Thursday, June 8, 2023

Port of San Diego Adopts Most Ambitious Maritime Clean Air Strategy of its Kind in California

The policy document aims to balance community health improvements through cleaner air while also supporting efficient and modern maritime businesses and jobs.

The Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners has approved a policy document to help the Port identify future projects and initiatives to improve health through cleaner air for all who live, work, and play on and around San Diego Bay while also supporting efficient and modern maritime operations. The Maritime Clean Air Strategy (MCAS) and its vision, “Health Equity for All,” represent the Port’s commitment to environmental justice and is more ambitious than any other clean air policy document of its kind in the state. In fact, nearly all the MCAS goals and/or objectives go beyond what is currently required by the State of California.

“Our Portside Community neighbors as well as our Working Waterfront and our visitors deserve to breathe clean air. The Maritime Clean Air Strategy clearly lays out what our goals, aspirations, and expectations are for ourselves and for the people who do and want to do business with the Port of San Diego,” said Chairman Michael Zucchet, Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners. “The MCAS positions us and our tenants to attract grants and investment from the State for clean air equipment and electrified heavy-duty trucks. The Port of San Diego has already proven to be a leader in this area with shore power and other clean air equipment and infrastructure, and the MCAS is our roadmap as to how we can finish that job in the coming years.”

Extensive community and stakeholder involvement is the cornerstone of the MCAS. The Port began developing the goals and objectives of the MCAS in March 2020 in close consultation and collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders – community residents, industry, businesses, public agencies, and non-government organizations.

As an update to the Port’s 2007 Clean Air Program, the MCAS identifies a vision centered on health equity, with ambitious goals for 2030 that will contribute to improved air quality. In support of the 2030 goals, the MCAS establishes more specific, near-term emissions reduction goals and objectives to be accomplished within the next five-year period between 2021 and June 30, 2026. Collectively, in conjunction with the near-term goals and objectives, the MCAS identifies approximately 34 potential projects, partnerships, initiatives, and/or studies.

Highlights of the MCAS goals and/or objectives that go beyond State requirements include:

  • A goal of 100 percent of cargo trucks calling on the Port of San Diego cargo maritime terminals being zero emissions (ZE) vehicles by 2030, far exceeding State requirements by five years, and in some cases, even more. (An Executive Order of the Governor identifies goals for ZE short-haul/drayage trucks by 2035, with full transition to ZE heavy duty long-haul trucks by 2045.)
    • An interim goal of 40 percent of the Port’s annual cargo truck trips being performed by ZE trucks by June 30, 2026.
  • A goal of 100 percent of cargo handling equipment being ZE by 2030. (An Executive Order of the Governor calls for full transition of cargo handling equipment to ZE by 2035, where feasible.)
  • Facilitate implementation of the first all-electric tugboat in the United States by June 30, 2026. The electric tug will replace one that consumes more than 30,000 gallons of diesel per year. The eTug will help reduce Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) emissions by transitioning to ZE/near-zero emission technologies and/or other lower-emitting engines or alternative fuels. (State does not currently have any requirements for electric tugboats.)
  • Contribute Port Maritime Industrial Impact Fund dollars for the San Diego Air Pollution Control District’s (SDAPCD) purchase and installation of new portable air filtration devices at participating Portside Community residences. This is already in the works. In addition to approving the MCAS, at the same meeting, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the SDAPCD on the SDAPCD’s Portside Air Quality Improvement and Relief (PAIR) program. (State does not currently have any requirements for residential air filtration in Portside Communities.)
Other notable clean air projects in the works that will aid in the achievement of the MCAS goals include:
  • Doubling shore power for cruise ships by 2023.
  • Adding shore power or an alternative technology to reduce ocean-going emissions at berth at the National City Marine Terminal by 2025 in alignment with State requirements.
  • Designating $25 million of federal stimulus funds the Port is applying for to:
    • Purchasing electric cranes to replace the obsolete diesel mobile harbor crane at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.
    • Purchasing electric equipment like UTRs (Utility Tractor Rigs), drayage short-haul trucks, and General Services fleet trucks.
    • Port fleet electrification.
  • Harbor Drive 2.0 – A plan to use innovative technology along Harbor Drive to smartly manage cargo truck traffic passing through Barrio Logan and National City.

In addition to cleaner air and improved health, other benefits of reducing emissions include job creation, ambient noise reduction, urban greening, ecosystem enhancement, knowledge and capacity building, education and training, and improved access to San Diego Bay.

