AQMD Chief Labels Ports of LB & L.A. "By Far The Largest Source of Air Pollution In Our Region"
(August 24, 2002) -- The South Coast Air Quality Management District's Executive Officer has labelled the ports of Long Beach/Los Angeles "by far the largest source of air pollution in our region."
The statement is contained in an August 20 AQMD press release, quoting Executive Officer Barry Wallerstein as also saying that cleaning up the ports "is one of the most difficult and complex environmental challenges in the nation. It is also one of the most important tasks facing us as we move toward restoring healthful air quality for all Southern Californians."
The AQMD media release, which we quote at length below, was intended to focus on programs being implemented to clean up port related air pollution. However, it also includes information on port related pollution that is itself newsworthy.
Among other things, it calls port related impacts the "Number 1 Source of Southland Smog" and states, "All marine vessels in the ports emit more than 47 tons per day of smog-forming nitrogen oxides. That is more than one-fifth the amount emitted by all of the region's cars. It is also nearly equal to the total nitrogen oxide emissions from the top 300-emitting industrial facilities in the region, including all power plants and refineries."
The release adds, "As ship traffic increases during the next 20 years, nitrogen oxide emissions from the ports are expected to increase by about 70 percent."
AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. We quote from its August 20 AQMD press release at length:
[begin AQMD release text]
No. 1 Source of Southland Smog
Smog-forming and toxic emissions from cargo ships, boats, heavy-duty trucks, trains and other equipment affect the health of each of the Southland's 15 million residents.
All marine vessels in the ports emit more than 47 tons per day of smog-forming nitrogen oxides. That is more than one-fifth the amount emitted by all of the region's cars. It is also nearly equal to the total nitrogen oxide emissions from the top 300-emitting industrial facilities in the region, including all power plants and refineries.
As ship traffic increases during the next 20 years, nitrogen oxide emissions from the ports are expected to increase by about 70 percent.
Ships burn some of the dirtiest fuel in the world, containing up to 20,000 parts per million of sulfur. That is 40 times more than the amount allowed in diesel fuel for trucks and other equipment in California.
Nitrogen and sulfur oxides and particulate emissions from the port complex contribute to forming some of the highest ground-level ozone and fine particulate levels in the nation in the suburban communities of Southern California's inland valleys.
Ozone damages lung cells and is linked to increased asthma and bronchitis symptoms, as well as decreased lung growth in children. Particulate matter, also known as PM10, is strongly associated with increased hospital and emergency room visits as well as premature deaths.
Toxic emissions from diesel-powered ships, trucks and other equipment in the port area are the primary reason why nearby communities have some of the highest cancers risks in the region due to air pollution.
AQMD's Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study (MATES II) in 2000 found that air pollution in the port area was responsible for a cancer risk of more than 1 in 1,000. On average, 70 percent of the cancer risk from air pollution is due to diesel particulate emissions, the study found.
[LBReport.com note: Our web site was the first LB media outlet to report the landmark MATES-2 study in detail. Because of its continuing importance for human health and environmental justice, LBReport.com maintains a permanent link on our front page (www.lbreport.com, left side in our real time weather section) letting readers access the AQMD MATES-2 study, including its estimate of increased cancer risk in the LB area. To jump to our link, click AQMD MATES-2 study]
Ports Pose Complex Issues
Unlike the Southland's industries, which have effectively been regulated by air pollution control agencies for more than 50 years, ocean-going ship emissions are largely unregulated. Reducing them will require international maritime agreements, since about half of the ships calling on Southland ports are registered in foreign countries.
"It's going to take the cooperation and initiative of all parties involved -- local, state, federal and international agencies as well as community members and industry to clean up air pollution at the ports," Wallerstein said.
AQMD's jurisdiction at the ports is primarily limited to stationary facilities such as oil storage and loading facilities and petroleum coke export terminals. Nevertheless, AQMD has pursued numerous programs to reduce air pollution at the ports, including:
Providing more than $25 million in state and AQMD incentive funding to replace older diesel engines with cleaner equipment in tugboats, commercial and sport fishing boats, crew boats and passenger vessels such as the Catalina Express, as well as alternative-fuel yard tractors, cranes and forklifts;
Strengthening the agency's Rule 1158 in 1999 by requiring the enclosure of petroleum coke piles. As a result, airborne levels of elemental carbon in the port area, which includes coke, have decreased by 50 percent;
Conducting an ongoing smoking ship surveillance program that has cited more than 20 ships this year, from cruise ships to container vessels, for excessive smoke under the agency's Rule 401;
Conducting special air quality monitoring programs in response to residents' concerns to assess harmful and toxic air pollution in specific communities;
Adopting Rule 1631 in 2001, which established a pilot emissions credit program to encourage businesses to reduce emissions from marine vessels; and
Encouraging the development of new technologies to reduce air pollution at the ports. In the future, barges with zero-emission fuel cell power plants could provide electricity to ships in port, eliminating air pollution from ships that now run their engines to provide power.
"During the past several decades, air quality agencies have dramatically reduced air pollution from our cars, businesses, factories and consumer products," Wallerstein said. "Now it's time to focus more of our attention on cleaning up the ports so we can continue to make progress toward clean air for all Southern Californians," he added.
The release also notes:
Since 1998, AQMD and state funds have provided more than $25 million to help replace aging, dirty diesel engines in marine vessels and port equipment with new, cleaner models that reduce smog-forming emissions by up to 80 percent.
"I'm pleased to announce today that more than $8 million in additional funding is now expected to be available to continue this crucial effort to clean up air pollution at the ports," Wallerstein said. Funding will come from:
$2.7 awarded by Congress and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to the Gateway Cities Council of Governments, a group of more than two dozen cities in southeast Los Angeles County;
$1 million each from CARB to the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, to be matched by $1 million from each port, for a total of $4 million; and
Up to $1.6 million from the state Carl Moyer program.