Many of our children and their families that live in the South End of Albany CANNOT breathe, and this is unacceptable and frankly inhumane. Something needs to happen so that the residents of the Ezra Prentice Homes can breathe air that is safe to inhale, air that does not contain chemicals that sound like something you would find in a college inorganic chemistry textbook. The following blog will describe an Environmental Justice Committee, of which, Marc Johnson, Interim Executive Director of AVillage…, Inc. is a part, as well as how that committee will tirelessly work to combat environmental injustice in Albany and across the State of New York.
It is a quiet fall day and trucks have lined up, single file, waiting, waiting, waiting for the start of the day. The morning begins with an engine reviving and the distinct and depressing sound of diesel trucks. The drivers keep the trucks in idle in anticipation for a call from a boss or manager. From there they begin completing daily routes, transporting oil and gas, garbage, cement, etc. Vroom. Vroom. Vroom. But hold on, there is more. There is a loud noise off in the distance. A figure is slowly approaching its destination. The sound has amplified. It is a train; and that train is carrying gasoline and ethanol. Let the toxic assault begin.
Each day more than a thousand trucks and the conspicuous and notorious bomb trains pass through the Port of Albany; each day our children and families suffer. Potent and carcinogenic toxins inundate the residents. Asthma, respiratory illness other than asthma, and allergies are common – the numbers do not lie. A grey cloud lingers. When will it all end?
The answer is hopefully soon. Marc Johnson of AVillage…, Inc. has assumed a role on the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Group. The goal of the committee is to help the state transition from an economy that relies on fossil fuel; in addition to helping the state transition to a green economy, the committee will also work to integrate environmental justice principles into state policies, regulations, and legislation. As a member of the group, he will advise policy makers on issues that relate to environmental injustice, as well as advocate for sustainable economic transitions in areas that have been impacted by environmental issues. Although Marc will collaborate with stakeholders to encourage the adoption of policies, laws, and regulations at the state level, his main priority, however, is to initiate action at the local level, specifically as it relates to Ezra Prentice. His intent is to gather traffic data from the Department of Transportation, that shows the number of trucks that drive pass the housing project on the way to the Port of Albany and nearby facilities; furthermore, he would like to acquire data from various Departments of Health to demonstrate a correlation between the amount of traffic, the bomb trains, and the industrial park, and rates of, for instance, asthma. In the end, Marc would hold those companies polluting and affecting the quality of life of South End residents, accountable. As Marc stated, “Because of the harm it has already caused, I would like health issues to be addressed. I would like free screening and free health examinations to determine what issues in our community are affecting our health.”
Albany bomb trains transport over 150,000 barrels of oil. These trains run too close to a historically oppressed community. Not only are these trains susceptible to an explosion, but they emit potent and often carcinogenic toxins that humans breathe. Aside from the trains that poison families, approximately 1,000-diesel trucks drive pass the homes each day, trucks that emit soot pollution into the air; this, as well as the trains, are contributing to growing rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses. With these issues affecting the South End community, it is the goal of the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Group to progress toward a green economy. Going forward, the committee will adopt sound, prudent policies, legislations, and regulations that end the environmental assault. The people of the Ezra Prentice homes WILL BREATHE AGAIN.