Image courtesy of Creative Commons.
The Port of Long Beach claims becoming a zero-emissions port is a top priority, and statistics appear to show a trend backing this claim.
However, many residents don’t believe the Port is doing enough to reduce its impact on their communities. And new reporting from the Port shows a proposed delay in the transition to zero-emission trucks.
Since 2005, the Port has decreased diesel particulate emissions by 87%, nitrogen oxides by 56%, and sulfur oxides by 97%, largely due to the adoption of the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006.
The CAAP, developed by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, outlines ways the ports can reduce emissions from every source, such as harbor crafts, locomotives, storage trucks, cargo handling equipment, and ocean-going vessels. And the Port of Long Beach continues to implement CAAP strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the implementation of the Port’s rate of $10 per twenty-foot-equivalent unit, intended to encourage companies to invest in zero-emissions trucks, may be pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic and the U.S.-China trade war.
“We are still focused heavily on getting there,” Morgan Caswell, manager of air quality practices for the Port of Long Beach, said about the Port’s zero-emissions goals. “The team is working on modifications to the clean truck program, [and the] development of an incentive program for cleaner trucks to come to the POLA and POLB.”
Caswell said the Port is expecting $20 million from CARB and $20 million from the CEC to fund multiple CAAP projects that would fund cleaner technology and 50 to 100 zero-emission truck pilots. “We continue to work on building a proposal in partnership with the Port of LA and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to make that a reality.”
However, many residents believe that the Port’s efforts won’t be enough to help their community.
“We are living in critical times where we cannot wait 20 or 30 years for agencies to finally implement or achieve their goal,” Pamela Amaya, a resident of Westside Long Beach, said in an email, referring to the Port’s goal to transition to zero-emission terminal equipment by 2030 and zero-emission on-road trucks by 2035.
Westside Long Beach is a predominantly Hispanic and Asian working-class community, with the Port of Long Beach bordering it. For Westside residents, facing the consequences of the goods movement industry is nothing new.
“Growing up next to a railyard, next to refineries, next to a freeway full of diesel trucks carrying goods to and from the Port was normalized to me,” Amaya said. “Many of our community members have respiratory illnesses or have developed some sort of cancer due to what surrounds our community.”
Despite the Port’s successful efforts to reduce emissions, ships, diesel trucks, and locomotives from the Port continue to release particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, including carbon oxides, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides, which are known to have negative impacts on human health and the environment.
Studies have linked exposure to PM to a number of cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Many develop illnesses such as cancer and asthma from long-term exposure to PM2.5 released when diesel and other fuels are burned, increasing their risk of dying from COVID-19.
Gaseous pollutants like COx, SOx, and NOx are often released from the burning of fossil fuels and have been found to have detrimental effects on human health and the environment. Carbon monoxide can reduce blood’s ability to transport oxygen to our cells and tissues. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide can cause lung damage and respiratory illnesses.
According to the American Lung Association, Los Angeles and Long Beach received failing grades for high ozone levels and for particle pollution.
“We know as a port authority that we have impacts on our local community and that is something we recognize in the Clean Air Action Plan. And that is something that will continue to be our responsibility to recognize,” Caswell said when asked about these statistics. “…We’re not satisfied with just what we have achieved today. Although the numbers speak well, we absolutely need to get to a place where we’re not having negative health outcomes associated with folks living near the Port.”
Caswell emphasized the need for public engagement to push for change that will benefit the people and the environment.
“We need folks to attend our CAAP stakeholder meetings. We need folks to help us push the envelope on what can be done in terms of technology,” Caswell said. “And we certainly need folks involved in regulatory development and supporting us in state funding to make these new technologies become commercialized and deployed in our ports.”
Harbor Commission meetings are currently held online, at 1:30 p.m., every second and fourth Monday of the month. The public may observe meetings online on the Port of Long Beach website and find a calendar of meeting dates here. The next meeting takes place Monday, Sept. 28.