September 18, 2006 - From the September, 2006 issue

Mayor Villaraigosa Entreats Federal EPA to Support Environmental Programs at L.A.'s Ports

As "America's loading dock," the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle much more cargo than even a state of California's size could ever consume. But the harbor area still bears the brunt of the pollution that this industry emits. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently conveyed this point to a meeting of nationwide officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the following speech, delivered on his behalf by Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley, Mayor Villaraigosa explains L.A.'s predicament and calls on the federal government to play its proper role in cleaning the local dirty air that comes as a result of the nation's thirst for goods.


Antonio Villaraigosa

It always warms my heart to (visit) the harbor and especially this facility, named after one of the pioneers of Los Angeles-Phineas Banning. It was Banning-known as the "Father of the Los Angeles Harbor"-who created and expanded the port in the 1850s.

It's fitting that we're here in a facility bearing his name and discussing goods movement. Because it was Banning, as a state senator in the 1860s, who introduced the state's first railroad bill, which led to the first rail line in Southern California-a 21-mile track between here and Downtown. That rail line was probably the first line to move goods from the harbor to the city of L.A.

Banning is not only the "Father of the L.A. Harbor," but also the "Father of the L.A. Goods Movement." When Banning dredged the first small area of San Pedro Bay-without an environmental impact statement, I must say-the city of Los Angeles was no more than 5,000 people covering an area of 28 square miles. We were just beginning the grading of our streets, and we didn't have sidewalks, a water system, lights, or a single public building of our own. The port handled 50,000 tons of cargo its first year. We have obviously changed since then.

Here we are, poised at the gateway of the Pacific Rim and Latin America. A gateway through which more than 43 percent of all imported goods enter the U.S., and where over $148 billion in cargo continues its journey to every corner of every state. Consider this: the Port of Los Angeles just last year generated more than $293 billion in international trade. The Port of Los Angeles handles 169 million metric revenue tons of cargo a year, making it the eighth busiest port in world and the busiest in the U.S.

Our port cities have transformed into global cities with global opportunities and challenges. Twenty-seven percent of our nation's gross domestic product depends on international trade. In 2005 alone, $2 trillion dollars in international trade was generated in the U.S. That's more than the GDP of Italy! In Los Angeles alone, it is projected that two-way trade will triple within 20 years to more than $900 billion.

With growth in international trade come opportunities for job creation and economic development in the logistics industry. Consider this: the Southern California Association of Governments found that building the infrastructure to accommodate the growth in trade and cleaning up the worst environmental side-effects would generate over 1.3 million jobs in Southern California.

But, like everything we do, it should not come at the expense of environmental protection. Let me be clear: it is incumbent upon us to be green as we grow. And I have no illusions; these are complex environmental and economic challenges. Challenges that, in my view, offer an opportunity for us to define the boundaries of what is possible. Goods movement has far-reaching impacts. It impacts the air we breathe, the jobs we create, and the economic climate we foster.

It is not an exclusively urban or rural issue-it is a global issue affecting every sector of our market and every consumer. But throughout the country, states and port cities struggle to fund transportation infrastructure to meet the growing demands of the movement of goods. We struggle to ensure that the growth of international trade does not come at the expense of the environmental and public health of our communities.

But the carriers are getting bigger and transporting more goods to meet the growing consumer demand. They still need more trains and trucks to transport the goods. The biggest container vessels are now larger than aircraft carriers and can carry up to 1.2 million 29-inch color televisions or 50 million mobile phones.

We already know that the largest source of air pollution at our ports is from ocean-going vessels, but our national leadership has yet to sign onto the MARPOL Annex VI treaty, which can provide us with some tools to regulate air emissions from large ships.

I'm hopeful that the Environmental Protection Agency understands the importance of MARPOL Annex VI to improving the air quality in our cities. According to the US. Maritime Association, commercial ships made more than 55,000 calls at U.S. ports last year. This is not just a Port of L.A. issue; this issue affects all U.S. ports. I urge the EPA to work with its federal counterparts to make sure that MARPOL Annex VI can be fully implemented in the U.S. We need to push for consistent international standards or we run the risk of losing key economic benefits here in the U.S.

