Letter: Sen. Escamilla’s bill crucial for health of inland port-adjacent communities

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trucks carrying shipping containers move in and out of the Union Pacific intermodal terminal at a steady pace, west of Salt Lake City. Directly south is the future site of the transloading facility, which will be the heart of the inland port, as seen on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.

Were it not for SB136, Air Quality Policy Amendments, being sponsored by Sen. Luz Escamilla, the likely health consequences for the Black, Latino, indigenous, Asian-American and Pacific Island communities living near the developing inland port and adjacent roads, train routes and warehouses would be overlooked.

For at least a decade there has been much published public health data documenting the damage to those who live with daily exposure to diesel truck and train exhaust — aggravated asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, neurologic disorders, premature births, and significantly shortened life expectancy.

SB136 expands the Air Quality Advisory Board and requires it to oversee a study by the Department of Environmental Quality and make recommendations to the Legislature on a diesel emissions reduction plan.

This advisory board seems critically important because the Utah Inland Port Authority, created four years ago, has yet to conduct an environmental impact study.

The timetable for action is short for port-adjacent communities (which some call “diesel death zones”) who face the prospect of accelerated rates of illness and premature deaths.

Christopher Erickson, Salt Lake City

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