like summer clothes — are still sitting and taking up space.
The place where I grew up is changing a lot because of e-commerce. And soon, your hometown could see changes, too. Amazon has reportedly looked into snatching up old brick-and-mortar department stores and revamping them into distribution centers to be closer to their customers.
“You can see as you leave any city nowadays you have this whole strip of warehouses dedicated to online shopping fulfillment,” says Sharon Cullinane, a professor of sustainable logistics at the University of Gothenburg. “You have to have warehouses that are closer and closer to the centers of population so that they can do these half-hour deliveries — it’s a bit mad really.”
How a warehouse boom is impacting minority, low-income residents
Recent proposals calling for rezoning residential land for industrial use are leaving mostly minority and low-income residents in the Inland Empire with few choices.
Author: Orlando Mayorquin (CalMatters)Updated: 4:59 PM PST February 12, 2021
CALIFORNIA, USA — When Victoria Padilla steps outside her childhood home in Bloomington, she inhales some of the unhealthiest air in the nation. It’s why, despite an aversion for public speaking, she needed little convincing from her neighbor to appear at a planning commission meeting two years ago. But after testifying alongside dozens of upset residents, the commission eventually approved the West Valley Logistics Center — six to seven warehouses totaling 3.4 million square feet, roughly 59 football fields.
Today, a blue tarp fence sections off more than 200 acres of land down the street from her home, signaling the project’s arrival. The warehouse complex will be nestled at the base of a hill just 200 feet from homes in Bloomington, an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County. It will rise on what was for many years an unofficial recreational area for the neighborhood where Padilla and her friends rode their bikes.
It wasn’t the first warehouse, and it won’t be the last.
Driven by skyrocketing ecommerce, the Inland Empire’s warehouse boom has created an insatiable appetite for land, encroaching on established low-income neighborhoods such as Padilla’s, clogging roads and spewing air pollution. But while the warehouses once went up on undeveloped tracts of land, recent proposals have called for rezoning residential land for industrial use, instilling fear among residents that their communities are being razed right before their eyes in the name of economic development. In one case, the county is planning to “upzone” entire blocks of Bloomington, leaving nothing but a business park between a middle school and an elementary school.
Credit: Photo by Tash Kimmell for Calmatters.
Victoria Padilla, a lifelong Bloomington resident, in her front yard on Dec. 18. 2020.
Environmental activists, who have at best slowed the pace of construction, vow to keep fighting despite fierce political and economic headwinds.
“We cannot normalize or naturalize what’s happening,” said Andrea Vidaurre, a former member of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, which has opposed local logistics projects. “This stuff isn’t happening anywhere else in the country.”
Building up logistics
The first major warehouses lined the Inland Empire along Interstate 15 in Ontario in the 1980s. Carved up by major highways and railways, flush with cheap land and situated less than 60 miles from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, the region offered an ideal home for vast distribution and warehousing networks. Since then, commercial complexes have chewed their way east, many overtaking Latino immigrant communities formed there by the lure of affordable homes.
Today, Amazon, which has 14 facilities in the region, has become the area’s largest employer with 20,000 employees. And real estate company CBRE estimates more than 18 million square feet of new warehouse space is under construction in the Inland Empire.
Warehouse work has also proven resilient during the pandemic. Logistics is one of few sectors that have added jobs in San Bernardino and Riverside counties in the pandemic. As a result, local governments continue to clamor for more warehousing, convinced by the lure of what is believed to be appropriate job creation for a region with lower levels of education attainment.
“It seems like our decision makers here bend over backwards to build up logistics,” said UC Riverside professor Juliann Allison, who studies warehousing in Southern California. “And they’re not doing it for other existing or potential industries.”
Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who goes by the nickname “Warehouse Warren,” lauds her city’s transformation into a supply chain hub. Logistics accounts for nearly 12,000 jobs in the city of 200,000 residents, with big employers including Amazon and Target. Fontana, which borders Bloomington, boasts 54 million square feet of warehouse space, second most in the Inland Empire behind Ontario, according to real estate group Cushman and Wakefield.
Communities boxed in
But many residents in neighboring Bloomington aren’t keen on reshaping and polluting their communities for jobs that are typically lower-wage, lack benefits and are often temporary.
Credit: Tash Kimmell for CalMAtters.
A party supply, and grocery store in Bloomingtom, CA., on Dec. 18, 2020. Photo by
A 2018 UC Riverside report found that less than 40% of IE jobs offered a living wage, which is calculated to be $18 an hour or $36,000 a year for a family of four with two working parents.
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for the region’s warehouse workers is roughly $33,390.
Bloomington is more than 80% Hispanic and every census tract is low-income, according to a report from San Bernardino County. The pollution burden for Padilla’s neighborhood is higher than 97% of census tracts in California.
Less than a mile north of Padilla’s home, houses were demolished to make way for a 677,000-square-foot warehouse in 2018. Another mile north on Slover Ave., a newly built 344,000-square-foot distribution center stands over a row of homes, awaiting its first occupants. A mile east of Padilla, in the bordering city of Rialto, a new 2.2 million-square-foot facility that will house Amazon and XPO Logistics next to another Bloomington neighborhood is nearly complete. All but one project involved the rezoning of residential land for industrial use.
And just last month, the county began reviewing a proposal to rezone 213 acres of Bloomington land to make way for a business park with up to 3 million square feet of potential warehouse space between a middle school and an elementary school.
Residents worry about pollution
While air pollution in Southern California has improved dramatically over the last few decades thanks to tougher regulation, San Bernardino County reported that its air quality saw a decline from 2008 to 2018. The region, boxed in by mountains to the north and east, experiences heavy levels of pollutants blown in from Los Angeles in addition to what’s spewed locally by diesel trucks. This includes particulate pollution, which disproportionately affects low-income Californians of color, according to a study from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Padilla, 35, has found herself reaching for her inhaler daily for the first time in her life. Her parents and older siblings, who had called Bloomington home for more than four decades and also dealt with respiratory illnesses, left their home because they had found it too difficult to breathe. Between 2012 and 2019, the population of Bloomington dropped 17%, from 25,735 to 21,847.
She connects her difficulty breathing to the warehouses surrounding her community.
“When it finally clicked, I was like ‘I can’t breathe anymore,’” Padilla said. “Should I be moving? Should I go somewhere where I can actually breathe again?”
Community activists mobilize
Credit: Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters
Gabrielle Thetfore stands for a portrait outside the county government office in San Bernardino on Feb. 9, 2021. Her two-year-old son was diagnosed with asthma which she believes is because of poor local air quality.
Environmental activists have largely failed to stop the warehouses, winning just a few concessions from developers.
After failing to halt the approval of the West Valley Logistics Center, the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice sued Fontana and developers for alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. The group secured a confidential settlement it claims guarantees additional pollution mitigation.
The group is currently locked in a battle with the City of Moreno Valley over its approval of the World Logistics Center, a 40 million-square-foot warehouse facility activists say would be the largest in the world.
Now, CCAEJ and other groups are engaged in early action against the new proposal in Bloomington, staging a demonstration outside a county board of supervisors meeting and collecting public comments opposing the project.