This much is clear as I survey the global landscape: our environmental challenges here in L.A. are no different than those affecting port cities across the country. The time is now for the EPA to develop clear, consistent, and aggressive environmental standards so that we can clean the air at our ports. The EPA can begin with adopting aggressive standards on pollution sources within its authority. At the port, we have ships, railroads, and trucks. The air sources we are dealing with at the ports are regulated at the international and federal levels.

We need the EPA's leadership at the international and national level to push for strong clean air standards. And where else can we have this conversation than in this room-with our federal leaders, port directors, and environmental leaders? I commend the EPA's leadership in bringing together key stakeholders in this conversation on environmental issues related to goods movement. Goods movement is not just a local or state issue; it's a national issue with global implications. It requires partnership at all levels of public discourse to confront our collective economic and environmental futures.

We are at a unique moment-a moment in which we have the ability to define the boundaries of what is possible in this discussion. We see the changing global dynamics opening possibilities for new partnerships that did not exist before. This November, Californians will have an opportunity to pass a $37.3 billion infrastructure bond that will allocate $3.1 billion for goods movement and air quality projects. In California, we recognize, as you do, that we can have both faster freight and cleaner air and that economic development cannot be accomplished without the protection of environmental and public health.

We see the potential for tangible pollution reduction from one of the largest shipping companies, Maersk, who has announced that they will use low sulfur fuel for their main and auxiliary engines. We've partnered with labor to take a leadership role in protecting worker health and the environment with ILWU's "Saving Lives Initiative"-a West Coast strategy to reduce port emissions.

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In May 2006, I partnered with my dear friend, then-Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill to establish the first multi-stakeholder goods movement taskforce of labor, industry, environmental, and community groups to help both cities identify goods movement priorities. And in June, we released the first joint San Pedro Ports Clean Air Plan. This plan will serve as a roadmap to clean the air at the harbor and cut our contribution to greenhouse gas. And it serves as a model for public agency cooperation.

Parties are coming together from all sides-labor, industry, and government-offering solutions and expressing a newfound willingness to innovate and change, in the common effort to keep us moving efficiently, safely, and in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Just a few weeks ago, I stood with former President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair, to announce the "Clinton Climate Change Initiative." This initiative calls for the largest cities around the world to work together to combat an issue that affects us all-global warming. It was Prime Minister Blair who said: "The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge, but all economies know that the only sensible long term way of developing is to do it on a sustainable basis."

This much is clear if you survey the global landscape: leadership on climate change comes from cities. London's Mayor Livingstone is organizing the world's 20 largest cities to address global warming; Mayor Nickels in Seattle is calling all U.S. city mayors to meet Kyoto targets. And here in Los Angeles, we are working on the following measures:

1. Developing an aggressive Climate Action Plan.

2. Directing the city to get 20 percent of the electricity from renewable resources by 2010.

3. Planting a million trees, increasing open space around the city, and restoring the L.A. River.

4. Converting more of the city's fleet to alternative fuels. That includes converting the city's entire fleet of refuse collection trucks-over 50 of them-to run on alternative fuels by 2010.

5. Expanding and promoting green buildings and green roofs to reduce energy use and save natural resources.

6. Looking at every measure that we can take to conserve every watt of energy and every drop of water.

And we have an opportunity today-with goods movement-to be global leaders in recognizing the intersection between our decisions and their impacts on global climate change. Let me leave you with this: our diverse populations in our port cities are major assets that can be tapped to boost our city's role in international trade. We have productive ports that serve as a conduit for good jobs. But infrastructure investments and aggressive federal environmental regulations are needed.

We need to continue to fight in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to secure funds that build trade and expand our business relationships with our international neighbors. We need to fight for clean air standards that are as protective as possible for our communities. And in the final analysis, we need to be strategic. We can both protect the environment and create jobs-livable wage jobs and sustainable jobs.

I look forward to working with the EPA in creating strategies to grow-and to grow green.

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© 2021 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.