Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, together have the second busiest port region in the US. Both harbors are next to cement factories and petroleum refineries. Trucks coming in and out of the harbor on the always congested 710 highway belch and spew dirty diesel particulates in the neighboring community. In fact, kindergartens and schools conveniently located next to the highway are the hardest hit. Child asthma has skyrocketed over the decades, to the point where these children will never have fully developed lungs.
But things have gotten better and keep on getting better in a measurable way. Ten years later after the Clean Trucks Program was started, it has yielded some good results, with more to come.
The Ports Of Los Angeles & Long Beach — Cleaning Their Environmental Footstep
The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles enacted the Clean Trucks Program late in 2008, banning pre-2007 big trucks from the San Pedro Bay port complex. The result has been a phenomenal 97% reduction in toxic diesel particulate matter emissions from trucks, according to the most recent air quality reports from the harbor press releases.
The port didn’t just force the region to modernize private trucks — it did the same for its own trucking fleet, which led to a 79% decline in smog-forming nitrogen oxides, 91% fewer sulfur oxides, and 24% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The port plan also reaches emissions from ships, locomotives, container yard equipment, and harbor craft like tugboats.
According to Tracy Egoscue, President of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners: “We’ve been far more successful than anyone could foresee, thanks to the work of our incredible staff and our industry’s investment and commitment to cleaner air. … Now we’re moving ahead with still more ambitious goals.”
The Clean Trucks Program restricts new trucks entering service at the ports to be 2014 or newer model year, but only those that joined the Port Drayage Truck Registry. However, trucks already registered as of Sept. 30 can continue operating at the ports, as long as they are current on their annual dues and compliant with emission regulations set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The reason for this last part is that smaller trucking companies faced more financial pressures to meet emissions standards and some have closed doors as a result.
Los Angeles & Long Beach Ports Push For More Environmentally Friendly Programs
According to the Port of Long Beach, the new tariff requirement is the first in a series of steps both ports continue to further the progress under the 2017 CAAP Update that was approved November 2017. Active lobbies have slowed down progress and slowed the goal of transitioning to zero-emissions port transport by 2035.
According to Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero: “It’s a great anniversary for us because we’re breathing cleaner air and we have cleaner trucks going up and down the 710 Freeway. … Now we have a bigger challenge ahead of us to demonstrate that it’s feasible to bring zero-emission trucks here by 2035.”
A company I met in Long Beach, STAX Engineering, has a very creative solution and as is often the case, a more elegant and affordable one. Bob Sharp, the brain behind STAX Engineering, designed a system that attaches to existing combustion sources and removes nearly 100% of the air pollution while also capturing carbon dioxide (CO2). Where STAX shows much potential is that it uses an economically valuable approach that is highly mobile and removes nearly 100% of particulate matter (PM), NOx (nitrogen oxides), and SOx (sulfur oxides), while also capturing CO2 (carbon dioxide), which is the leading cause of global warming and thus catastrophic climate change. I’ll dedicate a more in-depth article on the company, as the system makes so much sense — it leaves me scratching my head and asking why it isn’t used globally yet.
Understandably, we want to move quicker and faster, especially seeing juggernaut China quickly removing any hurdles, sometimes at the detriment of the environment. It would be great to take, adopt, and adapt the positive parts of other systems. A decade is a long time for politics, special interests, and lobbies to find profitable solutions. It’s up to us to continue the pressure to move much faster.
The other fun alternative for the same effect is to buy less, but that requires large cultural change. Until then or without that, we’re hoping for common sense to make a comeback. Quick, blind profits and short-term bottom lines are not more important than human lives.