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    Port of LB Quietly Sent Objections To Parts Of Clean Air Plans Proposed By AQMD and CA Air Resource Board; No Public Vote By Harbor Commissioners, Read Port's Letters To Regulators

    (Aug. 4, 2003, updated 4:25 p.m. and add'l detail Aug. 5) -- Without public discussion or a vote of LB Harbor Commissioners, the Port of Long Beach quietly filed written comments objecting to parts of the local clean air plan then-proposed (subsequently adopted Aug. 1) by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), and filed separate objections to parts of a proposed statewide clean air implementation plan at the CA Air Resources Board (CARB).

    [Aug 4 update] CARB has advised that it deleted one of its proposals in response to concerns raised by the Port of LB and others. [end this update, further below]

    The Port of LB's positions, discovered by while reviewing the recent AQMD proceedings, were not publicly agendized, discussed or adopted in any voted action of the LB Board of Harbor Commissioners.

    The letters, transmitted on behalf of the Port of LB to AQMD and CARB in March and April 2003 respectively, were signed by Port Planning Director Robert Kanter, PhD...and cc'd to other regulatory agencies and over a dozen shipping and maritime interest groups.

    We post the Port of Long Beach letters verbatim in pdf form on links below. We also post the AQMD's staff responses to the Port's letters on a link below.

    In its letter to the state Air Resource Board, the Port of Long Beach stated in part:

    The Port has concerns that two of the measures that comprise the mobile source element of the SIP [State Implementation Plan], Marine-3 and Marine-4. The Port is concerned that Marine-3 is based on potentially infeasible operational changes in the port industry, while at the same time claiming potentially infeasible operational changes in the Port industry, while at the same time claiming potentially unachievable emission reductions..The feasibility of cleaner fuels is questionable given the international nature of shipping and ship design...Also proposed under this measure is cold-ironing. However, the feasibility of vessels using shore-side power in San Pedro Bay is still very uncertain and may be applicable only in a limited number of instances. The Port has begun a new study of the feasibility of cold-ironing to determine the feasibility of cold-ironing given changes in technology over the past 15 years. We suggest the CARB meet with shipping lines to clarify these issues prior to pursuing this measure.

    Marine-4 targets land side port operations for emission reduction and includes strategies such as alternative fuels, retrofit controls, and electrification. Unfortunately, little detailed information is included to assess to the maritime industry. With that in mind, we ask the CARB to work with the maritime industry to ensure that only feasible, cost-effective and state-wide measures are implemented...

    [Aug. 5 update] Jerry Martin, spokesman for the CA Air Resources Board, tells that the Marine-3 section was deleted by the ARB in response to concerns (international issues) raised by the Port of LB and others. The Port's letter indicated Marine 3 included cold-ironing (operating ships on alternate power at dockside instead of using their engines) but CARB spokesman Martin said CARB staff indicates cold-ironing type verbiage actually appears in Marine 4...which has now been relabelled Marine it's still in there.

    Mr. Martin indicated CARB staff is still examining whether a feasible rule on cold-ironing or electrification can be developed and enforced. CARB's State Implementation Plan, adopted in 1994, was revised in May 2003 and is constantly being amended as new technology or new ideas come on board, Mr. Martin said. [end Aug. 5 update]

    Reached for comment by, Dr. Kanter said the Port letters were not policy positions as such but were comments submitted by the Port mainly on technical issues. He noted that both of the agency proceedings anticipate comments on the proposed actions from interested parties and the public.

    The AQMD responded to comments from 49 parties besides the Port of LB...including the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, the CA Association of Port Authorities, the American Trucking Association...and the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.

    The Port of LB's governing body is a Mayor-nominated, Council-approved Board of Harbor Commissioners. Historically, many of the Port's legislative and regulatory positions have proceeded without serious public oversight. The City Council has not to date sought to make legislative and regulatory actions advocated by the Port of LB consistent with positions established for the City of LB by the elected City Council.

    The Port's annual budget includes sums for advocacy. The City Council has the power to approve or disapprove the Port's annual budget as part of the City of LB budget. A Council vote on whether to approve the Port's FY 04 budget is due in September.

    The City of LB's 2003 state legislative agenda does not include regulatory environmental actions but says the City will support "legislation that improves the quality of air in the city of Long Beach by reducing particulate matter."

    The issue of whether the Port of LB should expend public resources to take policy positions on issues affecting Long Beach residents -- whose public health and safety the elected LB City Council has the duty to protect -- came to a head last year when the City of Long Beach had two conflicting positions on a bill by Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-PV) to reduce pollution from truck idling in ports.

