Harbor Commissioners Hearing Room Port of Los Angeles Administrative Building, 425 South Palos Verdes Street, San Pedro, CA 90731

Barbara Boxer


I want to welcome everyone to today’s hearing about a critically important issue for this region and other port communities around the nation – how to dramatically reduce port pollution at the same time that shipping undergoes rapid growth. 

Our port communities must be protected from port-related pollution and other problems, even as ports grow to accommodate more trade.

Today we are here to discuss an issue that we all care deeply about: working together to protect the health of our people from air pollution.

Like you, I am especially concerned about the effects of air pollution on the health of those who are most vulnerable: our children, our elderly, and people with asthma or other diseases.

I will never forget when I first saw a filter taken from an air monitor not far from where we are meeting today.  When the filter went in, it was pure white. Twenty-four hours later, it was totally black.  That’s how much pollution a child’s lungs at that elementary school would receive in 3 and one half months.

I know we all agree that we are doing a lot to make this better. But I think we could also agree that we can and must do more.

That is why we are meeting here today for this important hearing on what we can do about air pollution from ports, and particularly from large ships.

 I am very pleased that we will be hearing from federal, state, and local officials who are spearheading efforts to clean up our ports.

Honorable Hilda L. Solis, Congresswoman, California 32nd District

Honorable Mary D. Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, City of Los Angeles

Mayor Bob Foster, City of Long Beach

Supervisor S. Roy Wilson, Riverside County , 4th District, Governing Board Vice Chairman, South Coast Air Quality Management District

Dr. Geraldine Knatz, Executive Director, Port of Los Angeles
Mr. Richard Steinke, Executive Director, Port of Long Beach

Professor Edward L. Avol, School of Medicine , University of Southern California

Dr. John G. Miller, San Pedro community

I also want to recognize Assemblywoman Laura Richardson who is with us in the audience today.  She represents California’s 55th Assembly District, including the cities of Carson, Harbor City , Lakewood, Long Beach and Wilmington.

Furthermore, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the tremendous contribution of local citizens groups, who have been instrumental in spurring much-needed action to reduce port pollution.  Their continued involvement is critical to ensuring effective pollution control programs.

These groups include:

Coalition for a Safe Environment

Sierra Club Harbor Vision Task Force

Coalition for Clean Air

Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma

Communities for a Better Environment

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice

Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports

Communities for Clean Ports

Green LA, Port Work Group

This hearing is about finding and advancing smart solutions to port-related pollution.

We all recognize that ports are powerful economic engines for their regions, their states and the nation as a whole.  They spur business development and create jobs.

Our own Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach illustrate that point. 
Together they handle nearly 45% of the containerized cargo imported into the United States , and they help sustain the economic vitality of the region.

But ports are also a significant source of pollution as ships come and go, harbor equipment load and unload cargo, and trucks and trains move the cargo to and from the docks.

In Southern California, port activities are major contributors to smog and soot pollution that are responsible for 5,400 premature deaths, 2,400 hospitalizations, 140,000 incidences of asthma and respiratory problems, and nearly one million lost work days each year. 

The diesel engines so prevalent at ports also emit toxic air pollutants that can cause cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

And these harmful effects are disproportionately felt by low income families.

Some of the impacts of this pollution have been pointed out in a letter I received from the Long Beach Alliance for Children With Asthma, representing thousands of mothers in the community concerned about the effects of this air contamination on their children.

For example, one mother named Martha from the Alliance for Children with Asthma understands this issue first hand.  Martha says that after two of her sons were diagnosed with asthma, she became active in the community, working to raise awareness about the dangers of the disease and urging curbs on air pollution in the area.

Martha says she was also recently diagnosed with asthma herself, recalls one of many frightening visits to the emergency room when her son Jose, then only four years old, struggled to breathe:

"We were rushing him to the hospital by car and it is really sad to see your son almost die because he cannot breathe. His lips and all of his body turned purple. If people and the politicians knew how it feels, they would cry with the mothers of children with asthma."

"They have to miss school when they are sick and I have to miss work to be in the emergency room," she says. "It's very difficult. It has affected me in every way."

The good news is that we are beginning to see signs of progress recently in reducing port pollution here in Southern California . 

The Ports of LA and Long Beach are working with state and local officials to take steps that will move us towards cleaning up port pollution.   

California ’s state and local agencies have made vital contributions to port clean-up by establishing first-ever controls on various sources of port pollution.

The federal government has also begun to address some of the sources of port emissions.

But much more progress is needed.  Shipping is expected to double and even triple in the next two decades as the result of global trade agreements. 

And more shipping will inevitably bring more pollution unless additional action is taken now.

There is a significant source of port pollution that has so far largely escaped adequate regulation:  large, oceangoing vessels such as container ships, bulk carriers, and tankers.  They are the fastest growing, least regulated sources of air pollution in the U.S. today. 

In Southern California , ocean-going vessels are already the largest contributor to the region’s soot-forming emissions of sulfur oxides.  By 2023 they are expected to be the largest contributor to the region’s smog-forming emissions of nitrogen oxides.

Oceangoing ships are subject to international standards, but these standards require virtually no control.  And our own federal government has yet to step up to the task of requiring these large polluters to make significant emission reductions.

The federal government should regulate these ships.  Most oceangoing vessels are foreign-owned, and foreign-flagged ships emit almost 90% of the vessel pollution in the U.S.

Rather than use existing Clean Air Act authority, the Bush Administration is waiting for international negotiations to produce tighter standards. 

Unfortunately, those negotiations were recently delayed for at least another year.  At this point, there is no assurance that such an agreement will be sufficient to protect our peoples’ health. 

We must stop wasting time.

With ship traffic increasing and new ships being built to meet that demand, we must set standards now, so that ship builders and operators know what they need to do to clean up ship pollution.

That’s why Senator Feinstein and I introduced the Marine Vessel Emission Reduction Act to require oceangoing vessels visiting U.S. ports to use cleaner fuel and cleaner engines, whether they are flagged in the U.S. or elsewhere. 

On the House side, Representatives Hilda Solis, Jane Harmon, Lois Capps, Henry Waxman, Loretta Sanchez, Adam Schiff, Grace Napolitano, Howard Berman, Diane Watson, and Maxine Waters have introduced an identical bill to clean up ship pollution.

Our bill would require oceangoing vessels to dramatically lower the sulfur content of the fuel they use as they travel to and from our ports within 200 nautical miles of the coast.  Beginning as early as 2010, fuel sulfur content would drop from an average level of 27,000 parts per million to 1,000 parts per million, making a huge difference for our air quality.

It would also significantly reduce emissions from both new and existing engines beginning in 2012 by requiring the use of the most advanced technologies. 

Reducing ship emissions on the bill’s schedule would make a much-needed contribution to this region’s efforts to meet federal soot and smog standards on time. 

We must work hard together to do everything we can to make progress on this issue.

I believe that it is our moral duty to protect the health of our children, people with asthma, and all the people of this community from ship and port air pollution. I am pleased to join with everyone here to find solutions to this problem.


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