(August 28, 2005) -- Calling the action a significant step in efforts to improve air quality, officials of the Ports of LB and L.A. announced -- and their cities' respective Mayors' offices applauded -- an agreement (subject to L.A. and LB Harbor Commission approval) in which Pacific Harbor Line (PHL), the railway that hauls cargo inside the two Port complexes, will replace its fleet of sixteen old-style diesel locomotives with new, high tech diesel locomotives that meet and exceed federal Tier 2 air pollution standards.
At an August 26 press event that drew LB and L.A. media outlets, LB Harbor Commission Vice President James Hankla said, "We are not in denial here. We understand what the problems are. We understand what needs to be done."
LBReport.com posts extended transcript excerpts of the proceedings below.
PHL locomotives haul cargo for placement and dispatch on the major railway carriers, connecting to BNSF, UPR and the Alameda Corridor.
The Ports of LB and L.A., the South Coast Air Quality Management District and PHL are sharing the $23 million cost of the sixteen new, high tech cleaner diesel locomotives...and two alternative fuel locomotives (one a battery hybrid, the other LNG). The Ports will each pay up to $5 million, with the balance coming from PHL and a $3,2 million AQMD "Carl Moyer" grant.
"We know also that we cannot do this without the help of other governmental agencies and private industry," Commissioner Hankla said, adding "When I was CEO at the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, we learned that public-private were essential to all major undertakings."
PHL CEO Peter Gilbertson said, "The new locomotives that we will acquire will make PHL have the best environmental profile for air quality emissions of any railroad in the United States."
LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill said, "I was asked this morning if we would see immediately a significant change, and I said I don't think it's going to be immediate and I don't know if you'll see it, but we will breathe it..."
During the transition period between the old and the new diesel locomotives (the latter expected in 20060, PHL will use emulsified diesel fuel, thus yielding immediate results, the Port of LB said in a written release.
Port of LB Executive Director Richard Steinke said that a few years ago, both L.A. and LB Harbors realized their development of on-dock rail facilities called for a more efficient way to dispatch trains. Accordingly, the Ports of L.A. and LB sent out requests for proposals...and the successful company was PHL.
"And I think that to a terminal, every terminal operator would say that PHL has done a terrific job of managing the traffic throughout the harbor. And so this is a very logical extension to move forward with another initiative in cleaning up their engines and getting greater efficiencies from their locomotives," Mr. Steinke said.
The replacement program is part of a new ten-year extension of an agreement between the Ports and PHL. "The U.S. EPA has adopted strict regulations for new switcher locomotives, but no regulations require the purchase of the clean-diesel locomotives," noted Executive Director Steinke said in a PoLB release.
Mr. Steinke thanked the South Coast Air Quality Management District for its role in funding part of the program...and also indicated that U.S. EPA is working with the PoLB on a number of other initiatives.
At the event, held on what used to part of the "Navy Mole" (seaward from what was once the LB Naval Station, now lined with cranes), LB officials appeared alongside L.A. Deputy Mayor Bud Ovrom (appearing for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) and L.A. Harbor Commissioner Tom Warren (who co-chaired former L.A. Mayor Hahn's "No Net Increase" in air pollution task force.
The L.A. task force, created several years ago by now-former Mayor Hahn, produced a report in June 2005 listing steps it said could roll air pollutants back to 2001 levels by later this decade. The "No Net Increase" report was presented to Mayor Hahn just days before he left office. Its fate is unknown under new L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa...whose has announced he is replacing all of the current Hahn-appointed L.A. Harbor Commissioners (including L.A. Harbor Commissioner Warren) and replacing them with his own appointees.
Commissioner Warren said that although Mayor Villaraigosa hasn't officially committed to the No Net Increase Report's recommendations, he has "kind of intimated that he is willing to look at" the report. Commissioner Warren added that the Report was "a major, major effort and we don't want this thing to wind up in some drawer."
LB didn't take part in the No Net Increase Task Force apart from monitoring some of its proceedings and reviewing the Report. Earlier this year, LB's Harbor Commission adopted a Green Port resolution (previously reported by LBReport.com) that doesn't commit to "no net increase" (or a net decrease) in pollution but states policies that the Port of LB will follow.
LB Harbor Commission VP Hankla said in his remarks, "The Ports are still in a great race to see who will be the cleanest fastest. I think Long Beach will win, but I'm delighted to have Los Angeles in the race."
LBReport.com extended transcript excerpts follow. Our transcript is unofficial, prepared by us.
PoLB Exec. Dir. Steinke: ...This truly is a watershed day for both the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It is a continuation of a new ethic in a further commitment to air quality and our respective environmental programs...
LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill: ...This is a significant day...[I'm] very proud that the Port of Long Beach has started its Green Port program...and we have joined together today to celebrate an agreement between the Port and Pacific Harbor Line that will improve air quality.
And I must tell you that anything related to the word "environment" is exciting. Anything to do with the Ports paying attention and the businesses paying attention to our environment is welcomed with open arms by our community and the people in the southland, because of the significance of the Ports, the growth of the Ports, and the impact it has had on southern California.
