Diesel pollution belched out by old heavy-duty vehicles used by New York State’s own departments, authorities and agencies are making children sick. Diesel emissions contain fine particulate matter, commonly referred to as soot. When this soot is breathed in it becomes lodged in the lungs of otherwise healthy people and can trigger asthma attacks and heart attacks, causes lung cancer and cuts short the lives of some seniors.
With what we know about the dangers of diesel exhaust, it defies logic to learn that there have been systematic delays of a comprehensive state law called the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2006 (DERA) which is aimed at reducing this dangerous soot. DERA was enacted more than 10 years ago and was supposed to be fully implemented by 2010. Yet here we are, a decade later breathing in the same dirty diesel. This stuff is no joke; with over 2.3 million adults living with lung disease, and 390,000 children suffering from asthma in New York, each day we breathe this air in is another opportunity we have to feel the consequences of these entirely preventable diseases.
Unfortunately, New York State has already fallen behind in terms of ensuring clean air. Four major cities around the world, Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, and Athens, have recently come together for a historical ban on diesel powered cars and trucks with a deadline of 2025. With nations worldwide recognizing the environmental health consequences associated with diesel emissions, there is no excuse for Governor Cuomo not to.
It is time for DERA to be fully implemented – which is why 18 groups including health and environmental justice organizations, including EANY – recently came together to urge Governor Cuomo to include the necessary funding for DERA in his 2017-18 Executive Budget. During his confirmation process, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos stated that environmental justice concerns are a priority of the Cuomo Administration. Despite this, Governor Cuomo has, year after year, agreed to delays put forth by the leaders of the Senate.
As the top elected official in New York State, Governor Cuomo has the ability to make DERA enactment a reality; and ultimately, he has a duty to ensure New Yorkers have soot-free air to breathe. The most vulnerable members of our communities including children, the elderly, those with respiratory issues, and those living in environmental justice communities rely on Governor Cuomo to act with their best interest in mind, especially when it comes to public health concerns.
Ten years is far too long – the time has come for Governor Cuomo to walk the talk on environmental justice by dumping dirty diesels during the budget process.