“But the ports hold another, less honorable distinction: They are the biggest polluters in Southern California.”

California ports’ pollution plan proves a big haul
Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:04am EDT
By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES, July 23 (Reuters) – A short drive from the sandy beaches of Malibu rise two sprawling ports, where goods from around the world enter the United States before fanning out by road and rail to stores from coast to coast.

The adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the United States’ biggest, see nearly half of the nation’s container traffic and are key to insuring goods made in China make it to retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

But the ports hold another, less honorable distinction: They are the biggest polluters in Southern California.

Concerns about pollution-linked illnesses in local communities stalled port expansion projects for years before both ports in 2006 agreed to slash pollutants — mainly exhaust from diesel engines — to below 2001 levels in five years.

The ports are requiring cleaner vessel fuels, shoreside electricity so ships will not run their dirty diesel engines at berth, newer truck fleets and cleaner train locomotives. Much of the plan is funded by increased fees for customers.

“We were dead in the water, and we had to stick our neck out to do some things, so we did,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said in a recent interview.

The plan, however, is proving to be easier said than done.

Already, some shippers, truckers and others who don’t want to make changes are choosing other ports, according to Knatz, who said port traffic could drop 10 percent to 15 percent.

Meanwhile, the trucking industry said it plans to sue over what it says is the ports’ plan to micromanage its business, while the railroads say they can’t comply with a 2014 deadline for new locomotives because the technology won’t be available.

Also, retailers are balking at having to pay fees to fund the ports’ clean trucks program while also investing in new trucks, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

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