LONG BEACH, Calif. — The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach make up the single largest fixed source of air pollution in Southern California according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. There’s a race against the clock to do better.

What You Need To Know

  • A statewide regulation went into effect Jan. 1, stating nearly all trucks and buses must have 2010 or newer model year engines, addressing a big source of pollution at the San Pedro Bay Port Complex

  • The Port of Long Beach aims to convert all terminal equipment to zero emissions by 2030

  • Major innovation, research and funding have been dedicated to environmental concerns at the ports

  • Some advocates believe more such work is needed quickly

The port complex encompasses so many things — trucks, ships, rail. A few of these elements are up against some big compliance deadlines, all to address pollution. For starters, on Jan. 1 a statewide regulation from the California Air Resource Board went into effect. Nearly all trucks and buses are now required to have 2010 or newer model year engines to reduce emissions. It’s a big transition; the marine terminals are implementing even more changes.

Making sure goods get to you with as little pollution as possible, that’s something for Heather Tomley, the managing director of Planning and Environmental Affairs at the Port of Long Beach.

“It’s important work and I feel like I’m doing good work that’s helping to support the community, helping to support the region,” Tomley said.

She points to recent improvements, like the electrified rubber tire gantry cranes at the SSA Pacific Container Terminal. They used to rely on diesel motors to move containers.

The Port of Long Beach aims to convert all terminal equipment to zero emissions by 2030.

“We’re absolutely innovating to make this happen. This equipment did not exist before we started working on some of these projects,” Tomley said.

Greening the ports takes creativity and cash. The Long Beach Container Terminal is in the final steps of a multi-billion-dollar redevelopment project, which CEO Anthony Otto claims has made it the most environmentally friendly container handling facility in the country.

“It was a long, arduous, a lot of hard work to get where we are, but now that we’re here it’s fantastic,” Otto said.

Some feel this is no time to rest.

Jan Victor Andasan, who uses they/them pronouns, is a community organizer for East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. They believe growing up nearby with poor air quality has had permanent, adverse effects for them and their whole family.

Andasan is teaming up with others to demand further electrification and less harmful fuel alternatives.

“I want to honor and respect the amazing work the port is doing to try to clean up the emissions at their facility, but also it’s not enough. We’re so far behind,” Andasan said.

Tomley carefully walks a tightrope, balancing environmental concerns and profits.

“We’ve been able to prove that you can reduce emissions while still growing as a port,” Tomley said.

In the final push to fully reach net zero emissions, the Long Beach Container Terminal estimates it will cost $200 million. That’s on top of what’s already been spent. Most of that will go toward buying equipment and infrastructure.