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Marine Log

November 6, 2006

California container ports act to clean air

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach--the two largest container seaports in the United States-- have revised their landmark Clean Air Action Plan.

They will now explore the use of pollution-based impact fees, increase shore-side electricity and tighten emission standards to significantly reduce the health risks posed by air pollution from port-related ships, trains, trucks, terminal equipment and harbor craft.

Described as "the most comprehensive clean air strategy ever produced for a U.S. port complex," the draft Final 2006 San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan was released today to allow ample time for public review before it is formally presented to both port boards for approval. The plan will be brought to the Los Angeles and Long Beach Boards of Harbor Commissioners for a vote on adoption at a special joint public meeting of the two boards at 1 p.m. Monday, November 20, at the Long Beach City Council Chambers, 333 W. Ocean Boulevard.

The five-year plan, which will reduce air pollution by at least 45 percent, was created with the cooperation and participation of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After the draft plan was issued in June 2006, dozens of individuals and groups submitted more than 500 pages of written comments and testified at four public meetings. Responding to the suggestions, the revised plan includes the following:

  • The ports have now fully developed commitments and milestones for achieving air emission reductions.
  • The ports will explore the use of pollution-based impact fees, such as gate fees assessed on "dirty" trucks, so that polluters play their part to improve air quality.
  • The ports will develop tariff-based incentives and requirements, such as vessel speed reduction incentives and port-mandated fuel requirements, to curb harmful air emissions.
  • The ports will work with the air quality regulatory agencies (AQMD, CARB and EPA) to establish Bay-wide air quality standards, as well as mechanisms for tracking improvements in air quality.
  • Within five years, the Port of Long Beach will develop shore-side electricity for ships at berth at 10 to16 Long Beach berths, a significant increase in the number specified in the draft plan. (The draft plan already included the Port of Los Angeles' commitment to facilitating shore-side electricity for ships at 15 berths within five years.)

"We listened to the community and made very significant revisions," said Richard Steinke, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. "This plan will help us to make these the world's greenest, most environmentally friendly seaports."

"We simply cannot grow our ports to accommodate future cargo trade volumes without a comprehensive plan like this in place to minimize port-related pollution in our region," said Geraldine Knatz, executive director for the Port of Los Angeles.

The plan proposes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments by the ports, the local air district, the state, and port-related industry. Even as trade grows at the two ports, the plan aims to cut diesel-related particulate matter (PM) pollution by more than 47 percent and smog forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by more than 45 percent within the next five years, resulting in emissions that will be below 2001 levels.

Measures under the plan also will result in reductions of sulfur oxides (SOx) by more than 52 percent. NOx is a precursor of smog; SOx contributes to particulate matter; and PM has been shown to lead to health problems.

Under the plan, the ports propose to eliminate "dirty" diesel trucks from San Pedro Bay cargo terminals within five years by helping to finance a new generation of clean or retrofitted vehicles.

The plan also calls for all major container cargo and cruise ship terminals at the ports to be equipped with shore-side electricity within five to ten years so that vessels at berth can shut down their diesel-powered auxiliary engines. To reduce emissions of air pollutants, ships would also be required to reduce their speeds when entering or leaving the harbor region, use low-sulfur fuels, and employ other emission-reduction measures and technologies.

The Clean Air Action Plan accelerates the efforts of a California Air Resources Board pollution reduction plan by requiring faster replacement of existing cargo-handling equipment with new equipment that will meet the toughest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards.

The comprehensive San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan Technical Report, a more concise Overview, and the Comment Compendium will be available for review at the web sites of the two ports, www.portoflosangeles.org and www.polb.com, as well as at the port headquarters and at local libraries.

Moving more than $260 billion a year in trade and more than 40 percent of the nation's containerized cargo, the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach add up to the fifth-largest container port in the world. The two ports support more than 500,000 jobs in Southern California. The ships, trucks, trains and other diesel-powered equipment and craft at the ports are major sources of air pollution in a region that already has some of the worst air quality in the nation. Port-related vessels and vehicles account for 12 percent of the Southern California's diesel particulate matter pollution, 9 percent of the region's nitrogen oxide pollution, and 45 percent of the region's sulfur oxides pollution.

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