The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have yet again teamed up to advance cleaner air in the region. On November 2, their governing boards passed a new Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), a document outlining the most ambitious goals for cleaning up the air at the ports yet.


The plan aims to build upon the successes of its previous iteration, passed in 2006, which required trucking companies to upgrade their vehicles to cleaner running engines and mandated that shipping lines institute certain measures to reduce emissions, among other air quality improvement strategies.


The goals outlined in the CAAP were in part the result of a directive by the mayors of Long Beach and Los Angeles for the ports to create a path to zero emissions operations.


In an e-mail to constituents, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called the CAAP “the most progressive clean air plan in the nation to fight climate change and boost the green economy.” He said that both ports will work with terminals to move toward zero emissions and “support good jobs.”


In a joint statement from the ports, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reflected, “This update to the Clean Air Action Plan is an important step toward our ambitious goal of zero-emissions landside goods movement by 2035, and I look forward to making even more progress with our partners in the months and years to come.”


The CAAP document indicates that it could cost between $7 billion to $14 billion to implement its goals. According to a statement released by the ports, major goals within the CAAP include the following:

• By 2020, requiring terminal operators to purchase zero-emission equipment or the cleanest equipment available when purchasing cargo handling equipment. The end goal is to transition terminals to zero-emissions operations by 2030.

• Transitioning to a zero-emission drayage trucking fleet by 2035, and creating rate structures and incentives to encourage turnover to near-zero emission truck technologies in the interim.

• Creating universal truck appointment systems at terminals and identifying other programs to both reduce emissions and improve the flow of goods.

• Creating infrastructure plans that support electrification and use of alternative fuels and other energies for terminal operations.

• Expanding on-dock rail infrastructure with the goal of moving half of all port cargo by rail.

• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

• By 2023, reducing emissions of diesel particulate matter to 77%, nitrogen oxides by 59% and sulfur oxides by 93%, compared to 2005 levels.


Coordinated strategies for achieving these goals fall within the categories of clean vehicles; equipment and fuels; infrastructure investment and planning; supply chain efficiencies; and energy resource planning.


The document directs that an advisory group of public sector and industry stakeholders be formed to develop specific strategies for achieving its goals.


Industry reactions to the plan’s approval were mixed. In an official statement, John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA), said that both ports and their boards “listened to, and in some cases, addressed” his organization’s concerns. The PMSA represents terminal operators and shipping lines.


McLaurin said progress had been made in key areas, including a provision that the ports would regularly assess the rate of development of new, cleaner technologies rather than mandating the use of technologies that are not available. “Our concerns remain about the CAAP’s $14 billion cost and its potential negative impacts on port competitiveness and the one in nine jobs in the Southern California region that are reliant on the ports,” McLaurin stated.


“As the CAAP is implemented, it will take open, honest and collaborative dialogue by all parties to address the feasibility of zero-emission cargo-handling equipment and to examine the ports’ ability to compete with other North American trade gateways.”


Alex Cherin, chair of the California Trucking Association Intermodal Conference, provided the following statement to the Business Journal: “The California Trucking Association wants to thank the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for engaging its membership throughout the drafting and implementation of the Clean Air Action Plan. We believe that the final CAAP strikes a meaningful balance between the environmental goals we all share with the operational realities we face daily in transporting the nation’s cargo.”


Cherin added that the association applauded the ports’ efforts to recognize the important role the trucking industry has played in meeting and exceeding environment policies. “We particularly thank the ports for the focus they have placed in the CAAP on improving the operational environment facing drayage including the need for a reasonable visit time at our terminals,” he said.


Via its initiative “Justice For Port Truck Drivers,” the International Brotherhood of Teamsters released a statement expressing support for cleaner air but concern that the cost burden may fall on truck drivers.


“The ports unanimously approved the plan without resolving the systemic exploitation of port truck drivers that has compelled drivers to actively engage in collective action at the courts, in their truck yards, and at the ports – including 15 strikes in the last four years,” the Teamsters’ statement read.


The statement also said that truck drivers have consistently stated that the CAAP “will severely exacerbate” their exploitation by their employers, as detailed in a recent USA Today investigative report.


Greg Roche, vice president at Clean Energy Fuels and a member of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, told the Business Journal via e-mail that he had hoped to see more aggressive goals in the CAAP. “Our industry advocated for immediate actions to deploy clean trucks because the technology is available and there are urgent needs to fight climate change and air pollution. We commend the commissioners for listening and advancing the start date to 2020. Certainly, we would like to have seen an earlier start date but, regardless, we will work tirelessly with the ports, Air Quality Management District, and Air Resources Board to deploy near-zero RNG [renewable natural gas] trucks as quickly as possible,” he stated.