Although the comment period for the San Pedro Bay ports’ joint discussion document outlining proposed updates to their Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) was set to close in mid-February, the ports’ harbor commissions both agreed to extend the comment period as a draft document is created.


Stakeholder groups like the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) had been requesting an extension of the comment period. They have also requested that the ports provide cost assessments for the proposed CAAP updates, as well as an analysis of how the proposals might impact the ports’ competitiveness.


At a February 13 Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners meeting, Heather Tomley, director of environmental planning for the port, indicated staff would provide these analyses in supplemental documents. She told the Business Journal that the ports intend to draw from a number of sources.


The Clean Air Action Plan sets air emissions reductions goals for the ports and outlines means to achieve those goals. The discussion document proposed air emissions reductions in line with the state’s requirements to reduce harmful air emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  It also suggested converting to zero emission trucks by 2035, and converting all terminals’ cargo handling equipment to zero emissions technology by 2030.


The PMSA, which represents terminal operators and shipping companies, has concerns about the economic viability of these goals. The organization commissioned a study by Long Beach-based Moffatt & Nichol, which found that converting terminal operations to all-electric technology by 2030 would cost in excess of $20 billion.


Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Rich Dines said at the February 13 board meeting that he thought converting terminal equipment could cost as little as $2 billion. He told the Business Journal that electrified cargo-handling equipment of various kinds has already been developed by Chinese-based firm BYD. Some are already in use at the Port of Los Angeles, while prototypes for others are scheduled, he said.


“I think that $2 billion is a conservative number. I actually think we could do it for less,” Dines said.


“The solutions the CAAP proposes are more than what is necessary to reach those goals,” Thomas Jelenic, former POLB employee and current vice president of PMSA, told the Business Journal. He said use of ultra low nitrogen-oxide emitting technologies, which are typically powered by renewable fuels, would allow the ports to attain its air emissions reductions goals for half the cost.


Thomas Lawson, president of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, told the Business Journal he thinks the truck conversion timeline should be pushed up to 2023 to address air quality impacts to residents who live near the ports sooner rather than later. However, he would like the requirement to include near-zero emission trucks. “I think it’s great if we have a zero emission Class A truck by 2023. I don’t currently see that technology that far along,” he said.


Dines does not believe zero emission trucks capable of hauling cargo will be available by 2035 given the current rate of technological development. “I do believe in the short term, near zero emission is something we can achieve much sooner than that,” he said.


“There might be some debate over the timelines that we proposed for 2035 for trucks and 2030 for cargo handling equipment,” Tomley said. “Based off of those comments, we are going to be taking a very close look at all of those timelines that we’ve laid out as we’re working on the next draft document.”


Tomley said the ports are trying to balance a variety of needs in this process. “We’re trying to balance the environmental goals and the needs of the local community for reducing health impacts,” she said. “But at the same time, balancing that with the industry and the businesses and the potential costs associated with moving forward with these strategies on these timelines, and making sure we develop programs that can be economically viable.”


Tomley estimated that a Draft CAAP might be completed within 12 weeks, after which time a new comment period will begin for that document. “We would allow people to weigh in on that updated draft,” She said. “Then following that next public comment period we would take the document back, finalize it and then present that to our boards for approval this summer.”