A sweeping, multi-billion-dollar plan to slash truck emissions, increase rail access and boost overall freight movement efficiency has been unveiled by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as the nation’s two largest seaports continue efforts to minimize their impact on Southern California air quality.
Among its provisions, the 73-page plan calls for achieving a true zero-emissions drayage fleet at the ports by 2035 – a move that will have tremendous impact on scores of trucking firms that haul goods between the ports and Southern California warehousing and freight forwarding points.
It also calls for an increase in rail access to the ports, which would cut into trucking firms’ business, with the goal of using trains to move 50 percent of all cargo leaving the ports. This figure doubles the 26 percent of goods currently moved out of the port by rail.
The draft measure updates the twin ports’ Clean Air Action Plan that was first issued in 2006. The update is subject to a 60-day public review and comment period before being implemented.
Plan developers estimate that full implementation of the 2017 Clean Air Action Plan Update would cost between $7 billion and $14 billion. It was developed with input from freight industry, environmental, regulatory and community groups gathered during more than 50 meetings and workshops held during the past two years.
Reaction from the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition shows the extensive work poured into the plan still leaves things undone.
The draft should include plans for accelerated deployment of clean trucks with low-emission natural gas engines fueled with natural gas from renewable resources, said the coalition in a statement issued shortly after the plan was released.
The plan “is the starting point for finalizing measures to reduce pollution from the ports,” but it isn’t complete and relies too heavily on electrification, the coalition argues.
Natural gas truck advocates have long opposed electric trucks as “unproven, expensive technology,” and worry that a push for heavy electrification will render useless the millions of dollars that truck operators and engine developers have spent on natural gas technology in recent years.
While one of the draft plan’s key goals is increasing use of electrically powered trucks, tractors and other freight handling equipment, it also calls for increased use of low-carbon alternative fuels – such as renewable natural gas – to replace diesel
Other goals of the plan include establishment of new clean air standards for drayage trucks entering the ports that would be phased in starting in 2018; adoption of idle-reducing technologies for ships and wheeled vehicles; establishment of a universal truck appointment plan to minimize truck turn-around times; and development of plans to promote terminal equipment electrification – including charging systems.
“These ports are going where no port has gone before,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.
The two ports have been working for years to reduce emissions and improve air quality – often with great resistance from shippers and freight haulers that have to shoulder the financial burden of cleaning up their equipment.
The ports’ previously established 2023 clean air goals for slashing carcinogenic diesel particulate matter and sulfur oxide emissions that contribute to lung disease have already been met, and a hoped-for 59 percent reduction from 2005 levels of emissions of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, a major contributor to respiratory disease, is “within striking distance,” according to the plan.
The 2017 plan calls for increasing reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with the ultimate goal of achieving zero or near-zero levels of harmful emissions.
“We’re ready to make history again, looking at a new array of technologies and strategies to further lower port-related emissions in the decades ahead,” Seroka said.
The public review period ends Sept. 18 and the ports will be accepting written comments until the close of business that day. Additionally, an Aug. 30 public workshop has been scheduled in the port city of Wilmington, Calif. near Long Beach. A public hearing on the final draft will be held in November.