A finalized version of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) was released earlier this week and it included some minor tweaks to its scheduling after port staff took months to hear from the public and incorporated their concerns into the document that could be voted on as early as November 2.
Released in November 2016, the updated document aims to vastly reduce emission levels at the ports by implementing fees and guidelines to prod operators and businesses at the ports to switch to near-zero emission technology, and then eventually zero emission alternatives, including fuel-cell, battery electric and plug-in hybrids by 2035.
The plan was originally projected to cost upward of $14 billion and port staff said that even with the changes released this week the dollar figure anticipated is still “within the range” of what was expected when the CAAP was rolled out last year.
The ports estimate that the first iteration of the CAAP has resulted in large decreases of diesel particulate matter (87 percent), nitrogen oxides (56 percent), sulfur oxides (97 percent) and overall reduction in greenhouse gases by about 18 percent.
One of the largest changes made from the draft documents was the fine schedule which was originally planned to apply to non-compliant truck companies who had not met goals of near zero emissions by 2023 and zero emissions by 2035. Now, the fines for not being compliant will begin in 2020 in an effort to push companies toward purchasing cleaner trucks sooner.
“We think as a result it helps to ensure that the near-zero emission trucks will come into the fleet sooner and will help us to meet our goals of transitioning the trucks from near-zero emissions in the early years and eventually getting to zero emissions by 2035,” said Heather Tomley, director of environmental planning at the Port of Long Beach.
The fines though, won’t be determined until after the governing boards of both ports consider the plan and approve one.
That would kick off an economic feasibility study that would weigh how a fine charged to truck companies might impact both the port’s economic competitiveness—it could drive business to other ports—and how fines could impact the rate at which truck companies would adopt cleaner trucks and thus speed up the rate at which emission levels drop.
Not having a defined fee has also impacted the ports’ projections of how quickly emissions will drop as it will depend on adoption rates of business operators. The updated CAAP includes seven different scenarios that all have corresponding projections for reductions in particulates and pollutants, all of which project reductions of between 56 percent and 100 percent of the major emissions measured by the port.
The CAAP projects that without a clean truck program no operators would opt to deploy near-zero or zero emission vehicles by 2036, but with the plan, 99 percent of trucks used to move cargo at the ports will be either near-zero (0-44 percent of trucks in the fleet) or zero emissions (55-100 percent of trucks in the fleet) by that time.
However, with so many moving parts, it’s hard to say which of the seven scenarios included in the CAAP is most likely to play out, or if another scenario will play out.
“All of these are potential outcomes,” Tomley said. “And quite honestly there are probably a thousand other iterations that could have been run, too, but they help us at this stage to get a sense of how some of these different assumptions will affect the truck fleet distribution over time.”
A second change would speed up the rate at which terminal equipment would have to be replaced with cleaner alternatives. While a fine structure would be in place for trucks, terminal equipment would be required to be replaced with the cleanest available equipment when operators are ready to purchase. That equipment will be identified by periodic feasibility assessments carried out by the ports.
“If zero emissions equipment is feasible at the time that they’re ready to purchase that new equipment then they will need to purchase zero emissions,” Tomley said. “If zero emissions is not yet feasible then they need to move forward with the cleanest available option at that time.”
These changes don’t completely meet the outcry from the public that demanded a quicker path to zero emissions. Hundreds of community members packed public meetings regarding the CAAP and demanded that the port complexes work faster to clean up air quality surrounding the complex and lessen the health burdens faced by those who must breathe in some of the nation’s most polluted air on a daily basis.
However, it does strike a sort of compromise between the businesses operating at the ports and those living around it as those who continue to use older, more polluting equipment will now be forced to pay a fee. Tomley said the goal still remains at zero emissions by 2035.
Language supporting the idea that truck drivers should not bear the brunt of cleaning up the port’s air quality was added to the document outlining intents to seek state and federal funding to lessen the economic impact to drivers but no hard policy outright banning truck companies from implementing “lease-to-own” models was included.
Drivers could receive assistance from Congress though as of Thursday morning Democratic lawmakers introduced two bills that both seek to clean up all of the nation’s ports, and aim to limit the ability of companies to force drivers to pay for the cleaner trucks that they will need to do their jobs.
The governing boards of both ports will consider the updated CAAP during a Thursday morning meeting next week at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel in San Pedro. For those that are unable to attend the meeting that’s scheduled to begin at 8:30AM a live stream on both the Long Beach and Los Angeles Ports’ websites will be available.
Jason Ruiz covers transportation for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or 951-310-1772.
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