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    News

    At AQMD Board Meeting In LB:

  • Board Chair Burke Announces "Clean Port Initiative," Tells Ports of LB & L.A. To Speed Efforts To Reduce Emissions Or Face AQMD Regulation To Maximum Extent Possible, Including Measures On Ships

  • Burke Backs State Legislation For Container Fee Or Some Other Mechanism Sufficient To Fund Clean-Up

  • AQMD Board Enacts Regulation On "Flaring" At Area Refineries


    (November 4, 2005) -- At the South Coast Air Quality Management District's first regular board meeting outside its headquarters in roughly 25 years -- held in Long Beach to underscore concern over Port related pollution -- board chair William Burke delivered a public ultimatum to the Ports of LB and L.A.:

    Accelerate your efforts to significantly and promptly reduce port-related air emissions using your legal authority and technical expertise...or face AQMD regulations to control port sources to the maximum extent of the agency's authority...including measures applicable to ships.

    Among the items in Chairman Burke's "Clean Port Initiative": having AQMD call on the state legislature in 2006 to adopt a shipping-container fee or some other mechanism sufficient to fund cleanup of the ports.

    At an AQMD governing board meeting held in the LB City Council chamber on Nov. 4, board chair Burke detailed his proposed "Clean Port Initiative" with four guiding principles and seven action items (details below)...and indicated he wants AQMD staff to develop a detailed work plan for board approval at its January 6, 2006 board meeting.

    In announcing his Clean Port Initiative, chair Burke said:

    "We must address the number one source of fixed emissions in the region, and that's the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The ships, trucks, trains and cargo equipment at the ports are responsible for nearly one quarter of all the particulate emissions in the region today. And through the rapid growth in trade and commerce, that number is expected to grow by 42% by 2020." He continued:

    This is the amazing part. Collectively, all of the sources at the port today responsible for over 100 tons of smog forming nitrous oxide emissions. That is greater than the daily emissions from all, every single one, of the six million cars in the region.

    As studies conducted by AQMD and the CA Air Resources Board have shown, the port communities already bear some of the highest cancer risks in the nation due to air pollution. According to the state of California recently released study, diesel emissions in the Los Angeles basin are responsible...[for] 1,700 premature deaths a year.

    And the ports are responsible for 20% of all the diesel emissions in the region.

    While thousands of southland businesses have dramatically reduced their emissions during recent decades, some port sources -- ships in particular -- are among the most under-regulated in the region when it comes to air pollution.

    That's why I'm announcing today a "Clean Port Initiative" for 2006, with four guiding principles and seven action items. I am asking AQMD staff to develop a detailed work plan for this initiative within 60 days and present it to my colleagues for approval at our January 6, 2006 board meeting.

    These are the guiding principles of this initiative:

    • 1. AQMD acknowledges the efforts of both ports to date in recognizing their air pollution problems and taking initial steps to address it. Long Beach has adopted a Green Port policy, and David Freeman, recently just appointed the head of the Port of Los Angeles Commission, had made a bold statement about reducing emissions in that complex.

    • 2. Secondly, while proposed No Net Increase plan for the Port of Los Angeles is a good start, it's not enough. We can't settle for the recent level of air pollution in our ports. We need to reduce the emissions to achieve clean air. achieve clean air;

    • 3. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach must pursue a coordinated emissions-reduction strategy to ensure equity and to prevent one port from obtaining a competitive edge through less stringent environmental standards; and finally

      4. The ports and shipping companies should bear their fair share of the cost of cleanup, just as stationary sources today.

    ...Here are the steps I'm asking the AQMD to pursue:

    • I'm calling for a Clean Port Summit meeting between myself, Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners President David Freeman...and Port of Long Beach Commission President Doris Topsy-Elvord to discuss the development and coordination of fast-track measures that we can pursue now to reduce air pollution. I am calling on the ports to accelerate their efforts to reduce their air pollution using their clear, legal authority and technical knowledge of their operations.

    • However, if the ports do not act aggressively and in a timely, coordinated manner to significantly reduce their emissions, I will ask the AQMD staff to develop regulations to the maximum extent of its authority to control port sources, including ocean-going ships.

    • In recent months, AQMD has used its authority under the California Environmental Quality Act to ensure that the air quality impacts of goods movement projects are fully analyzed and mitigated. A prime example of that was AQMD's commitment last year on the proposed expansion of Pier J here in Long Beach. As a result of AQMD's analysis, the project is being thoroughly reexamined with an eye to reducing diesel emissions. Starting next year, I am directing [AQMD] to prepare a monthly report to the public describing environmental impact reports and other CEQA documents for projects related to goods movement. I want the public and decision makers to have a clear picture of the cumulative effect of all such projects that may lead to greater use of diesel engines. Finally, I ask that the AQMD staff to make full use of the CEQA process for such projects to ensure that their impacts are thoroughly mitigated;

    • I would like the AQMD staff to work with ports to conduct air quality monitoring, not only outside the boundaries of the port, but also within the port terminals. A considerable number of truckers, dock workers and others breathe air within the ports...

