Growing Our Ports Is Essential for Greening Our Ports

Gary Toebben

October 31, 2017

This Thursday, a joint meeting of the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach Harbor Commissions will consider updates to the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) that would require companies serving the ports to spend between $7-14 billion. This is the third iteration of a program that began more than a decade ago, when the original CAAP challenged the public and private sector to deliver on an ambitious set of goals to green and grow the ports at the same time. Companies rose to the challenge and developed technologies that have achieved tremendous emission reductions and have made the Ports a global model for green technology.

At the same time that we were greening our ports, we were losing market share to ports on the east and gulf coast of the U.S., and ports in Canada and Mexico. In 2017, our two ports finally returned to pre-recession cargo levels. As we take the next step with the CAAP, we cannot afford to go so far that we undermine our competitiveness and risk thousands of jobs. The Chamber is advocating for three principles as we update the CAAP:

Cost-effectiveness: Cargo handling equipment and trucks at the ports have successfully reduced diesel emissions 96 percent in the last decade, at a cost of about $2 billion.  It is not economically feasible to spend three to five times that amount to achieve the last four percentage points.  

Competitiveness: While 20 percent of the cargo that our ports handle is destined for Southern California and will always remain in the region, we need to retain our competitive edge to ensure that discretionary cargo doesn’t go elsewhere.  Maintaining competitiveness ensures the financial resources to invest more in environmental improvements.

Technology and fuel neutral: It should not be the role of port authorities to choose winners and losers when a variety of technologies are available to achieve the goals. The ports should pursue a fuel neutral and technology neutral approach that seeks to improve standards, not limit possibilities.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are to be commended for their major strides in reducing air pollution since the inception of the CAAP in 2006. Sulfur oxides, diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases were all reduced ahead of their 2014 goal and in two major source categories, the 2023 goals have already been achieved.

All stakeholders worked together the last 10 years because they know improving our air quality is imperative. In the new plan, striking an appropriate balance between emission reductions and costs will be essential. The current version of the CAAP does not strike that balance and would imperil many of the 900,000 jobs in Southern California that are part of the logistics industry. We must strike a better balance.

And that's The Business Perspective.

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