Regarding air-pollution cleanup at the Port of Long Beach: A progress report

Not all air quality related news is bad. When real progress is made in areas that count more bad-air days than good, that’s a favorable sign and such news can be uplifting. And such is the case in Orange County in Southern California as it relates to the Port of Long Beach (POLB) in regards to how port-sourced air pollution in that neck of the woods as of late has seen tremendous improvement.

Between 2005 and 2011, POLB air pollution clean-up gains have been impressive: nitrogen oxides have been reduced 50 percent, sulfur oxides an astounding 80 percent, emissions of airborne diesel particulate matter experienced a 75 percent drop while greenhouse gas emissions declined 23 percent, although there was a 10 percent reduction in containerized port activity during this time, this according to the Port document, “Port Clean Air Programs Cut Pollution by 75%.”

Meanwhile, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Susan E. Anderson Wise points out: “‘Our clean air programs are effectively reducing air pollution from port sources – the numbers clearly demonstrate that. But we’re not done. With cleaner fuels, more shore power and other programs, we’re on track to continue to further reduce air pollution from the Port.’”

In the article: “Port Initiatives Improve Air Quality Even More,” published in a 2012 Fall POLB report called quite coincidentally the “re:port,” brought to light is an assessment tool called the Port Emissions Inventory, “an annual report that documents the amount of air pollution from all port-related sources – the privately operated ships, trucks, locomotives, harbor crafts, and cargo-handling equipment. The Port analyzes emissions from all cargo-moving equipment, and to ensure the gains are real, checks its findings with a separate calculation that accounts for increases or decreases in container volumes.”

It is important to note that before the Port Emissions Inventory ever gets released, a thorough review yearly is performed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to check for accuracy.

Also worth noting is in 2006 the POLB’s own Clean Air Action Plan went into effect, and as a result, a marked reduction in corresponding diesel particulate matter has occurred.

“Diesel particulate matter is part of a complex mixture that makes up diesel exhaust, but it is arguably the most harmful to human health,” information in the “re:port” revealed. “Cutting diesel particulate matter from port operations has been one of the Port’s top priorities since the adoption of the Port’s Clean Air Action Plan in 2006. The state of California lists diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant based on its potential to increase the risk of cancer, premature death and other health problems.”

Wherever polluted air exists, action taken to improve the quality of the air regardless of location is to be commended – without a doubt!

The news coming out of the Port of Long Beach in this regard is especially promising and, if port traffic activity increases as time goes on, with corresponding or even greater gains, all the better. Now just imagine if the work and results at POLB are repeated at other ports – foreign and domestic – consider for a moment the implications. Positive action on that grand a scale would not only grab my attention but definitely make my day.

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Nov. 29, 2019 @ 2:19 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.