Study: Air quality improves at Port of Long Beach

| December 29, 2009

Air pollution from ships, locomotives, trucks and other Port of Long Beach-related sources dropped significantly from 2005 to 2008 — including a 21 percent decrease in diesel particulate matter — a new air quality study shows. The biggest part of the improvement came thanks to better technology, not from a slowdown in cargo.

The 2008 Air Emissions Inventory reports that while the amount of cargo moving through the port declined by 3 percent in 2008 (compared to the baseline year 2005), air pollution was cut much further due to efforts to reduce emissions from vessels and vehicles that operate at the port. Overall, it was the port’s best air quality report card since the studies began in 2002.

Air quality initiatives such as the Clean Trucks Program which began in October 2008, the expanded Green Flag vessel speed reduction program, the use of low-sulfur fuel for ships, and the first use of shore power for ships at berth all have contributed to significant air improvements at the port.

“I’m very encouraged by this study,” says Nick Sramek, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “Speaking as a resident of the Westside of Long Beach, this is a critical public health issue for our community. It’s imperative that the port meets or exceeds the aggressive goals in our Clean Air Action Plan.”

The CAAP, adopted in 2006, set a portwide goal of reducing air pollution by 45 percent by 2012. This study hints that the goal could be met even sooner, Sramek says. “We have a major Clean Trucks milestone coming on January 1, 2010, when several thousand additional dirty trucks will be banned from shipping terminals,” Sramek says. “With this and other programs now in place, there’s no doubt we’ll meet the CAAP goal by 2012, and probably much sooner.”

In addition to the 21 percent drop in diesel particulate matter, the 2008 Air Emissions Inventory also showed a 12 percent decline in smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and an 18 percent drop in sulfur oxides (SOx). Greenhouse gases were cut by 7 percent. Trucks serving the port emitted about 20 percent less pollution overall compared to 2005. For oceangoing vessels, there was a 26 percent drop in diesel particulate matter emissions.

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