"Enjoy the clean air."
November 6, 2014 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Warehouse Empire Behind the largest undercover bribe the FBI ever paid to a public official is the story of how our whole consumer economy has been transformed, bringing lung-stunting pollution and, in some cases political corruption.
posted by sio42 (22 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Found on Longform but is Buzzfeed article.
posted by sio42 at 9:40 AM on November 6, 2014


The settlement also contained a provision that feels ripped from the pages of dystopian fiction: Every home in the village would be offered high-tech air filters so residents could avoid breathing the polluted air right outside their windows.

Jesus.

Moving to California, one of the positive things I've found is the quick shipping of products ordered online. I've gotten packages within 24 hours using UPS ground.

Guess this is why.
posted by zabuni at 10:11 AM on November 6, 2014


The largest bribe the FBI ever paid was 2.36mill? They need to set their sights higher.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:15 AM on November 6, 2014


The largest bribe the FBI ever paid was 2.36mill?

I'm actually kinda surprised they felt they needed to go that high. When I read stories of municipal corruption what usually amazes me is how cheaply most local politicians will sell their consciences.

And, of course, there's a reason that it's hard for a local politician to bargain a bribe up into the stratosphere. If someone is willing to toss millions around to get their way, there are usually legal avenues they can pursue (supporting political campaigns, getting a local referendum measure put on the ballot etc.) which don't have the downside risk of being caught.
posted by yoink at 10:25 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


“If you talk about environmental consequences [of warehouses], one of the things you must do is talk about the environmental consequences of poverty,” said Husing, the economist. “The health consequences of poverty are far greater.”
posted by Nevin at 10:40 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Americans have grown to expect the goods they want delivered to their homes or nearby store shelves within days or hours. But all this two-day shipping, click-to-ship, and get-it-on-your-doorstep-by-noon-tomorrow has come at a price, paid by the people who live in the shadows of the mega-warehouses: lung-stunting, cancer-causing pollution and, in some cases, political corruption.

When I was an angry young punk in the 1990s, I reflexively imagined the US of my middle age as looking a lot like a "developing" country. The now just sad-to-despairing middle aged me is stunned at how quickly that's actually coming to pass.

I guess my solution then, to buy almost everything used in person or get it out of the trash, may actually*be* the only ethical choice. Jesus - I really don't have the patience for that anymore.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:41 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wish the article had done more investigation into air pollution in the community. While truck traffic has probably made it worse (no actual data that I could see), the article also mentions that Inland Empire has historically been affected by air pollution due to its location east of Los Angeles.
posted by Nevin at 10:42 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


They gave everyone in town free air filters.. and surprisingly they are good quality, Swiss made IQAir, about $2000 for two of them (looks like one for particulates and one for gas).
posted by stbalbach at 10:44 AM on November 6, 2014


Co resigned last year, after being charged in another, unrelated, criminal case involving embezzling social service funds intended for the care of his own ailing mother.

Hah. Spectacular.
posted by notyou at 10:56 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


This just reinforces my gut feeling of, if you have a lot of money, political power, or both money and power, you're probably a super shady piece of shit.
posted by Arbac at 10:58 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Welcome to Hell
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:58 AM on November 6, 2014


“He’s not a monster,” Molina said. “He’s a businessman.”
What's the difference?
posted by Arbac at 11:02 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


When I read stories of municipal corruption what usually amazes me is how cheaply most local politicians will sell their consciences constituents.

Fixed.
posted by Gelatin at 11:14 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Corporate Lorax: He speaks for the fees.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:54 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is a great article but for the most part it's just one more thing to get angry about.

What I'm wondering is how do we make warehouse areas less damaging for those around them? The warehouses themselves seem to be OK so it is about the trucks. Separate roads for them that don't go through other areas. Heavily treed buffer zones around warehouse blocks and trucking roads to clean the air/trap particles. Tighter restrictions on particulate emissions from trucks, moving towards electrification of trucking fleets in the future. Hybrid truck engines so that they run on battery power when they are loading/unloading.

