California Health, Environmental Justice, Conservation Groups Push for Zero-Emission Harbor Craft, Sound Alarm on Health, Climate Crises

Governor Newsom Fails to Mitigate Fossil-Fuel Port Pollution During Climate, Health Emergencies
Date: September 21, 2021


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (September 21, 2021) — Governor Newsom and the California Air Resources Board have released a draft rule that would push over a thousand harbor boats to upgrade to new diesel engines rather than electrify during our most decisive decade on climate action.

Governor Newsom and the California Air Resources Board must set firm, science-based regulations to protect our communities, advance environmental justice, fight back pollution in our skies, and unlock clean energy investment and jobs. Harbor boats are one of the top three sources of cancer risk for Californians living near the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, and Oakland. No industry can get a free pass at the price of our frontline communities and the environment.

“The Commercial Harbor Craft issues must follow the same process in regulation as the Drayage Trucks.  Diesel impacts from wherever the sources are a burden to the health of all the people in California, the industry must become supportive to have clean air for all,” said Ms. Margaret Gordon, Co-Director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.

Ships are one of the worst air polluters in California and they are critical to decarbonize in the fight against the climate crisis. The draft rule released today will only move 10% of California’s harbor craft to 100% zero-emissions this decade, despite California and the nation facing air pollution and climate emergencies of growing proportions.

“Governor Newsom and the California Air Resources Board must set absolute zero-emission maritime targets in order to protect our air quality and prevent the worst effects of climate change,” said Teresa Bui, State Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment. “This rule misses the opportunity to fully embrace a zero emission technology transition for California’s maritime sector. We can’t have a partial goal during a climate and public health crisis.”

Last September, Governor Newsom introduced an executive order to transition to 100% zero-emission off-road vehicles, including ships and boats, by 2035-2045. California has routinely given leniency to the shipping industry, allowing this sector to rely on fossil fuel vessels. It’s time to electrify boats, decarbonize ships, and achieve pollution-free California ports.

“The transition to Zero Emission Commercial Harbor Craft is an urgent standard to set for near port communities like Stockton,” said Matt Holmes, Environmental Justice Director, Little Manilla Rising. “The proposed rule will require the State to work closely with harbor communities to ensure that State incentive dollars reach smaller operators so they do not find themselves left out at sea with outdated crafts and huge capital replacement costs.”

The technology exists to transition commercial harbor craft to 100% clean fleets now. Just like cars and trucks, boats and ships must transition off of fossil fuel propulsion. The time is now to electrify everything.

“CARB must set a stronger harbor craft rule to solve our twin crises of air pollution and the climate crisis. Not only must the rule accelerate deployment of zero-emissions harbor craft, but it also must expedite the retirement of the oldest, dirtiest diesel engines,” said Christopher Chavez, Deputy Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air. “Millions of Californians breathe in dirty air that fails to meet state and national air quality standards. California has taken the lead in getting clean trucks and buses on the road – it’s time to do the same for harbor craft and oceangoing vessels. We must reduce toxic diesel pollution and smog that sicken and kills Californians, as well as the greenhouse gases that are wreaking havoc with our climate.”

“Our communities’ health, and the health of our entire planet, demand that we ditch dirty diesel,” said Brian Beverdige, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “This plan meets that challenge and offers all owners of diesel powered commercial watercraft a fair pathway to cleaner energy.”

There are more than 300 zero-emission ships powered by batteries in operation around the world today, with another 194 on order. California’s first zero-emission passenger ferry is already on the water in the San Francisco Bay and it’s first zero-emission tugboat is in production and on its way to San Diego.

“The California Air Resource Board’s proposed harbor craft rule fails to meet the state’s growing air quality crisis, requiring that a mere 10% of California’s harbor boats shift to zero-emissions in the next decade. That’s simply not enough. Harbor boats are one of the top sources of health-harming pollution for people living near ports, and we want to see CARB strengthen the rule to protect thousands of Californians from asthma and cancer,” said Regina Hsu, associate attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “The technology to shift boats off of fossil fuels is already here, so it’s time for California’s regulators to stop giving the boating industry a free pass and protect public health.”