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Port of Los Angeles Pollution Cap Successfully Cuts Emissions, Bodes Well for Climate Bill

The Port of Los Angeles has succeeded in making steep cuts in diesel emissions since 2008 when California’s Clean Trucks rules took effect, according to the 2009 air emissions inventory. The joint Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach Clean Air Action Plan requires that each unit of cargo be moved with fewer emissions.


Because the measurements are on a per unit of cargo basis, the recession is not a factor in these figures. The Journal of Commerce reports that the program has been a success:

Compared with 2005, per unit of cargo; Diesel particulate matter has dropped 47 percent, NOx by 26 percent and SOx by 51 percent compared to 2005, with over half the drop coming in the last year.

The Clean Trucks program alone has yielded a remarkable 70% cut in emissions, using legislation similar to the pollution caps in the American Power Act (APA) on track for a vote in July.

The introduction of electric vehicles on the dock for cargo handling helped the Port cut emissions, along with switching to low-sulfur fuel in oceangoing vessels, using alternative fuels in cargo handling, modernizing switcher locomotives and just putting speed limits in place.

The changes were made to meet legislative requirements; California’s new low-sulfur fuel rule for oceangoing vessels, the Clean Trucks program. Total port pollution should decline over time even though cargo volumes are growing, because the standard must be met per unit of cargo.

Compared to the American Power Act

The legislation is similar to federal climate legislation – the American Power Act – that for the first time, places a cap on total pollution from just 7,500 emitters, primarily coal plants and gas refineries, that emit over 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

But the difference is perhaps why the port rules got enacted successfully, with little “Tea Party” opposition, unlike the case with federal climate and renewable energy legislation that still faces fierce opposition from polluters, who hire cable news shills to spread the idea that pollution legislation would cover practically anyone who breathes and only Al Gore and Wall Street will be the beneficiaries.

The American Power Act will allow these polluter coal plants and refineries to “trade allowances” with each other – which means that  the more competent coal companies and refineries pay for their efficiency or clean energy improvements using funds from their more incompetent competitors.

By contrast, the switch to cleaner trucks was funded not by the dirty trucking industry itself, but instead – by default – by taxpayers.

Because most trucking companies use a form of sham “independent contractor” status (like more and more businesses in this country) that allowed them to shelve responsibility for cleanup, their employees, often paid meager wages (or, receive “independent earnings from” their trucking “businesses”) are not in a position to front the money for new LNG and clean-diesel trucks.

Because trucking companies were able thus to evade responsibility,  taxpayers picked up the tab for the more than 6,000 clean trucks that cut pollution responsible for over $19 billion in health costs in California. So now congress is creating legislation to require that the trucking companies themselves be responsible, not their “independent” operators, for the investment cost of buying their own clean vehicles.

The Federal legislation preempts that evasion by using a cap and then allowing a trading market, just for the covered emitters:APA: (pdf). No Wall Street financiers will be allowed to trade.

Instead of taxpayers funding the cleanup, the dirtier polluters fund it.

Image: Flikr user Chris and Steve

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Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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