On the one hand a lot of this is stuff that could be handled at the local level, but on the other hand the local level is filled with "business friendly" politicians like in the article, so maybe it needs to be some State or Federal legislation/regulation.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:08 PM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Heavily treed buffer zones around warehouse blocks and trucking roads to clean the air/trap particles.

Some businesses do get this. Near my house, a local business is expanding their operation. They built a pleasant stone wall, and are planting a big buffer of trees between the building and the closest houses. This is awesome, because it should also serve to soak up some of the noise, light, and dirt from the freight terminals that lie just past their plant.

(This company also paid to relocate three smaller businesses in a tiny strip mall before they bought it out from underneath them and razed it, which everyone in town thought was very classy. These folks already have a plant here in town: they need more room, but didn't want to move away because most of their employees live here. So they found a way to expand without being jerks. They are currently top of my list of Companies Who Are Good Citizens.)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:38 PM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


When I read stories of municipal corruption what usually amazes me is how cheaply most local politicians will sell their consciences souls/your future.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:41 PM on November 6, 2014


wenestvedt: What's the business? I mean, we name and shame company's for awful shit they do all the time, might as well give a name-check to a company that's not a jerkwad.
posted by el io at 3:16 PM on November 6, 2014


On the one hand a lot of this is stuff that could be handled at the local level, but on the other hand the local level is filled with "business friendly" politicians like in the article, so maybe it needs to be some State or Federal legislation/regulation

Well, there is federal and state legislation already. The National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act both require "cumulative impact analysis", which is supposed to address the cumulative incremental effect on a community of, say, hundreds of new trucks driving to and from dozens of new warehouses going up in a five-year span.

The problem is that it's really hard to do that kind of analysis in any meaningful way, when each individual warehouse contributes only minimally to the problem, and when the owners do something like distribute free air filters. If you're Developer #1, the cumulative effect is minimal; if you're Developer #25, how is it fair that it's your project that suddenly tips the air quality damage to Significant Adverse Impact, when all the other developers got away with it fine?

The regulations require the analysis to look at how one project might work in conjunction with reasonably foreseeable future projects, but the reviewing body is the city or county planning commission. If they want the project to go through, it'll go through, absent an environmental group or some very savvy (and well-funded) residents to protest. By the time anyone realizes there's an environmental problem, a lot of damage has been done.
posted by suelac at 3:49 PM on November 6, 2014


Well, there is federal and state legislation already

By which I mean, state or local agencies in California must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires some level of environmental review before every discretionary act on that agency's part. For a project like this, the county or city planning commission would have some level of approval (depending on the state of the local master plan), and thus would have to do a CEQA review.

But as noted in the article, it's possible to get through the process and do all the environmental review and mitigation, and still cause a lot of long-term damage.
posted by suelac at 3:52 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tighter restrictions on particulate emissions from trucks, moving towards electrification of trucking fleets in the future. Hybrid truck engines so that they run on battery power when they are loading/unloading.

Old diesel truck engines are really, really nasty. A lot of bus engines are even worse (two stroke diesel engines that burn a LOT of oil with the diesel). And due to the capital cost of these machines they get used till they literally fall apart. The more modern engines are better but still not great-the trucking industry has fought very hard against emissions regulations and they have most state DOT's thoroughly captured.

The big move in the industry going forward isn't electric-although it will work, just not very well and the battery weight really cuts into the cargo weight-it is natural gas engines. They are lighter than diesel, very clean, and much quieter and don't require jake brakes (I think).

They are still problematic for over the road long distance haulers but for short haul/local/yard operations they are great. Fueling them is very different than diesel and requires some special infrastructure that isn't available at a lot of truck stops, and you can't just pull a semi up to most LNG pumps for cars...

BTW i converted my weed eater and am working on converting my lawn mower to propane, which is so much easier to use than gas and so much easier and safer to store, and the emissions are much, much less than gas for small motors. A scary amount of urban smog is caused by small engines. A modern V8 sports car has less (harmful) emissions than your small 5 hp lawn mower (at if you are using a two stroke with pre mix gas....well it isn't even in the same league of bad).
posted by bartonlong at 4:10 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


El io, it's a wire and cable company named Okonite. They actually hired a crew to build a stone wall like 200' long by hand!!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:02 PM on November 6, 2014


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