“Let’s have some responsible land use decisions,” said Thomas Rocha, co-founder of Concerned Neighbors of Bloomington. “Put warehouses in commercial areas and leave residential areas alone.”
Rocha and his wife formed an anti-warehouse community group in 2015 in an effort to halt a warehouse project behind their home, a battle they ultimately lost. Today, Rocha offers a voice against rezoning as a newly appointed member of Bloomington’s municipal advisory council.
Miss out or join in?
But other Bloomington leaders are tired of missing out on the warehouse boom. They think the community should join the race, even if it means sacrificing residential land.
Gary Grossich, chair of Bloomington’s municipal advisory council, sees the revenue generated by warehouse development as a potential solution for a community beset by blight and poor public services. Four warehouses have gone up in Bloomington in the last three years, with two requiring the rezoning of residential land.
“We need the revenue and we need the money,” Grossich said. “And I’m tired of watching it go right across on the other side of the street from our homes and our businesses and our schools and other cities reaping the benefits while we get…nothing for it.”
This article is part of the California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.
Amazon triples Southern California delivery hubs to get packages out faster
With an average of 3.1 million packages delivered daily, the e-commerce giant added 23 suburban hubs since late 2019, raising traffic and environmental concerns.
An Amazon “last-mile” delivery station in Mission Viejo, CA, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. In a mad dash to speed up distribution and keep up with increasing online sales, Amazon tripled its suburban logistics nodes in Southern California from nine to 32 in 2020. The expansion will increase Amazon’s “last-mile” footprint to 5.2 million square feet, nearly quadrupling its space in the region. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
PUBLISHED: March 26, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. | UPDATED: March 29, 2021 at 6:51 p.m.
The big trucks arrive in the dark, bearing Xboxes, bento boxes, printers and playsets.
After dawn, cargo vans load up with everything from apple slicers to yoga mats, then fan out into the neighborhoods, where drivers knock and drop, then speed off to their next delivery.
Now, with online shopping skyrocketing amid last year’s pandemic lockdowns, e-commerce retailers are scrambling to open more and more “last-mile” delivery stations in a mad dash to speed up distribution. And no one is expanding faster than Amazon.
Last year, the Seattle-based tech giant tripled its suburban logistics nodes from nine to 32 in Southern California, adding new hubs from Mission Viejo to Palmdale, from Playa Vista to Upland.
The expansion will increase Amazon’s “last-mile” distribution footprint to 5.2 million square feet, nearly quadrupling its space in the region and dwarfing acquisitions by all other competing retailers and logistics firms.
“We are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop sites to best serve customers,” Amazon spokeswoman Eileen Hards said in an email.
Amazon declined to provide more details about its expansion plans, saying “we don’t provide information on our future roadmap.”
But commercial real estate executives and other retailers said it’s all part of a nationwide e-commerce explosion that’s driving up the cost of industrial property while driving down industrial vacancy rates.
“There’s more demand for space because e-commerce is booming,” said Ryan Patap, a Los Angeles-based market analytics director for commercial real estate data firm CoStar.
Last year’s e-commerce sales were up at least 32% from pre-pandemic levels, with 2020 estimates ranging from $792 billion to $861 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Digital Commerce 360.
In Southern California’s four-county region, consumers spent an estimated $12.5 billion buying goods just through Amazon last year, up almost 38%, according to a separate analysis by the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles-based non-profit policy research group.
In all, Amazon delivered an estimated 1.1 billion packages in the region last year, up from 834 million in 2019, the Economic Roundtable estimated.
“There’s an absolute boom going on with e-commerce and industrial space, and it’s impacting real estate in a huge way,” said logistics investor Joe Mishurda, managing partner for Newport Beach-based North Palisade Partners, which owns land in Lynwood and Anaheim used for parking off-duty delivery vehicles and trucks.
“What people expected to happen in 20 years happened in one year with COVID,” Mishurda said. “People are adopting e-commerce at a greater rate.”
Speeding up deliveries
Last-mile delivery is the final crucial step in a complex, global supply chain that focuses on getting packages to customers’ doorsteps in as little as a day.
Amazon has been speeding up its network since 2013, using last-mile sites as way stations to get its products through congested, densely populated areas.
Cargo vans line up at a former Wickes Furniture store in Anaheim, CA, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Amazon leased 143,248 square feet at the site in December 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The hubs range in size from an 18,600-square-foot station in Buena Park to a 620,000-square-foot building in the City of Industry that’s so big cargo vans could be seen driving into it on a recent Wednesday.
Typically, semi-trailer trucks deliver packages from Inland Empire fulfillment centers to smaller delivery stations at night, when freeway traffic is light.
Then drivers for private contractors working with Amazon’s delivery service partners and “Amazon Flex” programs load up Sprinter vans and fan out during the day, using hand-held tracking and navigation devices.
Working alone in 10-hour shifts, drivers deliver well over 100 packages a day — and more during the holidays.
The company’s goal is to have virtually all of Southern California within a 45-minute drive of a delivery station.
The 32 last-mile sites Amazon either owns, leases or is developing in the region don’t include at least 19 large fulfillment centers, sorting centers and air cargo facilities based mainly in the Inland Empire, with nearly 13 million square feet of space, according to an internal research report by the Teamsters and data from logistics consulting firm MWPVL International. Nor does it include property Amazon owns or leases in the region for movie production or for off-duty van and truck parking.
The giant Inland Empire fulfillment centers — some as big as 800 single-family homes — are too far from populous areas for rapid deliveries, said John Husing, an Inland Empire economist.
“As Amazon is increasingly under pressure to do one-day delivery, they’ve got the aircraft carriers out here, (but) you need those subsidiary facilities to deliver because you can’t do it all from (the Inland Empire),” the Redlands-based economist said in a phone interview. “It takes too long, and the traffic is too bad. So hopefully you can move it at night when there’s low traffic.”
Nineteen of Amazon’s 23 new last-mile sites are in Los Angeles and Orange counties, home to three-fourths of the region’s population. Seventeen of its 19 large-scale fulfillment, sorting and air cargo centers are in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The new delivery stations range from a converted Costco in Torrance to a former Wickes Furniture store in Anaheim and a former Mattel toys distribution center in the City of Industry.
Amazon plans to build a new 112,485-square-foot warehouse on the “Field of Greens,” a vacant lot behind the former Orange County Register building in Santa Ana where the Second Harvest Food Bank used to grow produce. Amazon paid $63.2 million for the former newspaper site on Oct. 19.
Ten days before that, the company paid $112.5 million to buy a 31-acre bell pepper farm in Irvine. Documents filed with the city show Amazon plans to build a 145,419-square-foot warehouse on the site, with 735 parking stalls for delivery vans.
Amazon also is in the process of converting the former Mitsubishi North America headquarters in Cypress into another logistics site, leaving the automaker’s sleek, glass office building on busy Katella Avenue vacant for the duration of the 10-year lease to screen off trucking activities, a city report said.
“It will simply stay up for aesthetic reasons,” Nancy Shultz, Southern California market leader for property owner Duke Realty, said of the empty Mitsubishi building.
The local expansion is part of a nationwide push.
