Emissions regulations could see California’s ports lose business

Port of Los Angeles John McLaurin said the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have not planned for the huge financial costs or facilitation of zero emissions

The development of environmental regulations needs to be balanced with accommodating trade and jobs, the president of Pacific Merchant Shipping Association has said.

In an editorial published on JOC.com, John McLaurin said that marine terminal operators and ocean carriers have recognised a conflict between state regulations to achieve zero emissions in California and business operations, which could result in a damaging situation where ports become hostile to international trade.

He said: “With the world’s most-stringent environmental regulations, California state, regional, and local agencies are proposing new, overlapping regulations that will drive trade and jobs away from California. If that’s the goal of these regulators, then they are sending a strong signal. If not, then these agencies need to step back and develop more-holistic plans that continue the environmental progress without making our ports unwelcoming.”

He said the move to zero emissions is constrained by a lack of available funding, a lengthy permitting process and a lack of “commercially available technology and/or economically compatible equipment.

Citing the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which have adopted a Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) with the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2030, Mr McLaurin said the ports have not planned for the huge financial costs or facilitation of zero emissions.

He added that the South Coast Air Quality Management District (regional regulation) plans to adopt Indirect Source Rules (ISR) for marine terminals, warehouses, and distribution centres will “hurt terminals, trade and jobs.”

He explained that “ISRs represent a backhanded way for a regulatory agency to exercise jurisdiction over emission sources that they have no mandate to control”, stating that in the case of marine terminals, an ISR could mean turning away trucks, trains, and ships (with it cargo and jobs) when government-imposed emissions levels are met.

Even zero-emission terminals will be fined for emissions from the customers of their customers, companies over which the terminal exerts no control, he said.

He criticised California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) proposal that marine terminals convert their facilities to zero emissions, stating it doesn’t mention flexibility or impact to port competitiveness and that the compliance timeframe is “unrealistic”.

He pointed out that “if cargo is diverted from West Coast ports to other trade gateways in order to avoid increased costs, California's regulators will ironically increase greenhouse gas emissions, as a recent study has shown”.

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