    • I am calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt strict emission standards for marine vessels. If EPA fails to do so, AQMD will ask California's Congressional delegation to sponsor legislation or take other action to force EPA to take aggressive action to accomplish that.

    • Focusing on top of the three busiest ports in Asia, I would like AQMD staff to develop a proposal for corresponding emission reduction measures here and at those Asian ports. I would then like AQMD to coordinate an international summit with Asian port officials to discuss how the implementation of these measures can be done...

    • Finally, I would like AQMD to call on the state Legislature in 2006 to adopt a shipping-container fee or some other mechanism that is sufficient to fund the cleanup of the ports.

    Now, I read this now so that the ports and those shipping and trucking officials will get some feel for the direction that this board is going...We've been on the mission for a long time, we've come a long way, but we see what we have to do in the immediate near term and we're going get it accomplished...

    They can be like the refining industry and cooperate and come down the road with us, or we can take another course of action...

    Port of LB Planning & Environmental Director Bob Kanter, Ph.D. cited multiple environmental initiatives undertaken by the Port...but Noel Park, President of the San Pedro Homeowners Coalition replied:

    "There's one question that you have to ask when you hear those sort of things, and that is: What is the total tonnage of pollution coming out of the Port? How much will these measures reduce it, and how much will the growth increase it?" He said of chair Burke's Clean Port Initiative, "This policy you've proposed today, if you drive it forward and make something happen, is what's really needed."

    In especially pointed testimony, Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga said the LB Area Chamber of Commerce was among "major local special interests" that had attacked efforts to clean the air and waged "campaigns against legislators who dare to challenge their agenda." Councilwoman Reyes Uranga continued, "Special interest groups such as the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce continue to stand in the way of a more breathable city. It is time we recognize that environmental justice is not a matter of cost benefit analysis. The impacted communities have suffered far too long and the Ports and Port-related businesses couldn't begin to compensate us for the daily tolls on our lives..."

    The Councilwoman's statement prompted AQMD Boardmember Jane Carney (a Riverside lawyer) to ask if the City Council appoints the Harbor Commissioners. Councilwoman Reyes Uranga replied the Mayor appoints and the Council ratifies them but unlike L.A. they are not a department of the city and don't answer to the city manager. Boardmember Carney pursued the point: "[S]o your only recourse is to replace Commissioners if you don't like 'em?"

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga quipped in response, "You want to say that again?" prompting laughter before quickly adding that LB has "some fine Port Commissioners" and "it's a new day in the City of Long Beach" with "Commissioners that understand the community, that understand that the environment is the number one issue here."

    LBReport.com posts below extended excerpts of salient testimony:

    Vice Mayor Jackie Kell: This year, the City Council has appreciated your organization's legislative efforts in addressing air quality issues that directly affect the city of Long Beach. We have been happy to support you. Specifically, we supported your three state bills: Senate Bill 459, Assembly Bill 888 and Assembly Bill 1222. We supported the three proposed fleet rules that AQMD requested CARB [CA Air Resources Board] adopt and we opposed the Memorandum of Understanding between CARB and the railroads...

    Councilman Frank Colonna: "I'm on the City Council here in Long Beach and very proud also to be Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority chair this year...We're taking some very strong initiatives, as a matter of fact at our next ACTA board meeting we requested a review of the possibility of introducing hybrid locomotives in the corridor, especially in our shuttle train plans that we have to try to bring more containers away from the congested port areas and out into the Inland Empire.

    We all know that fossil fuel emissions are our biggest source of pollution in the region here and we absolutely need to do something about that. And dealing with what your discussions have been about diesel emissions is first and foremost for all of us. Wheels move Americans around and it's the way we move them that is going to be important for us in the future.

    Necessity becomes the mother of invention. This is our job now as people working in government today to lay down the path for the future. And if we blink or are reticent then shame on us.

    We're not going to be able to asphalt and concrete our way out of our regional problems here in this state. What we've got to do is be innovative.

    Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal: I'm speaking to you today wearing two hats, one as first district representative for the city of Long Beach, and one as the MTA representative for 27 cities of the Gateway Cities/L.A. County region

    "In both capacities I'm here to convey to you that improving air quality is the overriding health concern of this region...