Amazon’s North American logistics network increased 50% in 2020, according to the company’s year-end earnings report.
That included the purchase or lease of 101 million square feet of space last year for fulfillment and data centers and other uses, the report said.
Amazon operates about 400 last-mile delivery centers in the United States, according to MWPVL International. Bloomberg News reported the company eventually plans to increase that capacity to 1,000 to 1,500 small delivery hubs to bring goods closer to consumers.
As Amazon builds out its last-mile capacity, its reliance on third-party logistics firms, the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS has decreased.
Locally, the number of warehouse workers, drivers and others working for Amazon directly or through private contractors jumped 61% last year to 92,000 employees, the Economic Roundtable estimated.
Amazon Sprinter vans drive up a ramp and into Amazon’s 620,000-square-foot “last-mile” distribution station in the City of Industry on March 3, 2021. The new Amazon hub once was used as a distribution site for toy maker Mattel. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Meanwhile, large property investors and real estate investment trusts like Duke Realty are scouring the landscape in search of sites in well-developed areas with empty warehouses and plenty of parking — especially those in close proximity to freeways and rooftops.
In Los Angeles and Orange counties, demand for those properties is insatiable, even as other property sectors, like offices and shopping malls, are seeing vacancies rise and values fall, real estate executives said.
“It’s one of the most valuable pieces of real estate,” said Shultz, Duke Realty’s Southern California market leader.
Amazon clearly is the region’s biggest player, absorbing one-tenth of Southern California’s vacant industrial space in 2020, figures from commercial real estate brokerage Colliers show. The next closest competitor, XPO Logistics, absorbed half that space last year.
But others are vying for last-mile hubs as well. Home improvement chains, furniture outlets, apparel and consumer product providers are all expanding their delivery networks.
Clothing company Americhine, which sells the Band of Gypsies line of Bohemian women’s wear, leased a 170,692-square-foot building in La Palma last fall to handle online sales.
“It’s been amazing to see with the pandemic how many people have shifted to online retail sales,” said Karina Wukelic of Producre Inc., the brokerage that represented Americhine in the deal.
Walmart, which recently launched its new Amazon Prime-style Walmart Plus program, is taking a slightly different approach to meet free-delivery promises. It plans to convert about 100 of its existing stores in two years into mini-fulfillment centers that use automation to gather the products ordered online. Customers will have the option to retrieve those items at new pickup stations or have them delivered.
“Walmart has 4,700 stores, so it has stores within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population,” said Walmart spokesperson Camille Dunn. “That’s really a competitive advantage for us when it comes to the last mile.”
Not everyone is thrilled to see trucking centers proliferate across Southern California.
A proposed logistics center sparked a citizen uprising in Cypress in 2013. Last summer, a community group sued the city of Upland over its decision to approve a 201,000-acre warehouse next to the Cable Airport, reportedly for a new Amazon distribution center.
The suit maintains Upland failed to do an adequate environmental assessment of the proposed warehouse’s impact on traffic and air pollution.
Some neighborhood leaders in the region say increased traffic concerns them as well.
John Bailey, president of the Southeast Torrance Homeowners’ Association, worries about how a new Amazon delivery station in an empty Costco building will affect traffic on Crenshaw and Hawthorne boulevards, especially during rush hour. And where will all those trucks refuel, he asked.
A city report “made it seem the traffic impact is going to be nothing,” Bailey said. “That’s hard to believe.”
A report by the Economic Roundtable found that Amazon’s Inland Empire fulfillment centers have significant environmental impacts while its workforce struggles to make ends meet off wages starting at $15 an hour.
The report found that in 2018, 21,500 truckloads created an estimated $642 million in uncompensated public costs for noise, road wear, accidents and harmful emissions.
Daniel Flaming, an urban planner and the Economic Roundtable’s president, said the new last-mile distribution centers will have negative impacts as well, especially when they’re adjacent to residential neighborhoods. That’s the case for at least three new last-mile hubs.
“It would be horrific if you owned a home next to one of these distribution centers,” Flaming said. “All those loaded trucks have significant road wear issues as well as congestion issues, noise issues and pollution issues.”
Although Amazon operates a massive fleet of carbon-emitting ships, planes and trucks, it’s also a major backer of several environmental initiatives, most notably The Climate Pledge. The company was among the first vowing to be net-zero by 2040.
In June, the company also set aside $2 billion for a new Climate Pledge Fund, investing in companies with products or solutions that will hasten the planet’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
Amazon also announced plans last year to buy 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles produced by Irvine-based electric truck maker Rivian.
Amazon, which began testing the new vans in Los Angeles in February, plans to have 10,000 Rivians delivering packages to customers by 2022 and all 100,000 by 2030.
“What you see here (is) the future of last-mile delivery,” Ross Rachey, director of Amazon’s Global Fleet and Products, said in a statement last October.
Even many of Amazon’s critics concede they buy products through the e-commerce giant.
Rossmoor neighborhood leader Gary Stewart, who joined the 2013 fight against the Cypress logistics site and worries about the new Amazon site at the former Mitsubishi headquarters, admitted his wife buys goods regularly through the company’s website.
“(Amazon founder Jeff) Bezos put together a killer machine, no doubt about it,” Stewart said. “It runs almost flawlessly for its size.”
The paradox wasn’t lost on Mishurda, the Newport Beach logistics investor.
“Everyone wants that package in two hours,” Mishurda said. “But nobody wants that warehouse in their backyard.”
An Amazon Sprinter van heads out to make deliveries after loading up at a “last-mile” distribution station in the 9300 block of Rayo Ave. in South Gate on March 3, 2021. The new delivery station, which has 213,232 square feet, began operations in early 2020, according to CoStar and logistics consultant MWPVL International. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Anti-smog agencies offer $20 million for Inland warehouses to dump diesel trucks
A semi-truck turns into an Amazon Fulfillment center in Eastvale on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
PUBLISHED: November 12, 2020 at 3:59 p.m. | UPDATED: November 12, 2020 at 4:17 p.m.
Warehouses and massive distribution centers built in the Inland Empire are a double-edged sword: They bring economic development and jobs along with diesel trucks that contribute to lung-damaging air pollution.
Two anti-smog agencies on Friday, Nov. 6, unleashed incentives totaling $20 million to entice existing warehouses, from Amazon to Walmart to smaller operators, to swap out diesel-burning delivery trucks and off-road cargo-movement equipment with zero-emission or near-zero emission vehicles.
A semi-truck leaves an Amazon Fulfillment in Eastvale on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
The program, run by the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC) and approved by the South Coast Air Quality Management District board, lays out $14 million for purchasing clean semi-trucks and $6 million for replacing diesel forklifts, tractors and side-loaders used to move cargo.
Companies can apply for competitive grants at an informational webinar on Wednesday, Nov. 18, the agencies said. The applications are due Jan. 15 and will be awarded by March, said Ray Gorsky, MSRC’s technical adviser. The special grants are open to San Bernardino and Riverside county companies receiving goods at their facilities by heavy-duty diesel trucks and are funded by a $4 surcharge on vehicle licenses.
