On Thursday, December 6th, the Board of Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners – the governing board of the Port of Los Angeles – approved the environmental impact report for the TraPac terminal expansion project. This is important, and historic, because it’s the first time in about six years that either of our two major local ports has moved forward with a significant capacity expansion project. You can be sure that the fate of this project is being watched closely by the Port of Long Beach, which has a comparable backlog of projects.
According to presentations made by Port staff, the TraPac project will add on-dock rail to the only Los Angeles terminal that does not have it. On-dock rail allows cargo destined for transport by rail to be loaded directly at the port, eliminating truck transportation (called drayage) of that cargo to off-port rail yards. And most significantly, according to Port staff, the environmental analysis shows that emissions from the terminal will drop dramatically even as cargo throughput increases. Moreover, health risk to surrounding communities will also drop below current levels. This outcome will result from numerous emission reduction measures, such as use of lower-sulfur fuel in vessels and the continuing introduction of cleaner trucks.
So why might this project still not go forward? Before taking their vote, the Harbor Commissioners heard several hours of public comments, which ran 2-1 against approval. Many commenters asked that emissions and noise reduction measures be strengthened before the project was approved. Both press reports and rumors hint that a lawsuit, or suits, will be filed in response to the vote. A lawsuit might effectively block the project by delaying it for so long that it’s no longer worth doing. In fact, TraPac has already lost business in recent years. It’s now time to hold our collective breath to see what happens next.