So this is a significant step today...During the year  we're going to see a replacement of the Pacific Harbor Line's entire fleet of locomotives with much cleaner ones, new clean diesel locomotives exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's toughest standard. Now that's really something to talk about and I have to commend them for that. The engines are going to have far less pollutants and for that we can be very grateful.
So we are very pleased -- I'm very pleased -- to be part of this today. I want to congratulate everyone who is involved with this major step.
Today we take great pride in the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and the businesses here, they are recognizing the need for change in the area on improving our quality of life, improving the environment.
So I've been a supporter, a leading supporter, of trade and technology and tourism, and today we are bringing new technology along with our trade, two of our major goals for the city...
I was asked this morning if we would see immediately a significant change, and I said I don't think it's going to be immediate and I don't know if you'll see it, but we will breathe it...
We're taking steps almost each week in making sure that we have a better quality of air and water. Thank you very much for all of your hard work.
Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Bud Ovrom:...I'm honored to represent our Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, he sends his regrets that he is unable to be here...He's now been in office 56 days I think...
He's actually spent an inordinate amount of time in the Port because he's such a great believer in the Ports...He does ask me to send his respects to Mayor Beverly O'Neill. He has such great admiration for the work that she has done, and the quality of things accomplished in Long Beach under her leadership.
...This project is so important to the Mayor [Villaraigosa] because it is so much an affirmation of his firm belief that we need to grow the Port and he asked me to have the Port in my portfolio of economic development. His description was that the Port is really the singular, most dynamic economic engine we have in Los Angeles and that we have to make a firm commitment to growing the Port and that the only way that we're going to be able to grow the work is to be able to grow it green and to grow it community friendly.
And this is a classic example of growing the Port in an environmentally sensitive way. It's only through projects like this, partnerships in two great cities, partnerships with the industry, that we can prove to people that it is possible to both grow the Port and be environmentally friendly at the same time...
LB Harbor Commission VP James Hankla: ...We at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, we have had great success over the years in bringing international trade through this region. That is well known. I think that trade has been generated by friendly competition between the two Ports.
I don't think the Ports you see today would be here at all were it not for that friendly competition. I have to say that in years gone by, the watchword has been market share. The Ports are still in a great race to see who will be the cleanest fastest. I think Long Beach will win, but I'm delighted to have Los Angeles in the race.
A little less well known and more recent are our great environmental successes. The water quality in San Pedro has improved so much that we could soon have an abalone farm out here. When I was a young man, I used to dive for abalone off White's Point.
Then those days were gone forever, but they may be coming back.
To enhance wildlife habitats, the two Ports have supported restoration of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. We also have a rookery -- how many people know what a rookery is? -- we have rookery out here for Black-Crested Night Herons. I hope that you'll all take the opportunity to visit that rookery some time in the near future.
We built the Alameda Corridor so that trains could move easily from the waterfront to the major rail yards in East Los Angeles without blocking traffic. The corridor and our rail network at the Ports have taken thousands of trucks off the freeways.
For example, the Total Terminals International rail yard next to us here took more than 182,000 trucks off the roadways last year. This year, they expect to eliminate more than 275,000 truck trips.
At the Port of Long Beach, we're planning to do even more. This year, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners has adopted the Green Port Policy. The Policy adopted guidelines for the Port to use in protecting the community and the environment from the negative impacts of Port operations.
We are not in denial here. We understand what the problems are. We understand what needs to be done. We are setting about doing it with our partners in the Port of Los Angeles.
We know also that we cannot do this without the help of other governmental agencies and private industry.
When I was CEO at the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, we learned that public-private were essential to all major undertakings. So I'm very proud to see both Ports partnering with PHL in this milestone agreement to improve air quality...
L.A. Harbor Commissioner Tom Warren: ...As co-chair of the No Net Increase [Task Force] in the Port of Los Angeles, we're working very hard, this is one of our projects that we had hoped to get started, and probably the first ones to get started are the 68 that we had tagged as ways to clean up the Port.
So working along with the Port of Long Beach, and Pacific Harbor Line, we're heading in that direction. We're going to see cleaner air and a better place to be able to work.
...The ILWU is very supportive of clean air programs. I'm sure all of you realize that cleaner air is a better quality of life, and on the docks and in the surrounding communities, is a goal that is universal...
...The Port of Los Angeles has committed several millions of dollars to go ahead and start the air cleanup even before the No Net Increase program is officially approved by the Mayor's office [Mayor Villaraigosa]...
Pacific Harbor Lines CEO Peter Gilbertson: ...One of the ways we get efficiencies in our operations is to be cost-effective...We recognized some years ago that the environmental issue would be a growing one here. We want to be a good corporate citizen, and we felt we needed to do something about that even though we believe we're really not required to do so.
So we initiated some discussions with both Ports, they were very receptive to the idea of trying to improve the environmental profile of the locomotive switching in the Ports.
And the result of that is the agreement that we're announcing here today...
The new locomotives that we will acquire will make PHL have the best environmental profile for air quality emissions of any railroad in the United States.
We're proud of that. We want to be part of that. As we grow, we're going to be looking for new technology and even more efficient locomotives...