San Pedro Bay Ports’ CAAP is a ‘Trailblazing’ Model for the Rest of the Country to Follow, EPA Says

May 4, 2021

For the last 15 years, the San Pedro Bay Ports complex has been working toward ambitious environmental goals to drastically reduce emissions. Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is praising the ports’ Clean Air Action Plan as a “groundbreaking program” as release in their April 1 report.

The plan is a partnership between the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, collectively known as the San Pedro Bay Ports, to reduce emission from all sources, including container ships, harbor craft, trucks, terminal equipment and locomotives.

“The Clean Air Action Plan is an excellent example of what can happen when port operators work with neighboring communities to develop and implement a robust plan, leading to positive impacts on air quality and emissions,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “While there is still lots of work to be done in San Pedro Bay, this trailblazing effort can serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow.”

In Long Beach, the CAAP already has greatly reduced emissions compared to 2005 levels. Sulfur oxide has been reduced 97%, diesel particulate matter 88%, nitrogen oxide 58% and greenhouse gases 19%, according to the port’s 2019 air emissions inventory. Data for 2020 will not be available until the fall.

The reductions have already met multiple milestones of the program. For example, the port aimed to decrease diesel particulate matter 77% and sulfur oxides by 93% by 2023. The port is just 1% shy of its goal to reduce nitrogen oxides 59% by 2023.

These emissions reductions were made while container throughput at the port increased 14%.

In 2017, the ports revisited program, providing updates and revisions based on the work already completed. The revised CAAP is focused on greenhouse gas emissions reductions—a 40% decrease by 2030 and an 80% decrease by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

Other goals include the capture of 100% of at-berth vessel emissions by 2030, zero truck emissions by 2035 and fully zero-emission terminal equipment by 2030.

“I remain optimistic that we will meet those goals. Challenges still remain—from technology to infrastructure to funding,” said Matt Arms, director of environmental planning for the Port of Long Beach. “We’re starting to overcome those challenges but … we’re going to have to continue to check in as we go.”

The EPA case study noted the ports’ plan presents useful best practices and lessons learned that other port authorities and near-port communities across the country could look to as a guide when developing similar plans. In particular, the EPA noted the ports’ collaboration with surrounding communities, their annual emissions inventories, setting quantified emissions targets, supporting technical innovation and developing partnerships with industry and government.

Environmental justice was a focal point of the EPA study, which noted nearby communities were able to elicit change by participating in environmental agency deliberations and cultivating relationships with local elected officials to “elevate port air quality issues to city, county and state political discussions.”

What this means to you

Despite a 14 percent increase in containers throughput the port, California’s San Pedro Bay Ports’ Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) greatly reduced its emissions from 2005 levels. In Long Beach, the CAAP has reduced Sulfur oxide by 97 percent, diesel particulate matter by 88 percent, nitrogen oxide by 58 percent and greenhouse gases by 19 percent, according to the port’s 2019 air emissions inventory.

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