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    Port Completes Petroleum Coke-Dust Reduction Projects

    (April 2, 2004) -- The Port of LB has completed a series of steps, long sought by community members and mandated by LB Assemblymember Alan Lowenthal and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which have resulted in demonstrably less pollution from black petroleum coke dust in LB.

    The Port has completed installation and commissioning of a new $9 million ship loader at its Pier G bulk cargo terminal, the final step in measures taken over several years to meet state and local requirements to control petroleum coke dust.

    The new ship loader is able to reach directly into the holds of today's larger vessels, minimizing the escape of coke dust.

    Port ship loader 2004
    Photo source: Port of LB

    Petroleum coke, a coal-like carbon byproduct of the oil refining process, is one of the Port's leading exports and shipped abroad for use as industrial fuel. For years, mountains of the material piled up in the open air with relatively little care taken in storing and transferring it. Black dust spewed into LB's air, settled on roadways, cars, boats, patio furniture, throughout the waterfront and wafted over nearby schools.

    Public pressure mounted, followed by squabbling over whether the black dust was petroleum coke or dirt from tires and asphalt. Studies (including those conducted by the Port) confirmed that much (although not all) of the black material was petroleum coke.

    The AQMD put its foot down and [despite an embarrassing, non-agendized letter voicing objections from one then-LB Harbor Commissioner] mandated the covering of the open coke piles and other sources (amended rule 1158).

    At the same time, LB Assemblymember (and former LB Councilmember) Alan Lowenthal, whose district includes the Port and Port-impacted downtown residents, introduced legislation (AB 1775) that used state law to block regulatory escape routes and hasten the process of covering the coke piles once and for all.

    The Port went to work. The coke piles were covered. The Port and its customers increased street sweeping and improved housekeeping. They renovated and added enclosures to conveyor belts and installed truck washers. The Port paved and rebuilt a bulk-cargo rail yard.

    The result: the amount of petroleum coke in particulate samples collected at LB's Downtown Marina has dropped dramatically, from 21% in 1996 to between 3% to 8% now.

    [ comment: These results have pragmatic and moral dimensions for LB activists, LB City Hall, the Port of LB, lawmakers, regulators and the public. The Port didn't need the black eye, City Hall didn't want the black air, and no one deserves black lungs to promote commerce. We hope past is prologue in this and other areas.]

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