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Container Port Proposal Draws Comments from BCDC and Project Proponents

Following the E-FORUM Newest Container Port Proposal Fully Launched, March 1, 2007, I received the following:


From a credible source at BCDC:


I talked with Bill Lindsay who told me that this proposal was made without consulting with the city or its port director. The city has not endorsed it. At my suggestion, Bill will ask Brian Grunwald to get in contact with us to get our direct assessment that it is highly unlikely the proposal would ever be approved by BCDC. Were we to agree with his assessment that more space is needed for container throughput, under law we would be obligated to reserve additional existing land area to accommodate the need rather than approve fill in the Bay. Moreover, most of the information the proponents advanced about the Port of Oakland are factually incorrect.


From Cathie Kosel of Richmond Port Renaissance:


Dear Tom:  You did a remarkable job of relating a number of the issues involved in building a high performance, green operating 21st century container port in Richmond.  Thanks so much for providing this forum.  We indicated to you that we will relish a vigorous debate regarding this issue.  The citizens of Richmond deserve nothing less.  We would like to correct a couple of the statements in your eforum, however.  We are not advocating that the City purchase any one’s land or that any business be retired.  In fact, we believe strongly that a partnership of all the existing property owners, tenants and the city itself will greatly reward all the parties.  None of the existing businesses should lose virtually any days of productive business activities.  In fact with phased construction, small craft operations will be relocated closer to open water, pipe lines and conveyer belts can be extended and improved to support the current operations of other terminals without the cost of shore protection and dredging of the Santa Fe Channel.  We hope to meet with all the owners and businesses with the goal of determining how this enormous project can create value, benefits and efficiency for each of them.  Capping the toxic Santa Fe Channel will be an environmentally responsible thing to do, however, it also our plan to identify more than  100 acres of wetlands in the same ecological area to mitigate the biological impact.  We also think that  by greening the port we can improve the regional air quality, produce high paying family sustaining jobs  and create a substantial new economic engine for the City of Richmond.  Thanks for helping us begin the conversation.  Sincerely,  Cathie Kosel, Bryan Grunwald, Larry Henry, Richmond Port Renaissance.



The Kosel Company

510.526-3986 office

510.918-7575 mobile

510.526-4150 fax


From an E-FORUM subscriber:


I'm not sure if anyone but me watched the segment on the KQED Newshour Friday about pollution at container ports, but it clinched the argument against putting a new container port in Richmond, as far as I am concerned at least :-) The container ports generate an enormous amount of pollution, more than the entire amount of pollution generated by cars in the area covered (I think it was Long Beach or Los Angeles), due to dirty ship/train/truck engines and such used in the port operations. They are proposing to spend $2 billion to clean up that pollution, but are having trouble coming up with the money (and $2 billion makes the $25 million in income Richmond would receive in the best case "Rosy Scenario" look like a drop in the bucket. $2 billion would be 80 years income at the $25 million rate; another way of looking at it is that at 10% interest we would need $200 million each year just to pay the interest on a $2 billion loan, and that's just what's needed to clean up the mess. Why create the mess in the first place?)


There was an article in the LA Times (text below) that covered some of the same territory



Train, ship soot to be cut 90% by 2030

The EPA proposes tougher regulations on nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter, but the AQMD is critical of the long phase-in.

By Janet Wilson, Times Staff Writer
March 3, 2007


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday unveiled proposals to slash diesel soot from freight trains and marine vessels by 90% by 2030, winning guarded praise from environmentalists, but a scathing rebuke from Southern California's top air quality regulator.

Under rules announced by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, existing and new train locomotives would have to meet increasingly tougher controls on emissions of nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter. Both substances lodge deep in people's lungs and have been linked in numerous studies to respiratory disease, cancer and other serious health problems.

Johnson said the regulations, which he would push to have completed by year's end, would result in thousands of saved lives and substantial healthcare cost savings by 2030, while costing industry about $600 million.

"By tackling the greatest remaining source of diesel emissions, we're keeping our nation's clean-air progress moving full steam ahead," he said. "This will ensure that black puff of smoke from diesel locomotives goes the way of the steam engine."

But South Coast Air Quality Management District Executive Officer Barry Wallerstein said the region was "being thrown table scraps" with rules designed to benefit industry, which will allow thousands of Californians to continue to die prematurely for decades.

Greater Los Angeles is exposed to pollution from diesel engines more than anywhere in the nation, with 40% of all goods shipped to the U.S. funneled through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on diesel-powered ships and trains. The air that Southern Californians breathe contains more than half of all the diesel particulate emitted in the U.S. each year. Air regulators estimate that 2,400 lives are cut short annually statewide because of pollution from the movement of goods.

State air officials also questioned the lengthy phase-in, saying it would not help them meet looming air-quality deadlines imposed by the EPA.

"We are grateful … but we are disappointed in their timing. It makes it really hard for us to meet federal attainment requirements," said Mike Scheible, deputy executive officer of the state Air Resources Board.

William Wehrum, acting assistant administrator of the EPA's office of air and radiation, responded to that criticism by noting that existing engines that are rebuilt would be required to reduce emissions as soon as next year, and by 2010 at the latest.