“E-commerce has had a profound impact on our air,” Larry McCallon, chairman of the MSRC and mayor of Highland, said Wednesday, Nov. 11. “Even with the pandemic it has gotten worse. Air quality challenges continue to impact public health in the region.”
Removing the air pollution from diesel big-rigs and cargo equipment can make a significant impact on reducing smog, because diesel trucks moving packages and all kinds of goods account for 47% of all the NOx, shorthand for oxides of nitrogen, in the four-county air basin. NOx is a key component in the creation of ground-level ozone.
Big-rigs powered by diesel fuel can be seen every day on the 10, 15, 60, 210 and 215 freeways. About 70% of the cargo from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach travels by heavy-duty diesel trucks throughout Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. But logistics centers in the Riverside and San Bernardino counties take 40% of that haul, the Southern California Association of Governments reported.
“We are disproportionately impacted by our freight activity,” said McCallon, noting any cutback in diesel truck emissions will bring health benefits to the region. The impacts are more acute for communities near freeways and rail yards, he said.
Air pollution studies show ozone, produced when pollutants “cook” in sunlight, and fine particulates, a direct component of diesel soot, and can cause asthma attacks, emergency room visits and lung damage. Fine particulates pass more easily into the lungs and even the brain, McCallon said.
Some of the roadblocks to replacing large diesel trucks include price and availability. The SCAQMD and the California Air Resources Board are working with manufacturers to produce electric and hydrogen-powered heavy-duty trucks, McCallon said. Until those are fully commercially available, the applicants can buy low-NOx trucks that are approved by CARB.
“Low-NOX trucks are available,” said McCallon, an SCAQMD board member. “Low-NOx we can do now, an immediate step we can get reductions right away.”
Electric truck and cargo movement equipment need charging infrastructure integrated into the logistic centers, which can be funded through the grant program, Gorsky said.
“And zero-emission trucks are in development and will become more ubiquitous as we go along,” McCallon said.
The Amazon air cargo logistics center under construction at San Bernardino International Airport will have zero-emission off-road cargo handling equipment within that facility, McCallon said. The facility, once known as Eastgate, was sued by the state and environmental groups, challenging the FAA’s conclusion that it will have no significant impacts on the environment.
Warehousing, automation and the future of the Inland Empire
The Inland Empire’s logistics industry, which fueled much of the region’s economic recovery, is expected to add 9,000 jobs in 2019, after 12,917 were created in 2018. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
By FARAZ RIZVI |
PUBLISHED: March 31, 2019 at 10:04 p.m. | UPDATED: March 31, 2019 at 10:04 p.m.
The Inland Empire is the fastest growing region in California — the affordability of our homes as well as strong economic growth in different sectors has made our region look promising over the past few years. Reports from the Bureau of Labor show that employment in the region has grown at 22 percent in the last 6 years. Since the Great Recession of 2008, the Inland Empire’s labor markets have managed an overall remarkable recovery. Or so it seems: in reality, the economic situation in the region is less than ideal.
Much of the growth has been in low wage sectors, primarily in warehousing and transportation, meaning that despite increases in employment, there has not been a significant increase in earnings. Furthermore, with a slew of new warehousing developments in Riverside and Fontana, this trend is not expected to change anytime soon. By promoting this type of growth, our leaders are making the wrong investment in our communities’ future.
According to a report from the Center for Social Innovation jobs in transportation and warehousing have grown fastest in the region, more than doubling from about 60,000 in 2010 to 128,000 in 2017. Due to this increase in low-wage sectors, the overall income growth has not really pulled many people out of poverty. In fact another report by the Brookings Institution shows only 38 percent of jobs in the Inland Empire pay people enough to make ends meet. This means a whopping 784,000 jobs provide insufficient pay or benefits and provide no viable career pathway to a good job. On top of this, meager wage growth
By approving more warehousing developments, our leaders are maintaining anemic economic growth that does not benefit our communities in the long term, nor change levels of income distribution that makes it difficult for families to make ends meet. Compounded with this relatively hollow economic growth, the specter of automation and an increasingly tech savvy economy threaten to upend these already non-competitive labor markets. In fact, warehousing and transportation are both expected to be severely impacted by automation: about 57 percent of warehousing jobs are expected to be replaced. Unless we find ways to deal with this type of disruption, the effect on our communities could be devastating.
Investments in higher education have, in fact, provided longer lasting growth and offer a higher economic payoff. Following the opening of Loma Linda medical school, and furthered by the UC Riverside School of medicine healthcare jobs have seen a massive overall increase, with a total of 85,000 jobs since 2010. Furthermore, this number is expected to grow given that there is still a shortage of medical professionals in the Inland Empire and more graduates who are expected to enter the economy as healthcare professionals.
Promoting education and college-ready students is a foundational investment in the future prosperity of the Inland Empire. Efforts such as those by Assemblymember Cervantes to open a law school in Riverside are crucial in giving graduates in the humanities different avenues to pursue a career. However, resources towards K-12 students need to be emphasized as well, with a focus on equal access to stem programs and programs to encourage youth leadership. Roughly 20 percent of adults in the region hold Bachelor’s degrees, significantly lower than the state average of about 31 percent. These numbers show a lack of investment in education that disproportionately affects lower income communities.
Warehousing, which also has a negative environmental effect, is not adequate for long term growth in our communities, and delivers misleading information about the state of the Inland Empire’s economy. By prioritizing education and putting resources toward fostering college ready high school graduates, our leaders will create the conditions to foster competitive, high earning job growth and be a critical step in ensuring an equal playing field for all of our communities.
One Southern California Region’s Air Quality Is Being Affected By Amazon’s Shipping And Warehouse Expansion
At nearly 30,000 square miles, with a population of nearly five million and a 2019 GDP of just under $200 billion, Southern California’s Inland Empire is not the boondocks region many people in LA think it is. The last few years have seen global online giant Amazon set its sights on Southern California, with the Inland Empire getting most of the company’s regional hubs. While bringing jobs and boosting local economies, economic success has come at a cost.
As the Guardian reports, Amazon has helped make the region’s air quality, already the worst in the nation, worse.
The Inland Empire (locally, we refer to it as the I.E.) 50 to 70 years ago used to be one of the nation’s premier citrus growing regions. Every city and small town grew acres of oranges and lemons. There were even brands specific to certain cities. My hometown of Ontario for instance was known for growing and selling Washington navel oranges under the Highway brand. But as the years went on and the global supply chain became a thing, those lush valleys of citrus groves gave way to millions of square feet of warehouses along with streets and freeways to carry those goods.
Nearly every city in the region now has a warehouse, from small buildings of 8,000 to 10,000 square feet in office parks to sprawling warehouses that have hundreds of thousands of square feet of space and are nearly a mile long. Surface streets and local freeways are clogged with thousands of trucks churning out atmosphere destroying emissions. And Amazon has made things worse.
First, one may wonder why Amazon (and other companies) is attracted to the I.E. in the first place. The region’s combination of access to the LA and Long Beach ports, transportation network access and the number of airports that can handle commercial cargo all combine to make things ideal for shipping and moving cargo. Amazon arrived here in 2012 with its first fulfillment center in San Bernardino. There are now over 30 Amazon centers employing more than 30,000 people. Ten of those were built in the last two to three years. Many of the facilities are less than 35 miles from one another and are in suburban areas. When I say suburban, I literally mean across the street from single-family homes.
