Clean Air Regulations 2021

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By Peter Warren, Indivisible San Pedro

I am writing to tell the community about the at-berth regulation for ocean-going vessels proposed for implementation in January 2021. I am speaking on behalf of Indivisible San Pedro and its more than 300 members, all residents and California voters.

The members of our group support the proposed update to existing at-berth rules. They are necessary and overdue. The update strikes a compromise with industry, accelerating the date for inclusion of exempt classes of ocean going vessels, while providing additional flexibility for the shipping industry. Said industry is a key source of jobs and vital economic activity for our city, state and nation.

We remain concerned that some who have long opposed at-berth emission controls now suddenly discovered the COVID-19 crisis and call for delay, claiming a new environment and an opaque future dictates rethinking this proposed update. Their cynicism and opportunism is breathtaking.

This new environment is killing people. That is a certainty. Rather than support delay, the pandemic emphasizes the urgent need for tough at-berth regulation. That’s because Californians whose health is damaged by goods-movement driven pollution — those with underlying lung, asthma, heart, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure — are the very people who are the most susceptible to the ravages of COVID-19 and those most likely to die from it, according to numerous reports in medical journals.

The at-berth regulation has been effective in reducing emissions from ocean going vessels, one of the top sources of harmful air pollution in California. The proposed changes to this regulation will save lives and money, as well as provide significant and widespread health benefits.

Our answer to those who would use the pandemic disaster to undermine clean air rules is: Shame on you. And perhaps the regulation should be tougher. We cannot afford to delay or pause efforts to move forward with life-saving regulations, and it would be particularly inappropriate and a disgrace to delay the at-berth regulation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is not going away this year or next, perhaps not in some of our lifetimes.

Further and perhaps as important is that there is no connection between the proposed regulations and the decline in business at the twin ports. You could cut emission rules and permit fees to the bone today and it would neither fix the feared recession in shipping nor the global recession, which are caused by the worldwide pandemic.

The fix is not in easing regulation. It is in defeating the virus. This cynicism from the goods movement folks is to be expected. They subscribe to disaster capitalism, which exploits every major catastrophe to externalize more costs and subsidize corporations at the expense of people’s health. These very same industry voices have always opposed these regulations. This delay would simply exploit the disaster to push industry’s long standing opposition to regulations proven to save lives.

It is hard to find a silver lining in the pandemic. Yet, there are things about it that call to our better angels, that hang a lantern on the true cost of letting industry externalize its costs on the public, that tell us we must build a greener future.

These pandemic days, locals walk on Paseo del Mar in San Pedro, experiencing the vista across San Pedro Bay to Newport Beach as it was in old time California. The air is crystal clear and the pollution is diminished. The people in the Harbor Area are and will be healthier for it.

We are an inventive people. We are entrepreneurial people. We are a hard-working people. Surely, both this vista and a thriving goods movement industry can be in our future.

Yes, we need the jobs and the goods, but the industry must at the very least go electric, plug-in its ships at berth or bonnet them and not fall for the dodge of turning to drilled gas to power trucks and equipment in the 21st century.