    The Port of Long Beach -- in a publicly voted action by Harbor Commissioners -- opposed the bill as then written. In response, LB Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal and Dan Baker (whose districts include the Port and adjacent areas) agendized a resolution to support the bill. Nearly two hours of public testimony ensued. LB writer Bry Myown told the Council:

    Collectively, your constituents are more adversely affected by Port activities than any other group of residents in the state of California...I believe the [City] Charter gives them jurisdiction only over the Harbor Dept...and a duty to maintain operations with a special regard for public safety...[I]f this were a hearing on an alcohol or a business license, I believe that you would find the business and the landlord responsible for the nuisances generated by their patrons. Besides believing that your [Harbor] Commissioners acted in excess of their authority, I want to point out that they certainly acted in opposition to your legislative agenda...

    [A]s we recently learned, diesel emissions are only one way port operations affect our safety. We learned on Sept. 11 that we're terribly vulnerable and I appreciate our Mayor's legislative advocacy on our behalf in that regard, but I'd hate to think that your appointees are working the other side of the street in a mistaken belief that their tenants' concerns are more important than ours...Many people believe that [the Port is] independently governed, and I would remind you that you actually control their operations through your annual adoption of their budget. As you enter your budget deliberation cycle, I would ask you to remove any funds that support their legislative advocacy.

    And I would also remind you that any Commissioner can be removed by you at any time without reason...

    The Council voted 8-0 (Kell absent) to support the Lowenthal anti-truck idling bill. The legislation was eventually amended to remove the opposition and enacted into law.

    Roughly two weeks later in late August 2002, the AQMD's Executive Officer labelled the ports of Long Beach/Los Angeles "by far the largest source of air pollution in our region." The statement, contained in an AQMD press release, quoted 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 release called port related impacts the "Number 1 Source of Southland Smog" and said, "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." It added, "As ship traffic increases during the next 20 years, nitrogen oxide emissions from the ports are expected to increase by about 70 percent."

    In November 2002, local environmentalists drew considerable media attention by staging a mock funeral, seeking to put a human face on deaths statistically attributable to pollution (especially diesel pollution) attributable to port or port-related operations.

    In December 2002, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution (also agendized by Councilmembers Lowenthal and Baker) requesting that the City Manager work with the Harbor Department to halt the idling of ships while at berth in the Port of Long Beach. The December 2002 action took place in a non-confrontational atmosphere, in which Port officialdom gave a businesslike and professional, if noncommittal, response. After noting a number issues need to be examined, POLB Executive Director Richard Steinke told the Council, "We look forward to working with the City Manager and Southern California Edison in the future to develop what might be alternatives when it comes to ship emissions...We will look forward to working with staff to come up with what we can see as being reasonable and rational as we move through this."

    In March 2003, as reported by, Port officials unveiled a "Healthy Harbor" initiative spotlighting Port environmental measures. In a written release noting that the initiative builds on past and current Port environmental efforts, Harbor Commissioners voted March 17 to approve an Air Quality Improvement Program that the Port said "combines existing and new efforts that surpass state and federal requirements and commit millions of dollars to reduce diesel emissions by promoting the use of alternative fuels and pollution-control devices."

    The Port release said its Air Quality Improvement Program exceeds state and federal requirements "because it aims to reduce diesel emissions from tenant and port owned vehicles and equipment as well as locomotives"...sources that are less regulated by the federal EPA and the local AQMD. As examples, the Port cited:

    • Conduct at least one pilot project in cooperation with one or more terminal operators to study the feasibility of using liquid natural gas or other alternative fuels in yard tractors, forklifts or other heavy duty terminal equipment

    • Undertake a major study of the "cold-ironing" of ships (using electric rather than internal combustion power while at berth)

    • Require tenants to prepare plans to significantly reduce emissions by 2007

    • Actively promote and fund efforts to develop advanced technology for truck scheduling and freeway message systems that will reduce truck congestion and idling.

    The Port noted that it has already begun evaluating the cold-ironing of ships and has undertaken programs to install pollution control equipment and convert tenant-owned and port-owned vehicles to alternative fuels.

    In the Port release, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill was quoted as saying, "We can continue to improve our quality of life while reaping the economic benefits or Port activity."

    To view the Port of LB's letters to the AQMD (and AQMD response) as well as the Port's letter to the CA Air Resources Board, click on:

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