    "We're surrounded by refineries, port industrial uses , the 710 freeway and other freeways. We're besieged by bad air. As you know, asthma rates are skyrocketing among residents who live in south L.A. County. The Long Beach Asthma Coalition and all the residents in fact are very concerned that efforts are not being implemented quickly enough to save lives and reduce this debilitating effect of this disease on our children and our families. "Increasing demands by consumers for port growth, as well as other economic pressures will necessitate a strong and constant voice from agencies such as the AQMD to make sure air quality does not further degrade and turn back the clock to days of forced indoor activity because of the dangers of air pollution and smog alerts.

    I also want to thank you for our joint efforts supporting Senator Lowenthal's air quality bills and opposing the CARB [CA Air Resources Board/RR] MOU...

    Councilwoman Rae Gabelich: ...My district is bordered by the 710 freeway, the 91 freeway, the 405 freeway, and we are impacted by the 710 Port traffic as well as the traffic over the Long Beach Airport...The cumulative impacts of pollution have to be addressed. It's not just one thing, we don't want anyone to be the straw that breaks the camel's back...

    Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga:...For many in my district and in this city, the City of Long Beach is the front line in the battle for clean air. While we may be the first casualties and the first victims of being at ground zero of a massive goods movement chain, whose effects [are] still not measured and mitigation costs compiled, we understand that the collateral damage reaches far beyond our city boundaries.

    This is a very public battle, being waged in City Council chambers, boardrooms, the state Capitol, public forums and on the pages of our local newspapers. On one side of this battle are champions of clean air and on the other are gross polluters who cite the need to maintain a vibrant business environment.

    And caught in the middle sometimes are regulatory bodies such as AQMD who are responsible for balancing the needs of both parties. I appreciate this is a daunting task, especially when you have major local special interests like our Chamber of Commerce, attacking efforts to clean our air in the editorial pages of the local newspaper, and waging campaigns against legislators who dare to challenge their agenda...

    ...Special interest groups such as the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce continue to stand in the way of a more breathable city. It is time we recognize that environmental justice is not a matter of cost benefit analysis. The impacted communities have suffered far too long and the Ports and Port-related businesses couldn't begin to compensate us for the daily tolls on our lives...

    AQMD Boardmember Carney: Excuse me, could I ask you one question Councilwoman? Could you explain for us, since obviously we're going to hear a lot about the Port of Long Beach...does the City Council appoint the Commissioners?

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga: Yes we do, but unlike the Port of Los Angeles, it is an independent Charter body...The Mayor [of LB] appoints the Commissioners and we ratify that appointment, but they are not a department of the city and do not answer to the city manager as they do in the Port of L.A.

    AQMD Boardmember Carney: And so your only recourse is to replace Commissioners if you don't like 'em?

    Councilwoman Reyes Uranga: You want to say that again? [laughter]. We actually have some fine Port Commissioners and I think that it's a new day in the City of Long Beach. We have, just as the Port of L.A. does, we have Commissioners that understand the community, that understand that the environment is the number one issue here. And so yes, that is our only recourse.

    We do have a budget approval [power] however because of the timing it's really mixed in with our budget and so it's pretty complicated...

    Tom Modica, Manager of Gov't Affairs, City of Long Beach: On November 1, 2005, the Long Beach City Council voted to support the Teachers Association of Long Beach declaration on air quality at westside schools. This declaration states that the Teachers Association is very concerned about the health issues faced by teachers who work adjacent to the I-710 freeway at Hudson, Muir, Stevens and Garfield public schools, and of course the students that attend those schools...

    Robert Kanter, Ph.D., Dir. of Planning & Environmental Affairs, Port of Long Beach: ...I'm going to talk a little bit about what we've done to date, recognizing as the Chairman had pointed out, clearly we have a lot of challenges ahead and I think together we can do something about that.

    First of all, the Port of Long Beach is a trustee for the Tidelands for the State of California, and we have a lot of balancing to do. We have to maintain the Harbor District for "commerce, navigation, fisheries and recreation," we have to balance all those needs...

    We are proud of our environmental record in doing so, though. We've been able to maintain a high quality of the environment, and certainly recognizing that as trade growth grows, we still have our challenges ahead of us...

    In fact recently we received the EPA's Environmental Achievement Award for our diesel emission reduction program...We have over the years received a number of awards on our air quality, water quality and other areas that we've done environmental improvement.

    Recently, our Board of Harbor Commissioners adopted a "Green Port" policy which has expanded dramatically even the good environmental record and practices that we have at the Port...You will see in the future a dramatic change and expansion of just how we operate and the ethic under which we operate...

    The Ports of L.A. and Long Beach are square in the middle of all the goods movement chain...We don't own or operate any of that equipment and nevertheless we have a large responsibility for taking care of that and we recognize...there are certain things we can do and will do.