The document is structured and organized to address goals and objectives for the following seven emissions sources and three stakeholder-driven priorities:

  • Emission Sources:
    1. Cargo Handling Equipment
    2. Commercial Harbor Craft
    3. Shipyards
    4. Heavy Duty Trucks
    5. Port of San Diego Fleet
    6. Oceangoing vessels
    7. Rail
  • Stakeholder-Driven Priorities:
    1. Community Enrichment
    2. Public Health
    3. Enabling

Next steps
The Port intends to support timely and cost-effective implementation of the various projects and initiatives identified in the MCAS. Funding could come from multiple sources, including the Port. The Port intends to work with neighboring jurisdictions, partners, and tenants to identify funding and to collaborate on seeking state and federal grants. Additionally, Port staff will regularly report back to the Board, including comprehensive updates every two years.

For more than a decade, the Port of San Diego and its partners have deployed clean air investments and new technologies to improve air quality. Plans like the Clean Air Plan (2007), Climate Action Plan (2013), and the Final Environmental Impact Report for Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal (TAMT) Redevelopment Plan and corresponding TAMT Redevelopment Plan (2016) have all played a part. These plans provided ideas, guidance, and other measures to improve overall air quality and alleviate the environmental burden on surrounding communities. These efforts have steadily increased over the years, with continued investments in solar energy, shore power, and expanded installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and other emerging technologies like a microgrid at TAMT. San Diego Port tenants have also been early adopters of new technologies to reduce emissions. In 2016, the San Diego Port Tenant’s Association received funding to demonstrate and deploy a wide range of zero emission (ZE) trucks and cargo handling equipment. These efforts have established a solid foundation to position the Port to advance the next level of clean air investments to help chart the course for further investment in and around the Port’s tidelands.

Notwithstanding these advancements, Portside Community residents continue to suffer a disproportionate burden of environmental afflictions, including air pollution, from a variety of sources which include the Port, and more needs to be done to reduce these impacts. The Portside Community is predominately downwind from industrialized, waterfront uses and activities and includes Barrio Logan, Logan Heights and Sherman Heights in the City of San Diego, and West National City in the City of National City. The confluence of regional transportation networks, like Interstate 5, Coronado Bridge (State Route 75), rail corridors, and industrial uses occurring within and adjacent to the Portside Community, and activity from the U.S. Navy and the Port all generate emissions, that contribute to relatively higher levels of diesel particulate matter and other toxic air pollutants within these communities. In fact, the 12 census tracts that make up the Portside Community rank as having some of the highest diesel particulate matter pollution burden (95th percentile per CalEnviroScreen 3.0) in the State. These pollutants, in turn, contribute to higher rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and other health related illness for those living in the Portside Community.

In acknowledgment and in response to these circumstances, on July 13, 2021, the Board identified a vision statement for the MCAS, “Health Equity for All.” More specifically, health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” While “Health Equity for All” centers around public health, its success may be further advanced through a sustainable environment and thriving seaport. This vision provides a higher resolution lens for crisper and broader sight through which to view the primary and co-benefits of the MCAS. This vision is concise, transformational, and inclusive, and acknowledges that the development and operation of a multiple-purpose use port like the Port of San Diego benefits all the people of California. It takes a more holistic view of multiple benefits and is part of a paradigm shift occurring across the United States recognizing that marginalized communities, that are predominately resided by people of color, have historically suffered more than their share of the burden.

As a steward of Public Trust resources, the MCAS will help the Port build upon past plans and actions with an increased urgency and create a more sustainable future through immediate and sustained action in an effort to achieve short and long-term goals.

AB 617 Community Air Protection Program
The MCAS and AB 617 Community Air Protection Program are complementary efforts – each informs and supports the other.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) established the Community Air Protection Program (or AB 617 Program) in 2018, which tasks local air pollution control districts to work with communities to develop community-focused emission reduction programs. In September 2018, CARB selected the Portside Communities for air monitoring, which include the neighborhoods of Barrio Logan, West National City, Logan Heights, and Sherman Heights, as well as the Port’s Working Waterfront between the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal and the National City Marine Terminal. In December 2019, CARB designated the Portside Community for a Community Emissions Reduction Plan (AB 617 CERP) to focus and accelerate new actions that go beyond existing State and regional programs and provide reductions in air pollution emissions and exposure.

The San Diego Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is responsible for implementing AB 617 and established the AB 617 Steering Committee which includes 28 members who represent residents, agencies, industry, non-profits, and other pertinent stakeholders. Port Commissioner Sandy Naranjo, appointed by the City of National City, is the Port’s representative on the AB 617 Steering Committee.

On November 18, 2020, the San Diego APCD Board approved Phase I of the Portside Community’s AB 617 CERP to advance some of the early emission reduction strategies under the air district’s authority. On July 16, 2021, the San Diego APCD Board approved Phase II of Portside Community’s AB 617 CERP.  The Portside Community’s AB 617 CERP is scheduled to be heard by CARB’s governing board on October 14, 2021 for final review and approval.

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]