The Peoples Collective For Environmental Justice compiled a report that found that pollution from trucks leaving Amazon warehouses directly correlates to the region’s bad air quality. With Amazon shipping constantly increasing, air pollutants have increased as well, and this disproportionately affects people of color. The most damning data from the report: 640 schools being within 0.5 miles of a warehouse and the irony that Amazon’s warehouses here are in areas that generally don’t do a lot of online shopping. From the report:
“Amazon touts being strong on climate, but actions demonstrate that they are in fact doing the opposite by continuing to build warehouses near communities of color without considering existing cumulative impacts.”
With over 30 Amazon facilities in the whole region, some cities have more than one. My city has five; three are on the same street. And somehow Amazon is able to fly its Prime Air cargo planes out of the local Air Force base.
What can be done about this? The South Coast Air Quality Management District has proposed new warehouse emissions rules that would be among some of the first in the country. Called the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule, it would require warehouses to reduce or stop harmful emissions or pay a fee until the problems are corrected. Whatever is being proposed needs to be enacted fast. With the whole region recently being declared as the smoggiest in the country, something has to be done. Some cities seem to be in the pockets of not only Amazon but also warehouse developers. Combine all of this with wildfire seasons that start earlier and seem to get worse each year and the result will be that thousands of people will have adverse health effects or die unless something is done.
Amazon Fulfillment Centers
Their impact on air quality and the surrounding communities
By: Cindy Shim, Caitlin Steele, Anushka Tahiliani, Emily Peng
April 9, 2021
Amazon is the largest e-commerce company in the world (Rodrigue 2020). As of now, there are currently 104 Amazon fulfillment centers across the US (Amazon Seller Central, 2021). However, these centers generate more vehicle traffic including the use of trucks and airplanes to deliver and receive packages. This is environmentally detrimental, especially to the surrounding community as they release air pollutants and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
Amazon fulfillment center in Patterson, CA (The Modesto Bee, 2018)
Understanding the impact of Amazon on surrounding communities is especially relevant with the advent of Covid-19, which has driven an increase in Amazon sales. Amazon is also continuing to grow. In 2020, Amazon increased fulfillment and network square footage by 50% and total revenue increased by 35% as compared to 2019 (Takefman 2021). With the growth of business, Amazon facilities will continue to multiply.
CALIFORNIA – CASE STUDY
- There are 24 active fulfillment centers in California which are grouped in the San Bernardino and Stockton areas
- Amazon’s continued growth means more fulfillment centers are being built and planned, like in Solano county near Sacramento (Quackenbush, 2020)
- Smaller suburban distribution nodes are also increasing, in 2020, they tripled, making total land footprint 5.2 million square feet (Collins, 2021)
AIR QUALITY IN “AMAZON COUNTIES”
AQI chart from AirNow.gov (AirNow n.d.).
Air quality index, or AQI, is a measure of air quality based off of the concentrations of ground-level ozone particle pollution (including PM2.5, PM10), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide in the air (AirNow n.d.). Air quality index values above 101 indicate unhealthy levels for sensitive groups, while values 151 to 200 are unhealthy for the general public. Values 201 to 300 indicate very unhealthy levels, validating a public health alert.
The below graphs summarize the number of days per year with AQI above 101 (indicating unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, and very unhealthy) for the counties with Amazon fulfillment centers.
Data: (EPA 2021)
Across counties with fulfillment centers, there were huge disparities between the number of unhealthy AQI days per year, with differences exceeding 100 unhealthy AQI days. To examine the correlation between number of Amazon fulfillment centers, we reoriented the graph to show only counties with more than 1 fulfillment center.
Data: (EPA 2021)
The result was a graph with three counties in California that each had five or more Amazon fulfillment centers. The disparity was still large, with San Bernardino and Riverside experiencing more than 100 additional days of unhealthy air quality compared with San Joaquin County. However, because of the variability of trendlines, we paused to ask: why are certain areas experiencing more bad AQI days than others? What geographic or industrial factors could be contributing to the quality of air? Could Amazon be doing better to alleviate its strain on the air quality of surrounding communities?
POSSIBLE OTHER CAUSES: FREEWAYS & AIRPORT HUBS
California has a massive network of freeways to accommodate their large population and effects of urban sprawl. The high dependency for automobiles lead to the investment of freeways (Hagen 2020). To this day, California is well known for high traffic congestion on their freeways. The warm weather in California, high tourism market, and significantly large population size are main factors of the high number of airport hubs in California. Most of the emissions from airports are from plane taxiing because of airport congestion (Schlenker 2016). Now approximately 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation (Tolkoff 2019).
Based on this map, Amazon fulfillment centers are relatively close to freeways and airport hubs. Amazon strategically places their fulfillment centers closest to highways and airports to ship out and receive packages faster and cheaper. The proximity from airport hubs and freeways are possible factors to the high correlation of air toxins around fulfillment centers. The cargo planes and automobiles unrelated to Amazon are possible causes of air pollution.
POSSIBLE OTHER CAUSES: INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION
Amazon fulfillment centers are located in the main logistic hubs in California: Stockton, Chino, San-Bernardino Riverside, Long Beach, etc. Not only are they located near airports, railways, and ocean transportation, most of these distribution centers are part of a massive campus warehouse setting (NFI Industries 2016). The map below supports this densely packed layout as it shows the fulfillment centers are close to remotely sensed NOx data points of heavy industry. For example, near the Stockton fulfillment center, there are emitters like Lit Industrial LP, Value Products Inc, Quest Industries LLC, etc. Therefore, Amazon fulfillment centers are not the only sources of industrial pollutants within the area.
Industrial Emissions in California
EXAMINATION OF SAN-BERNARDINO RIVERSIDE
San Bernardino-Riverside is located east of Los Angeles. Due to their close proximity, from 2007 to 2011, San-Bernardino experienced one of the largest county-to-county population shifts from the LA county region due to an affordable housing crisis (Beyer 2018). In addition to housing the lower-income families that commute to LA, the urban area is a major distribution and logistics hub with over 150 million square feet of warehouses for companies like Amazon, Walmart, and UPS. Therefore, the workers also make up a significant portion of the residents within the county. Due to the influx of facilities, San Bernardino-Riverside’s air quality has become severely impacted, resulting in the area facing 102 bad air days for ozone pollution in 2018 (Zilliac 2020).
Photo Caption: Vast industrial complex adjacent to a residential complex in West San Bernardino (McNew 2015)
EQUITY CONCERNS IN SAN-BERNARDINO RIVERSIDE
Amazon is a major employer in the region and has created thousands of jobs for San Bernardino-Riverside residents (Knoblauch 2021). However, is this economic benefit worth negative impacts towards the environment and the community?
According to the 2019 American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, San-Bernardino Riverside is ranked number one for most people at risk in the top 25 ozone-polluted cities in the United States, thereby contributing to the county’s asthma rates being twice as large as the national average (American Lung Association 2019; California Department of Public Health n.d.). This devastating environmental condition is due to a culmination of emissions from the urban area’s transportation hub, distribution center, and geographical disadvantage—the valley’s mountains trapping air pollution.