    However, there's a lot that remains to be done, and you've identified some key areas that we need to work on, but you must recognize that we've been doing things for quite a while. We've been working cooperatively with the Port of Los Angeles. Many of the things that were identified in the [Los Angeles] "No Net Increase" list of measures that are not regulatory that we have some power over have been in the process of either implementation or have been implemented.

    For example, we just recently worked with the Port of Los Angeles, actually with some money from the AQMD thank you, for retrofitting and replacing all the locomotives that operate in the two ports, a big, big project that will replace virtually all these 30 and 40 year old locomotives and require them to implement Tier 2 locomotives, also running on emulsified diesel and future regulations will improve that. This is far ahead of what would happen just if we let them take a normal course of action...

    ...We have a project with the British Petroleum/ARCO terminal to do our first cold ironing [plug in] project here in the Port of Long Beach. This is a voluntary program that was not forced upon us by a lawsuit or any other way...

    We're doing alternative fuels. We have an LNG demonstration project, working to see whether we can apply LNG to the terminals as opposed to diesel as an alternative. We know that LNG works, but we don't know in the diesel operational environment of a terminal whether that'll work...

    We have a commitment through our leases, when those open up and where we have leverage over our tenants, to implement such measures as cold ironing, rapid fleet turnover, alternative fuel, and the list goes on...

    Noel Park, Pres., San Pedro Homeowners Coalition: ...We heard [PoLB] Dr. Kanter talking about the great environmental doings of the Port of Long Beach...there's one question that you have to ask when you hear those sort of things, and that is: What is the total tonnage of pollution coming out of the Port? How much will these measures reduce it, and how much will the growth increase it?

    Spin is fine. Nibbling around the edges is fine. This policy you've proposed today, if you drive it forward and make something happen, is what's really needed, so thank you very much.

    The L.A. based Coalition for Clean Air issued an emailed release, praising the seven action items contained in the Clean Port Initiative proposed by AQMD Board chair Burke...including calling on the state legislature to support a container fee. "It is only fair that polluters pay their fair share. Last year, greater-Los Angeles paid an estimated $10.2 billion in health and related costs, including costs of treating cancer and asthma, due to diesel exposure. Simply put, the lives and lungs of Californians have been subsidizing international trade. We pay the price of health for someone in Nebraska to buy a cheaper, imported DVD player," the group said.

    The Coalition for Clean Air release added that it also "supports the remainder of the AQMDs action items, in particular those to: hold the ports to a timeframe to clean up operations, or subject the ports to regulations; and, regularly report to the public on those impacts which are projected from goods movement projects."

    Earlier in the meeting, AQMD's governing board enacted changes to a rule on "flaring" of gases at local refineries. Flares (visible flames sometimes streaming from tall stacks) are used to burn off pent up gases created as a result of a refinery malfunction or a sudden power failure. Flares are used as safety devices to relieve pressure and prevent fires or explosions...but also create noxious consequences. A September 2005 L.A. power outage triggered flaring that sent black smoke plumes into the air from several refineries. A few weeks later, a malfunction at another refinery emitted flared gases that sent a rotten egg odor across much of the southbay and LB.

    The changes to the flare rule will prohibit vent-gas flaring except during emergencies, shutdowns, startups and other essential operational events starting January 1, 2007; require facilities to analyze in detail and report to AQMD the cause of significant flaring events; establish facility performance targets with declining SOx emissions requirements from 2006 through 2012; require flare minimization plans for facilities failing to meet the established performance targets; impose mitigation fees from $25,000 to $100,000 per ton of emissions above a facility's performance target limit, with a maximum fee limit of $4 million per year; strengthen monitoring, data collection and quantification procedures of flaring events; and expand notification and reporting requirements.

    Some industry representatives opposed the changes, arguing that flaring was safety measure that shouldn't be restricted...and said emissions from flaring had been sharply reduced in recent years. Supporters of the AQMD regulation said flaring at some local refineries was too often used in non-emergency situations which could be reduced by implementing new technology...and argued that the AQMD staff-prepared rule didn't go far enough.

    The AQMD governing board also adopted rules placing more stringent requirements on toxic air emissions from new facilities located near schools and reducing particulate matter emissions from the Southland's two cement manufacturing plants.

    Unlike LB City Council meetings, public speakers at the AQMD board meeting were allowed to use the Council Chamber's video display equipment to make their points. One showed video of the Sept. 2005 "flaring" that sent black plumes into the air, another (noting that "one picture tells a thousand words") showed slides of flaring events over several months.

    LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill, acting basically by decree (since there is no explicit rule on the matter) has blocked members of the public from using the Council chamber's video display equipment (unless the speaker is a party to a hearing). Prior Mayors did not do this...but to date, no Councilmember has moved to restore the public's ability to let pictures and graphics tell a thousand words.


    Related coverage:

  • South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board Will Meet In LB On Nov. 4 To Address Port-Related Air Pollution

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