Smog-forming air emissions and greenhouse gases related to operations at the Port of Long Beach increased in 2015. That might seem an odd statement to make about The Green Port, which prides itself on its efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of its operations. But the increase was caused by congestion at the San Pedro Bay ports that year, according to port officials.


Protracted labor negotiations for longshore workers resulted in work slowdowns at the ports, which were already impacted by supply chain issues at the time. As a result, there were weeks when more than two-dozen container ships were parked at anchor in the harbor, which made them unable to plug into electric shore power. Instead, they had to run on auxiliary engines, according to a statement from the port.


The 2015 annual inventory of air emissions related to port activity revealed that nitrogen oxides, which cause smog to form, increased by 2% in 2015 compared to 2014. Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 7%. A statement from the port pointed out that container traffic also increased by 7% that year.


There was no change in the amount of sulfur oxide emissions, which remained 97% lower than 2005 levels. Diesel particulate matter emissions, on the other hand, decreased by 1% from 2014.


“The latest emissions inventory shows the effects of last year’s congestion and increased ships at anchor. Thanks to labor and shipping partners, we cleared the backlog quickly,” Lori Ann Guzmán, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, said in the port’s statement about the emissions report. “While we’ve had challenges, we continue to be committed to reaching our goal of zero-emissions operations. We are steadfast in our commitment to improving air quality for the region now and over the long term as evidenced by our recently approved $46 million mitigation grant program.”


The Port of Long Beach has implemented several programs to improve air quality and reduce emissions since 2005, including enacting its Clean Trucks Program, encouraging the use of shore power by shipping lines and incentivizing vessels to reduce speeds in the harbor area. It is in the conceptualization process for an initiative called Energy Island that would put the port on a path to zero-emissions operations and would allow it to sustainably generate its own energy.