Environment: Los Angeles, San Diego
Eleven Global Shipping Companies Slowed Transits in 2017 Program to Protect Blue Whales and Blue Skies
The Port of Los Angeles announced results from the 2017 program and publicly recognized the 11 shipping companies that participated in an initiative to cut air pollution and protect whales. For the first time, the program included speed reduction zones in the San Francisco Bay Area in addition to the Santa Barbara Channel region. The voluntary incentive program started July 1 and ended November 15, 2017.
Automatic Identification System (AIS) data for ship speeds in the program verified that more than 140 transits were successful in reducing speeds to 12 knots or less, and more than half of these were successful in achieving a bonus incentive for slowing to 10 knots or less. The program reduced 83.5 tons of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a smog-forming air pollutant, and 2,630 metric tons of greenhouse gases.
In addition, 75 percent of the transits that traveled between the two slow-speed regions did not speed up along the coast in between (where no incentive was offered), as compared with previous 2016-2017 baseline speeds for that area; 60 percent traveled slower than their previous baseline speeds.
Ships account for more than 50 percent of NOx emissions in Santa Barbara County, more than 25 percent of NOx emissions in Ventura County, and more than 17 percent of NOx emissions in the eight-county region represented by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Ship strikes are also a major threat to recovering endangered and threatened whale populations, including blue, humpback, and fin whales. Slowing ship speeds reduces air pollution and ocean noise, and has been shown to reduce the risk of fatal strikes on whales.
The following shipping companies participated in the 2017 vessel speed reduction (VSR) incentive program: CMA CGM; Evergreen; Hamburg Sud, Hapag Lloyd, Hyundai, K Line, Maersk, Matson, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company); NYK (Nippon Yusen Kaisha) Ro-Ro Division, and Yang Ming. The program is a collaborative effort by all the agencies and organizations listed above.
Incentives ranged from $1,000 to $ 2,500; a bonus of $250 was provided if the ship slowed to 10 knots or less, which is considered more protective for whales. For the first time, data were analyzed for the area along the California coast between the two speed reduction regions.
Regional Partners Sue Federal Agency Seeking Halt of U.S.-Mexico Border Sewage Spills
The Port of San Diego and City of Chula Vista joined with the City of Imperial Beach in filing a lawsuit against the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and Veolia Water North America (Veolia) over their significant, longstanding violations of two U.S. laws designed to protect water quality and public health, the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, in their operation of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment plant.
The communities have been working for years to convince the IBWC and Veolia to correct these violations and take swift action to stem, collect and treat water pollution flowing through their facilities in the Tijuana River Valley.
"We are communities connected by our coast, and water quality affects all of us who enjoy our region’s beaches, piers and waterways," said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. "Sewage spills are a threat not only to the environment, but to public health and the tourism industry."
"This is a regional issue and that’s why we are addressing it with a unified strategy. All residents of San Diego County are affected by the Tijuana River pollution because it damages our shared coastal assets," said Port of San Diego Commissioner Dan Malcolm. "After careful consideration, the Port of San Diego has decided to take this issue to the courts to force federal action. The only way the Port can address this problem is through the federal government because we do not oversee the source of the spills or the area where the federal sewage treatment plant is located."
In September 2017, the State Lands Commission, chaired by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, issued a declaration of interest in these efforts.
On March 2, 2018, Lt. Governor Newsom released a statement in support of the litigation.
"The IBWC's failure to address pollution and protect environmental and public health in the border region is unacceptable. California's pristine coastline is protected by some of the most visionary policies and steadfast advocates to ensure the persistence of vibrant ecosystems, thriving ports, and public access for all," Newsom said. "I applaud the efforts of the Port of San Diego and the Cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista to uphold these values in their action against the IBWC for its culpability in the all-too-frequent pollution events in San Diego."
The almost continuous flow of toxic waste and sewage into the Tijuana River and, from there, the Pacific Ocean is a significant threat to public health, two state parks, a national wildlife refuge and the health and vitality of the impacted communities. There have been 376 sewage spills documented since 2015.