However, the risks towards human health due to air pollution are amplified in neighborhoods with low-income communities of color for two key reasons. First, as we can see in the map below, all of these facilities have been disproportionately built in areas that are predominantly Hispanic or Latino and have a median household income that is less than $70,000.
Side-By-Side Map of Race and Hispanic Origin (left) and Median Household Income (right) in San Bernardino-Riverside
Amazon employees, activists, and union members protesting amazon’s poor practices and negative Impact on air quality (Katzanek 2019)
The second most pressing equity challenge is these neighborhoods are comparatively overburdened by pollution due to the rapid rise of e-commerce. Specifically, the diesel freight truck routes to-and-from the fulfillment centers pass through these areas. As a result, minorities within the county have a greater chance of facing health issues from chronic asthma to cancer to increased infant mortality rates.
According to the chapter “The Three E’s” in Planning for Sustainability: Creating Livable, Equitable, and Ecological Communities by Stephen Wheeler, these two cases of inequity in San Bernardino-Riverside go beyond our area of focus; it is pertinent in almost all of the Amazon facility locations. One of the root causes of the growing regional inequalities is unfair public policy decision-making coupled with limited legal recourse. By holding council meetings during the daytime, low-income and minority community members are underrepresented as they are busy trying to make ends meet and thereby excluded from the decision process that directly impacts their quality of life (Wheeler 2013). This leads to their lack of political influence and results in a downward spiral, further reducing their ability to voice their opinions in their community. Consequently, these groups are also more likely to live near landfills and be exposed to hazardous waste and chemicals, leading to their healthcare woes. This is a systemic problem leading to an inequitable distribution of resources and power, primarily impacting low-income, minority citizens, as we have seen in San Bernardino-Riverside.
AMAZON FULFILLMENT CENTERS IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY
Amazon Worldwide Employment (Nickelsburg, 2020)
- In the Inland Empire — 18,000 people employed directly by Amazon, 34,600 non-Amazon jobs, drop in unemployment by more than 7% (Amazon 2018)
- San Bernardino — unemployment 15% (2012) to 5% (2018) Poverty rate 23.4% (2011) to 28.1% (2016) , median household income in 2016, at $38,456, 4% lower than it was in 2011 (Semuels 2018)
- Overall growth claims are contested — warehousing and storage jobs increased by 30%, but there were no net increases in employment in the private sector. (EPI 2018)
- Amazon typically did not impact hired worker’s wages, with changes ranging from -1.7% to 0.5%. (Jones and Zipperer 2018)
With increasing success over brick-and-mortar stores, the digital e-commerce giant Amazon rapidly increased its physical footprint in the last decade (Rodrigue 2020). Amazon continues to increase consumer expectations with the new normal that its service Amazon Prime presents: two-day (or even same-day) delivery and free shipping. These services are only made possible by its personal army of delivery vehicles and extreme warehousing strategies (Rodrigue 2020). However, these consumer-serving upgrades have driven unsustainable practices that contribute to unhealthy air quality in places with heavy Amazon activity such as San Bernardino.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, even more consumers have acclimated to regularly shopping through online channels, fueling Amazon’s focus on optimization. Vehicle-intensive business strategies such as last-mile delivery beg the question of environmental toll (Collins 2021). Amazon is certainly taking actions to address its impact. The company pledges carbon neutrality by 2040 and has invested in many large-scale changes such as through greener vehicles (Sanicola 2021). In just the past week, Amazon has joined the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF) Coalition, a public private partnership involving the United States, Norway, Britain, and large companies such as Nestle in an effort to protect forests (Jessop 2021). However, these large-scale efforts do little to address Amazon’s prolonged and disproportionate impact on low-income communities of color. With heavy trucks bringing pollution in close proximity to schools and neighborhoods and contributing to unhealthy air quality during significant portions of the year in deeply affected areas, Amazon cannot call its efforts sustainably-minded (Levin 2021).
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CA’s Inland Empire Suffers Warehouse Pollution Crisis
Asthma rates and cancer risks are “drastically elevated” in areas close to warehouse distribution centers, especially in CA’s Inland Empire.
Kat Schuster, Patch Staff Posted Wed, Apr 28, 2021 at 2:11 pm PTSan Bernardino County recently ranked No. 1 as the most ozone-polluted county in the nation, according to an April 21 report from the American Lung Association. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
RIALTO, CA — About three years ago, Ana Gonzalez’s son frequently came down with a severe cough, which often turned into bronchitis and, on one occasion, pneumonia. Her doctor later told her that her son had developed asthma because of local pollution in Rialto — a city she has called home for 23 years.
The pollution in question stemmed from distribution warehouses — which drew sprawling lines of large diesel big rigs — that were built in the Inland Empire over the last decade.
Gonzalez was deeply disturbed earlier this month when she saw another line of 18-wheel diesel trucks sitting idle, she told Patch Wednesday.
She took out her phone and began filming that day when she saw the convoy of big rigs sending fumes into the air. Gonzalez’s April 17 video, posted to Facebook, showed trucks with engines idling, lined up outside an Amazon Fulfillment Center on Linden Avenue in Rialto, just blocks away from Locust Elementary School.
“I’m passionate about this, not only because of what’s happening to my son. … You see all these kids suffering from asthma, … you know, illnesses due to the pollution,” said Gonzalez, who is also the finance and administrative director with the nonprofit Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. “It’s so heartbreaking.”
There are 47 distribution warehouses for different companies in Rialto alone, according to an April report by the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice and student researchers from the University of Redlands.
Warehouses such as these are peppered all over the Inland Empire.
San Bernardino County recently ranked as the No. 1 most ozone-polluted county in the nation, according to an April 21 report from the American Lung Association.
“This is the reality of the Inland Valley region,” Gonzalez said in a Facebook video.
Asthma rates and cancer risks are “drastically elevated” in areas close to ports and warehouse distribution centers, the report said.
Amazon has built more than a dozen facilities in the Inland Empire since 2012, NBC reported. A handful of Walmart warehouses were also built in the region over the years.
“Amazon has made record profits in the last decade, and it has come largely at the cost of communities in the Inland Empire that have seen several large fulfillment centers built near their backyards,” researchers wrote in the report. Warehouses are also more likely to be located in low-income neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty, the report said.
“Low-income and minority communities tend to experience higher levels of these pollutants and associated health consequences, so the waiver may help decrease environmental inequality,” said Joseph Shapiro, an associate professor in the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, in an interview Wednesday.
A discussion about the Inland Empire’s air quality will be put up to a vote on May 7 with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The board will vote on whether to impose more stringent regulations on how warehouses manage truck trips to and from facilities.
“May 7, the AQMD is going to be taking an important vote to pass a very strong and direct source rule for this to stop,” Gonzalez said in her video.
The Golden State has had some of the strictest auto emissions standards since the 1970s — save for 2019, when the administration of former President Donald Trump revoked the state’s waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency. This week, the EPA was able to restore California’s right to toughen tailpipe emission standards under the administration of President Joe Biden.
