LA-Long Beach Port Approves Clean Air Action Plan Calling for Emission-Reducing Technologies

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The twin ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach, the country’s largest port complex, approved a plan on Thursday to slash air pollution by encouraging the phase-out of diesel trucks in favor of natural gas, and eventually zero-emissions trucks and cargo-handling equipment, over the next 20 years.

The Clean Air Action Plan, unanimously adopted at a joint meeting of Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor commissioners, provides a framework for transforming the massive hub for freight-moving trucks, trains and ships to cleaner technologies through 2035.

State and local air quality regulators have said that dealing with the ports’ mainly diesel-fueled operations is needed to meet federal health standards, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ease pollution-triggered health problems from harbor-area communities.

“The San Pedro Bay ports are the driving forces of our region’s economy—and they should also be global models for sustainability and clean air,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “This update to the Clean Air Action Plan is an important step toward our ambitious goal of zero-emissions landside goods movement by 2035, and I look forward to making even more progress with our partners in the months and years to come.”

Port officials said the plan seeks to accelerate pollution reductions, while remaining sensitive to the economic effects of transforming the complex, which handles about 40 percent of U.S. imports and support hundreds of thousands of jobs across Southern California. The Los-Angeles-Long beach twin port has long been the main entry way for apparel imports from Asia.

Though the volume of shipments moving through the L.A.-Long Beach ports has tripled since the mid-1990s, they face increasing competition from East and Gulf Coast ports, which have less stringent environmental mandates and have expanded harbors to be able to handle the larger cargo ships transversing through the refurbished Panama Canal.

[Read more about cargo imports: Cargo Imports Set Second Record High as Retailers Prep for Holiday Season]

Key to the plan is a new Clean Trucks Program that uses fees on trucks entering port terminals and other mandates to phase out the oldest, dirtiest diesel trucks, transition to cleaner natural gas models, and in the longer term switch to electric and other zero-emissions technologies.

The plan requires that terminal operators begin deploying zero-emission cargo-handling equipment in 2020 with a goal of making a full transition by 2030. It also calls for expanding the use of emissions-capturing devices to reduce pollution from docked cargo ships.

The plan also calls for expanding use of on-dock rail, with the long-term goal of moving 50 percent of all cargo leaving the ports by rail.

The new strategies were developed with more than two years of dialogue with industry, environmental groups, regulatory agencies, local residents, equipment and fuel vendors, and technology developers. The agreement also creates a CAAP Implementation Stakeholder Advisory Group of public and private experts to provide input on implementing new strategies.

“Collaboration will be critical to our success,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission president Lou Anne Bynum. “Moving the needle to zero requires all of us—the ports, industry, regulatory agencies, environmental groups and our communities—to pool our energy, expertise and resources.”

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