In a poll of 400 “likely voters” in Long Beach, San Pedro and Wilmington, more than 70% reported that they were supportive of the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan draft update. The policy document lays out proposed regulations and goals for converting trucks and equipment to near-zero and zero emission technology.


­Funded by the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, the phone poll was conducted from August 15 to 17 by Los Angeles-based research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3). Those polled were selected at random, and the margin of error is 4.9% in either direction, according to the survey results.


The draft Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) would require that all trucks entering the ports meet a near-zero emission standard by 2023 and a zero-emission standard by 2035 or face a fee. It also would require cargo handling equipment to operate at zero emissions by 2030. The Long Beach and Los Angeles harbor commissions are scheduled to vote on a final version of the document on November 2.


A 90% majority of those surveyed supported the overall zero-emissions goal of 2035. Only 6% opposed the proposal, with 4% unsure.


An 84% majority supported creating guidelines beyond what state and federal regulations require.


The California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition has advocated for implementing near-zero emission requirements as soon as 2018, rather than the 2023 date included in the draft CAAP. The poll included questions proposing three different trucking regulations, with more than 70% of respondents supporting each of them.


The first proposal, which received 78% support, suggests that beginning in 2023, all trucks that do not meet a new diesel emission standard that would reduce emissions by 50% to 75% should pay a fee. Another proposal suggests allowing diesel trucks to operate in the ports until 2035 and requiring them to pay a fee if they do not meet a standard to reduce emissions by 50% to 75%. This received 73% approval from respondents.


The third proposal suggests accelerating the plan to require trucks to pay a fee if they do not meet a standard that would require a 90% reduction in emissions in comparison to existing diesel truck engines. This received 72% support.


Additionally, 68% of those called supported proposals to immediately implement a fee on trucks that do not meet a low-emissions standard and to create a regional coalition “to secure existing local, state, and federal funding to help drivers purchase non-diesel technology that meets the low emissions standards.”


The California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition is a statewide organization that advocates for the inclusion of natural gas vehicles in efforts to reach the state’s climate goals.


“Sometimes we get insulated, where we are dealing with this stuff every day, but you’re not really sure how the public is feeling about it,” Thomas Lawson, president of the coalition, told the Business Journal. “The poll showed quite a few interesting points to me. And one of the most interesting data points is that 60% strongly favored but 84% totally supported reducing the air pollution beyond what the state and federal guidelines require.”


Lawson continued, “To me, that opens up a huge doorway for the ports to be able to be aggressive with the Clean Air Action Plan. As well, that they don’t have to fear backlash from the public because they want action and they want action right now, which is what our Act Now Plan hopes to recommend to the joint ports. So, for me, that was one of the biggest takeaways.”


The coalition submitted its Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Now Plan to the ports as a public comment on the CAAP. This plan advocates for a near-zero emission standard that would require engines to meet 0.02 g/bhp‐hr NOx emissions and a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions using renewable fuels and energy. Fees on trucks that do not meet these standards would be imposed sooner.


“We view the fees as an important tool to help guide the market and making the transition earlier,” Greg Roche, vice president of fuel natural gas fuel supplier Clean Energy and a member of the coalition, said. “Without the fees being put in place earlier, you don’t have the market incentive to make that change.”


Roche and Lawson pointed out that there are natural gas powered trucks available now that meet near-zero emission standards.


“The poll suggests that folks don’t want to wait. They don’t want to wait for a future far-off date when we’re going to be cleaner,” Lawson said. “The longer you space that out, you basically are allowing other diesel trucks to stay on the road longer. And, you know, in this day and age, that should be unacceptable to just about everybody – especially those concerned with air quality, those concerned with the public health impacts of diesel trucks. There should be a sense of urgency among us all.”


Lawson argued that “clean diesel” technology is a “losing strategy” for achieving lower emissions. While natural gas trucks exist today that meet the near-zero emission standard, according to the CAAP, there are indications that diesel technology may advance to meet a near-zero emission standard by 2020.