But diesel and gas emissions from trucks remain the main pollution warehouses create, the report said. Trucks spew a large number of toxic chemicals into the air, including nitrogen oxides, particulates, carbon monoxide and benzene.
This issue doesn’t just exist outside warehouses in Rialto, Gonzalez said. Trucks coming into the city also jam traffic corridors, and it’s only gotten worse, she said.
“It’s not only a pollution issue; it’s also a safety concern,” she said. “We’re in a pandemic. I cannot imagine, when everybody goes back to school and back to work, how that’s going to cause a major impact.”
Gonzalez still remembers the orange groves that once characterized Rialto when she first moved to the city two decades ago. In 2021, most of those citrus groves are now gone. “We have no agricultural land left, and that’s sad because if you look at our city symbols, it’s all about the oranges and the grapes and all of that, and that’s gone,” she said.
Amazon Delivers Low-Paying Jobs and Dirty Air to California’s Poorest
Bloomington residents and environmental advocates gather outside the San Bernardino County Government Center in February 2018 to protest warehouse development plans.©2018 ANTHONY VICTORIA
Jess Clarke, PUBLISHED September 11, 2018
Amazon, long known for its low pay and bad labor practices at the company’s fulfillment centers, is starting to feel some heat. One of the largest trade unions in the United Kingdom, GMB, is staging ongoing protests, the SEIU has launched a “Warehouse Workers Stand Up” campaign in New Jersey and Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced the Stop BEZOS Act. The legislation would recapture the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars provided by the US Treasury for health coverage, food stamps and other government payments to Amazon workers.
But Amazon is also wreaking havoc on the environment, and its delivery vehicles are generating untold amounts of greenhouse gases, ozone and particulate matter. California environmental advocates are taking on this challenge to protect the air quality in communities living with these warehouses in their backyards.
The US alone has more than 124 million square feet of fulfillment centers already built and another 41 million square feet in the planning stages, according to logistics industry trade publication MWPVL. Amazon is expanding its footprint at the expense of communities already overburdened by pollution and traffic of the dirty diesel trucks that move goods to and from the centers. From New Jersey to California, Amazon warehouses are remaking the physical environment.
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US locations of Amazon’s current fulfillment centers©2018 GOOGLE COURTESY OF WWW.FREIGHTOS.COM
As the real estate boom in California drives gentrification and displacement to even more remote suburbs, communities on the periphery that are already burdened by toxic landfills and pesticide-driven agriculture are battling a new source of poisoned air and water: warehouse distribution centers.
California is home to 18 of Amazon’s huge distribution complexes. The newest is the 855,000-square-foot facility in Fresno, a town located about halfway between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. One of the top three, coming at over 1.1 million-square-feet, is a facility built in San Bernardino County in 2016, directly east of Los Angeles.
The stakes are high for California’s once-rural suburbs. Life expectancy in West Fresno is more than 20 years lower than in the unpolluted East Side neighborhoods. The Inland Empire, which includes San Bernardino, has some of the worst ozone pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association, and it has worsened over the last two years. Things have gotten so bad that Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District voted in May to regulate warehouses as indirect sources of pollution because of the truck and locomotive traffic they attract.
Leo Macias©2018 LEADERSHIP COUNSEL FOR JUSTICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Two California residents — Leo Macias and Dania De Ramon — both say they have experienced firsthand the impact of Amazon’s expanding footprint. Macias, who has owned a home in Fresno since 1967, describes the high rates of cancer he has observed on his street. De Ramon, a high school student in San Bernardino County, describes the widespread respiratory problems afflicting her classmates.
“Two of my family members have developed cancer, I have cancer, asthma and a lot of other respiratory problems,” said Macias. “My neighbors right next door to me passed away due to cancer, and another two neighbors on the other side. Yeah, this is very hard for us because we’re dealing with a lot of [contamination] in the air, in the water, in the soil, everything.”
De Ramon feels similarly frustrated. “We live in a toxic cycle where we depend on a supply and logistics industry that does little to curb its emissions and exploits folks in low-income communities for low pay. Most of us don’t even realize the harmful impacts on our health. I grew up believing that asthma was normal because I had so many classmates who had it,” De Ramon said.
Ashley Werner, senior attorney with Fresno-based Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability echoes these concerns. “It’s worth noting that this Fresno neighborhood has been identified under CalEnviroScreen as the most pollution-burdened census tract in California. That’s because, in addition to the new facilities the city is permitting, this area also has several hazardous waste sites, a landfill … and farming that uses hazardous pesticides.”
Macias has been working with the Leadership Counsel to fight locally against a huge expansion of warehouses for unknown new tenants, now planned at over 2 million square feet, but he says, “They want to build with no input from the community. When we talked to the city council, they ignored us and laughed at us.”
Macias and Leadership Counsel decided to take their fight to the Sacramento Legislature and are pushing AB 2447, a bill currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. AB 2447 would give communities advance notice of developers’ plans to build or expand industrial facilities in environmentally burdened communities.
“In the past year and a half, the City of Fresno has approved millions of square feet of industrial warehouse space across the street from my neighborhood and near our local elementary school,” said Macias in testimony on AB 2447 in Sacramento. “We were never told about these projects while the city was planning them, and now the dust from construction is choking us and triggering our asthma.”
Allen Hernandez, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, based in Southern California’s Inland Empire region, has also called on Governor Brown to take action. “The trucks that travel to and from warehouses contribute dangerous air emissions which causes more traffic congestion and that means more air and noise pollution near our homes and schools.”
The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice is leading the fight against a new warehouse that would be built 70 feet away from a residential community and less than a tenth of a mile from a high school in the small town of Bloomington in San Bernardino County.
“The residents of Bloomington demand transportation justice for their health. California must re-shape our land-use planning to promote investments without displacement and move away from a culture that relies on fossil fuels.” said Hernandez. CENTER FOR COMMUNITY ACTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
For De Ramon, air quality isn’t the only impact. “When I was younger, my mother would work two jobs to financially support us,” he said. “Many times her work was in warehouses — where some days she would work up to 16 hours. There was a period of time in my childhood where I would see my mother only for a couple hours a day because she was constantly working to get the two of us by.”
The California Environmental Justice Alliance, a statewide environmental group, is supporting AB 2447 and also calling for much broader change.
“AB 2447 is a crucial first step to addressing long-standing pollution in many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color by creating ‘Green Zones’ — places where community-led visions and solutions are transforming toxic hot spots into healthy neighborhoods,” says Tiffany Eng, Green Zones program manager for the alliance.
The California Environmental Justice Alliance has also released a new report, “Green Zones Across California,” detailing community-led transformations in nine regions of the state. In addition the organization has set up a petition calling for statewide support to encourage Governor Brown to sign the bill.
And of course, all the groups have been turning out their members for the many demonstrations and actions being organized in response to Governor Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit that begins September 12 in San Francisco. The kick-off march Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice drew tens of thousands to the streets of SF and to protests across the US. Educational sessions at multiple locations and direct action at the summit itself are planned for the rest of the week.
