(And How It’s Being Cleaned Up)
By Tiffany Rider - Assistant Editor
August 27, 2013 - Studies have shown that air pollution is one of the greatest environmental concerns affecting human health and climate change, specifically in Southern California. A significant contributor to air pollution is a group of highly reactive gasses known as nitrogen oxides (NOx), which include nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrous acid and nitric acid. Sources contributing nitrous oxide production surround Long Beach and are woven into the fabric of various industries that keep the regional economy moving forward.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses NO2, which forms from emissions from vehicles, equipment and industrial facilities, as the indicator for its National Ambient Air Quality Standard. This toxic gas, according to the EPA, reacts with moisture in the air and other compounds to form particles that penetrate the lungs, aggravating new and existing respiratory issues and existing heart disease. It also contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, a colorless gas that can be harmful to breathe and that triggers various health problems.
NO2 forms quickly from emissions from off-road equipment, trucks, cars, ships, boats, power plants and other sources. The amount of N2O emitted from these sources depends on the type of fuel and vehicle technology, maintenance and operating practices.
The EPA suggests the concentration of NO2 in the air will decrease as more emissions regulations come online. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), which manages air quality programs and regulations in Orange County and the majority of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, estimated the top categories for NOx emissions for 2014 as part of its 2012 Air Quality Management Plan.
“One of our major offices is our tech advancement office,” Sam Atwood, spokesperson for the Diamond Bar-based AQMD, told the Business Journal. “Its main mission is to develop advanced clean air vehicle technologies, everything from passenger to heavy duty vehicles. They sponsor research and development, and deployment contracts in collaboration with other entities.”
In addition, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has a variety of programs in place to control NOx. “We control emissions that create smog, toxics and climate change,” ARB spokesperson Melanie Turner said in an e-mail. “Since NOx is half of the smog-forming equation, any program that deals with reducing pollution from a combustion source helps to reduce NOx. There are NOx controls on everything from the smallest portable engine up to the largest industrial boiler or power plant, and everything in between. Please note, however, that we have a limited ability to regulate certain combustion sources, such as locomotives, oceangoing vessels and aircraft.”
1. Heavy-Duty Diesel Trucks
Heavy-duty diesel trucks include big rigs, school buses and other large diesel-fueled vehicles on the road.
2. Off-Road Equipment
Off-road equipment includes construction equipment such as bulldozers, graders, loaders, excavators, cherry pickers, backhoes, forklift trucks, dirt haulers and tractors.
3. Ships & Commercial Boats
Ships include cargo and break bulk carriers, tankers, cruise vessels and ocean liners. Examples of commercial boats include tugboats, fishing vessels, rescue boats and platform barges.
4. Passenger Cars
Passenger cars are everyday vehicles on roads and highways with at least two seats. These include coupes, sedans, convertibles, hatchbacks, wagons and some small sport utility vehicles.
5. Light-Duty Trucks
Light-duty trucks are commercial vehicles with a capacity of less than 4,000 pounds. Turner provided the following list of vehicles classified as light-duty trucks: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet’s S10 pickup and Equinox, Dodge Journey, GMC Terrain, Jeep’s Compass and Patriot, Mercedes-Benz GLK 3504Matic, Nissan pickup, Toyota pickup and SAAB 9-4X.
The AQMD launched a new program on August 26 to help truck fleets replace older heavy-duty diesel trucks with cleaner, low-emission models using $90 million in Proposition 1B funding. Applications are being accepted now through October 10. Port trucks are not eligible for this funding opportunity.
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) regulates drayage trucks that transport marine containers, as part of its ongoing effort to reduce NOx and particulate matter. The ARB regulations support the Clean Air Action Plan, approved in 2006 by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Shore power efforts allow ships calling to the ports to retain power and reduce engine output. This effort is part of the roadmap for putting into place zero-emission equipment throughout the port complex. These plug-in and hybrid off-road equipment models, once operational, would further assist emission reduction efforts at the ports. The ports also have a speed reduction program that requires ships slow down before entering the San Pedro Bay, which helps taper the ships’ emissions.
The Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program, as managed by the ARB, provides grant funding for projects that clean up emissions from trucks, ships, passenger vehicles and off-road equipment. Going into its 15th year, the Carl Moyer Program has provided funding to clean up more than 4,400 vehicles.
The ARB also regulates passenger vehicle emissions through rules that are increasingly stringent. Year after year, manufacturers must offer vehicles to Californians that are closer to zero emissions. Education on passenger vehicle emissions, a growing case for environmental stewardship and the need for better fuel economy all factor into why the top selling vehicle in California in 2012 was the Toyota Prius, a plug-in hybrid vehicle.
“We have helped pioneer technologies for electric and electric plug-in hybrid vehicles,” Atwood said. “Now that everyone knows what a Prius is, you are seeing the next generation of these types of vehicles. We’ve been doing that for 20 years. Fuel cell technologies haven’t been commercialized to the same extent, but we believe that has the role in the future. Hydrogen has a renewable source like wind or solar.”