"Then our standards get increasingly stringent, with the most stringent standards effective on all new engines as of 2015," he added. "We're going to begin seeing improvements very quickly, substantial improvements."

Both Wehrum and Johnson acknowledged that because locomotives can last as long as 40 years, it could take until 2030 for the full benefits of the new rules to be seen.

Absent from the EPA proposals are regulations on large diesel engines in ocean-going vessels. EPA officials said they are trying to negotiate international standards for those heavily polluting vessels, and are still studying whether national regulations could legally be placed on foreign-flagged vessels entering American ports. Ferries, tugboats, yachts and marine auxiliary engines would be covered under the new rules, however.

Manufacturers and trade groups said the technology to meet the new rules does not yet fully exist but is being actively researched. They insisted they want further reductions in emissions and said the 2030 timeline for final compliance would help.

"There are some concerns about whether the locomotive manufacturers will be able to meet … the standards, but we are committed to working with the locomotive builders and after-market manufacturers to do everything practical to reduce locomotive emissions," said Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokeswoman Lena Kent.

But Wallerstein said that the technology does exist, and that the industry groups were dragging their heels to save money at the expense of public health.

"In Europe they are putting particulate filters on locomotives today," he said, adding that the AQMD is funding demonstration programs of the technology on commuter trains because the freight railroads "have delayed and delayed and delayed…. this is a technology transfer, not the creation of new technology."

Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific, said the company is already replacing most of the "switcher" engines in Los Angeles-area rail yards with a new technology using truck engines, but said it would take years to develop new technology for long-haul locomotives.

Environmentalists who have fought for three years for the rules largely cheered the news. Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, who stood at Johnson's side as he announced the regulation at Port Elizabeth in New Jersey, said later, "It's very good, it's very strong, and it would take an enormous amount of … pollution out of the air. We were there to thank Steve Johnson and the EPA for getting on the right track."

He said the lack of regulations on marine vessels was "unfinished business" that must be addressed. As for the AQMD's concerns, he said, "well, it does take time for the manufacturers to retool." He said he thought most emissions reductions would be achieved by 2015, before California has to meet EPA deadlines.

Others said they would keep a close eye on the proposals as they move through public hearings and rewrites.

"There are many details of this proposal yet to be worked out — and we hope EPA can accelerate the pace of cleanup — but this proposal is a giant step in the right direction," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch in Washington, D.C.

Representatives of international marine shippers did not return calls seeking comment.




From the California Progress Report:


Huge Container Ships--One of the Most Poorly Regulated Air Pollution Sources in California

By Tom Plenys
Research and Policy Manager
Coalition for Clean Air

Huge cargo ships carrying thousands of containers filled with consumer goods  across the Pacific Ocean to California ports are one of the most poorly  regulated sources of air pollution in the state.


For years, the Coalition for Clean Air (CCA) has focused on addressing this ship pollution and advocating for aggressive action to clean the air. CCA recently had the opportunity to discuss the health impacts of ship emissions and how these emissions should be reduced at a Feb. 7-9 conference on international marine issues in San Diego.


The conference was attended by more than 250 shipping company executives, port officials, regulatory agency representatives, engine manufacturers and retailers from around the world. Sponsored in part by the US EPA, the event was organized to encourage dialogue among participants about new technological strategies to meet clean air goals.Containerships are more than three football fields in length, and they run on arguably the dirtiest fuel in the world. These ships spew toxic diesel particulates and smog-forming pollution while navigating California's coastal waters and while docked for days at a time.The health impacts from these ships are staggering.


The California Air Resources Board recently estimated that big ships are responsible for up to one premature death per day in our state and are the primary source of elevated cancer risk to neighboring communities. With trade volumes expected to triple by 2025, the pollution contribution from ships is only expected to get worse.As one of two environmental representatives asked to present during the three-day conference, I discussed the Coalition for Clean Air's vision for addressing the local and global challenges presented by marine pollution. I emphasized recent studies further demonstrating the health effects from diesel particulates and smog-forming emissions. Additionally, I highlighted what can and should be done to address this pollution source including timelines for adopting cleaner, cost effective technologies.


As an example, technology such as plugging in a ship to dockside power to run its engines on electricity has been demonstrated successfully on large ships and can virtually eliminate pollution while a ship is at berth. Also, cleaner fuels with significantly lower sulfur content in ship engines are one of the simplest ways to address ship pollution and can be done today. CCA's past work has helped draw attention to the marine issue. A few years ago, CCA joined the NRDC and local homeowner groups in a successful lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles which resulted in the first containerships in the world plugging into dockside power.


CCA also helped convince the California Air Resources Board to adopt a regulation to require cleaner fuels in the smaller, auxiliary engines on ships. This regulation went into effect last month and is expected to prevent over 500 premature deaths in California. CCA continues to advocate at the local and state level to secure further regulation of large ships and to create a dedicated funding stream to improve air quality by establishing a fee on every container that comes through California's ports. (SB 974, the Port Investment Bill by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal)Notably, one clear message was agreed upon at the San Diego conference: All parties said that urgent steps need to be taken now to improve air quality.


Tom Plenys is Research and Policy Manager for the Coalition for Clean Air. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. and M.S. from Stanford University in industrial engineering with a concentration in environmental engineering and economics.