MAY 10, 2021
As ‘diesel death zones’ spread in California, pollution regulators place new rules on warehouse industry
by Tony Barboza
Credit: CC0 Public Domain
Southern California air quality officials have adopted first-of-their-kind rules on warehouse distribution centers in an effort to cut truck pollution, increase electrification and reduce health risks in communities hit hardest by lung-damaging diesel exhaust.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s governing board approved the rules Friday on a 9-4 vote after an hours-long public hearing.
The rules apply to nearly 3,000 warehouses across the region and mark the first comprehensive effort to limit the environmental impacts of the booming goods-movement industry. As massive logistics warehouses have proliferated in areas that are disproportionately Black and Latino, increasing numbers of diesel trucks are plying routes closer to homes, schools and neighborhoods that are already burdened with some of the dirtiest air in the nation.
“Today’s adoption of the warehouse rule is a major step towards reducing air pollution and protecting the millions of people directly impacted,” said Wayne Nastri, executive officer of the South Coast air district.
The regulations will have the greatest effect in the Inland Empire, where relatively cheap land within a reasonable drive of the nation’s largest port complex has triggered development of massive distribution and fulfillment centers, including mega-warehouses that exceed 1 million square feet. Dubbed “America’s shopping cart” and “diesel death zones,” these communities have only grown busier during the COVID-19 pandemic, as online shopping pushes the volume of cargo moving through the region to record levels.
Under the rules, warehouses 100,000 square feet or larger—about the size of two football fields—must take steps to cut or offset emissions associated with their operations or pay a mitigation fee to fund similar air quality improvements nearby.
Republican Ben Benoit, mayor pro tem of the Riverside County city of Wildomar and the newly sworn-in chair of the air quality board, joined the board’s eight Democrats in supporting the measure. Four Republicans voted in opposition. The 13-member board, made up of eight Democrats and five Republicans, consists of elected officials and other appointees from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The vote followed hours of public testimony, much of it from residents of Riverside, San Bernardino and other inland communities urging action on behalf of children with asthma, relatives with lung cancer and others who struggle to breathe because of the smog and truck pollution.
Mirella Deniz-Zaragoza of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center said the rules would benefit poor and working-class people of color living and working on the front lines of the logistics industry, and called the move a “lifesaving regulation that will ensure industry polluters like Amazon are held accountable and will ensure people who breathe the air and raise families in our communities live longer and healthier lives.”
Board members also heard from goods movement industry representatives and other business interests who criticized the rules as overreaching and damaging to their bottom lines, while Inland Empire officials such as Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren said they would kill warehouse jobs that “sustained us during this COVID period.”
At the same time, the rules garnered support from some labor groups and industries that would benefit from a shift to cleaner technology. A representative for heavy-duty engine manufacturer Cummins spoke in favor of the measure, saying that lower-polluting, natural-gas-fueled trucks are widely available and serviced by local technicians with “living-wage union jobs.”
Republican board members who opposed the move predicted that industry would pass on the costs of compliance, leading to higher prices on groceries and other consumer products. They also argued that the rules would prove ineffective because they do not directly regulate truck pollution, which is the responsibility of state and federal regulators.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford, a Republican on the air quality board who opposed the regulation, said state emissions rules, technology advancement and the market would bring more zero-emission trucks years from now, “and in the meantime we’re going to perpetuate this rule and cause a lot of pain and a lot of higher costs that will not achieve that goal any faster.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who supported the rules, countered that people in the most heavily affected neighborhoods “have not indicated that they’re worried about the cost of their cereal; they’re worried about their lungs.”
An air district analysis found that large warehouses are disproportionately concentrated in Black and Latino communities. The population living within half a mile of at least one large warehouse is 62.1% Latino and 7.6% Black, compared with a population that is 45.4% Latino and 6.5% Black across the four-county region. Warehouse-adjacent communities have higher rates of asthma, heart attacks and poverty, the analysis found.
Vanessa Delgado, a former state senator and Democrat who serves on the air board, called the regulations “an important step toward measurable air quality improvements” that would save lives “in mostly disadvantaged communities of color.”
The environmental impacts of the growing logistics industry are unevenly distributed. Though L.A. County has the most warehouses, they are smaller and older than those in the Inland Empire, where much of the recent growth has been concentrated.
A report by the Inland Empire-based People’s Collective for Environmental Justice and the University of Redlands examined e-commerce sales to find that the communities with the greatest concentrations of warehouses, such as Ontario, Fontana and San Bernardino, do the least online shopping among large cities in the Greater L.A. region.
The impacts of warehouse-adjacent communities are often cumulative, as multiple facilities rise in the same neighborhoods, piling on more truck traffic and lung-damaging diesel particulate matter than they would individually, said Ivette Torres, an author of the report and environmental science researcher who lives in Moreno Valley.
“You don’t only have the warehouse next door but the one down the street,” Torres said. “They add up and they add up. And then you have hundreds or a thousand trucks passing through.”
Despite dramatic improvements in air quality over the decades, Southern California still has the nation’s worst air pollution and has seen its progress fighting smog stall and reverse in recent years. In 2020 the region logged 157 bad air days for ozone—the invisible, lung-searing gas in smog—the highest number since the mid-1990s. Inland communities, many of the same ones where warehouse development is booming, have the most persistently high levels of ozone.
The warehouse regulations are a critical piece of state and local officials’ efforts to reverse a recent slide in air quality. To meet federal smog-reduction deadlines, the South Coast basin must slash smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions 45% below baseline levels by 2023 and 55% more by 2031.
Trucks are the largest source of those emissions, and warehouses are responsible for more of them than any other sector—about as much as all stationary facilities in the region, including all oil refineries and power plants combined. Implementation of the rules will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from warehouses by 11/2 to 3 tons a day over the next decade, a decrease of 10% to 15%, the air district projects.
Under the rules, facilities must choose from a menu of pollution reduction and mitigation options, such as using electric or natural-gas-fueled trucks, installing charging stations, erecting rooftop solar panels or putting air filters in neighboring schools and child-care centers—a measure that some board members complained would not reduce pollution, only exposure to it.
The air district estimates that compliance with the rules could cost hundreds of millions of dollars but that those costs are outweighed by health benefits worth about three times that amount, including the prevention of hundreds of early deaths from air pollution as well as thousands of fewer asthma attacks and missed work days over the first 10 years.
In adopting the measure, the board overcame opposition from cargo-moving industries, which urged officials to reject the regulation, saying it would restrict job growth, fail to clean the air, amount to a tax and exceed the air district’s legal authority. State and local authorities disputed those claims. An analysis by state Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office affirmed the air district’s authority, and its obligation under the Clean Air Act, to adopt a regulation targeting warehouse emissions. It also dispelled the notion that it was a tax.
The air quality board’s decision to regulate warehouses follows more than a decade of proposals to use its authority under state law to regulate ports and other freight-handling facilities as “indirect sources” of pollution and is the first such rule to come out of a 2017 smog-reduction plan designed to clean the region’s air to meet federal health standards. The agency has approved voluntary emissions reduction agreements with commercial airports in the region but has not acted when it comes to ports, railyards and new development projects.