Some schools near the port complex of Los Angeles and Long Beach could be in line for improved air quality after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled cases with the United States General Services Administration (GSA) and a Wal-Mart subsidiary that will send $300,000 in air filtration equipment to impacted schools.
The deal was announced yesterday by the EPA in which Wal-Mart Transportation LLC will be required to update its diesel particulate filters on its truck fleet to respond to allegations that it violated the state’s truck and bus regulations by failing to properly equip 19 of its diesel trucks.
The GSA previously paid a $485,000 penalty for having more than 200 of its trucks out of compliance with the state’s diesel truck regulations between 2012 and 2017. Wal-Mart paid a $100,000 fine and included in the settlement was the provision that Wal-Mart would fund the air purification projects at schools surrounding the port complex.
“EPA will continue to ensure that all trucking fleets operating in California comply with the state’s air pollution rules,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a statement. “Working with our state and local partners, EPA will help achieve cleaner air throughout California.”
Randy Hargrove, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, said that all of the 19 trucks cited in the EPA settlement have been retired and that now all of the hundreds of trucks in its fleet operating in the state are model year 2015 or newer. Hargrove said he believes that the company's fleet is now among the cleanest of any truck company operating in the state.
Which school, or schools, will receive the money to install or maintain its purification systems has yet to be determined. However an official with the the South Coast Air Quality Management District said that the money will be directed to those schools “hardest hit” by air pollution from the port’s diesel trucks.
Truck emissions from the port have contributed to the region having one of the worst air quality ratings in the nation and Long Beach residents suffering from the highest asthma rates in the county. The soot, fine particle pollution and other emissions have been linked to a variety of other illnesses including cancer and shorter lifespans for West Long Beach residents when compared to those on the city’s eastside.
Earlier this month the Los Angeles and Long Beach Port Commissions unanimously approved an updated Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) that aims to reduce port emissions to zero by 2035. Included in that approved CAAP were fine schedules that will penalize truck companies whose rigs are not in compliance with the ports’ goals of port truck drivers having engines at near-zero emissions by 2020 and zero-emissions by 2035.
The fees, which have yet to be determined and are expected to be announced after a study period carried out by the ports, will be levied against those companies that do not meet the emissions standards but will not ban them from operating at the port. Instead, they’re meant to serve as an economic incentive for companies to upgrade their fleets.
The communities around the ports in both Long Beach and other neighboring cities showed up in droves to push the ports to speed up those deadlines for zero emissions and have also been active in other meetings regarding the potential expansion of the 710-Freeway, of which residents allege will broaden the impact of truck pollution to communities already burdened by truck exhaust.
The California Truck and Bus Regulations were adopted as part of a federal clean air action plan in 2012 and required trucking companies to upgrade their trucking fleets to meet nitrogen-oxides emissions and other particulate matters as well as verifying compliance with those mandates. Wal-Mart’s transportation arm operating in California and the GSA failed to fulfill those federal regulations.
[Editors note: This story has been updated from its original version to include comments from Wal-Mart]