By Seth Nidever

KETTLEMAN CITY — In a rare display of cooperation, government agencies, environmentalists and businesses have reached an agreement to reduce diesel truck idling in Kettleman City and Avenal.

The announcement of the deal was made Monday by Greenaction, a Bay-Area group with local ties that worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, local business and residents to reach the voluntary agreement.

“In a community suffering from too much pollution … this is the first project that concretely has made something of a dent in immediate diesel pollution,” said Greenaction executive director Bradley Angel.

Nine businesses in the two towns, including representatives from a large FedEx transfer station in Kettleman City, signed a “good neighbor” agreement committing them to follow idling laws, work to cut emissions with new technology and educate drivers.

“FedEx is committed to the environment and the communities we serve,” said Scott Fielder, FedEx spokesman.

“I think it would be a great thing because of the fact that [several companies] use Kettleman City as a place to connect and disconnect trailers,” said Bob Lewis, president of the Kettleman City Chamber of Commerce.

“They sit there and idle their trucks while they wait for another load to get there. That’s a situation that needs to be corrected.”

Diesel idling is a major source of pollution in those communities, particularly in Kettleman City, which is a transfer area for trucking companies traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Kettleman City has experienced birth defect and cancer problems that some blame in part on diesel, a known carcinogen with a wide range of  harmful health effects. Others cite the Chem Waste hazmat landfill 3.5 miles southwest of town, though studies have shown no direct link between the health problems and that facility.

Chem Waste trucks passing through Kettleman on their way to the landfill weren’t included in the agreement because Greenaction opposes the landfill, Angel said.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control is considering whether to approve an application to build a new hazardous landfill at the site.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2432 or by email at snidever@HanfordSentinel.com.