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Attorney General Lockyer, Environmental Groups Announce Ground-breaking Proposition 65 Settlement With Major Grocery Chains Over Diesel Pollution

Residents To Receive Health Hazard Warnings; Alternative Fuel Trucks To Be Tested
Thursday, April 27, 2000
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(LOS ANGELES) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced with environmental groups a landmark Proposition 65 settlement over cancer-causing emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks traveling to and from the distribution centers of three major California grocery chains.

The settlement was reached with Albertsons/Luckys, Ralphs and Vons/Safeway, after more than a year of negotiations. Filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today, the settlement agreement involved the Attorney General, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Coalition for Clean Air, Inc., and Environmental Law Foundation.

"This groundbreaking settlement brings environmental justice to thousands of community residents who are being exposed to harmful exhausts from heavy-duty diesel trucks traveling back and forth from the grocery distribution centers," Lockyer said. "For the first time, facilities that generate large amounts of traffic are taking responsibility for the harmful emissions they cause in a particular community. And, to their credit, the grocery chains will be issuing bilingual Proposition 65 warnings and testing alternative fuel trucks to help reduce local exposure to cancer-causing emissions."

Under the settlement, the grocery chains will mail or deliver specified warnings about exposure to cancer-causing diesel exhaust to residents who live near company distribution centers. The distribution centers are Albertsons/Lucky in Buena Park (Orange County) and San Leandro; Vons/Safeway in Santa Fe Springs and El Monte; and Ralphs in Glendale. While not specifically required by Proposition 65, the companies agreed to provide the warnings in English and Spanish. Many of the community residents are Hispanic.

The grocery chains also agreed to lower diesel emissions by reducing the idling time for trucks at the distribution centers and to conduct a three-year demonstration project using alternative fuel vehicles. Vons will be testing 60 heavy-duty natural gas trucks, while Albertsons and Ralphs will each use 25 alternative fuel trucks to reduce emissions. These trucks are limited to having 15 percent of their power coming from diesel fuel. The demonstration project is likely to produce the largest fleet of heavy-duty natural gas trucks in the nation.

Proposition 65 – otherwise known as the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 – was passed by the voters to protect the public from exposure to toxic substances known to cause cancer or be harmful to reproductive health. The law requires businesses to provide "clear and reasonable" warning before exposing anyone to a chemical on the Proposition 65 list. The warning is required unless the business can show that the exposure poses no significant risk.

While impossible to prove that any individual developed cancer as a result of being exposed to diesel exhaust from any of the distribution centers, state investigators determined that community residents near the grocery distribution centers were being exposed to levels that pose a risk and require a public warning under Proposition 65.

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