State of California Signals Need for Additional Measures to Tackle Toxic Pollution for Ocean-Going Vessels

Date: December 1, 2022


Today, California’s chief climate and air pollution regulator released a report on the status of the state’s world-first regulation to end in-port pollution from fossil fuel vessels. The report by California Air Resources Board (CARB) shows the continued success of the state’s in-port pollution regulation in protecting California port and coastal communities from significant fossil fuel pollution by requiring certain vessels to plug into shorepower while docked at ports. Despite the emissions reductions achieved from vessels at berth, fossil-fueled shipping continues to harm and poison Californian communities. Given the significant impacts of pollution on communities, staff are calling on their Board to support new measures that would address the toxic pollution from ships in the water, and at anchor.

Building on last week’s 25% target for non-fossil propulsion from ships by 2045, today the California Air Resource Board requested direction from their Board to prioritize new measures to end ship pollution in California ports and waters.

Teresa Bui, State Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment said, “Just like cars and trucks, the technology exists to end ship pollution entirely. We urge Chair Liane Randolph and the Board to heed staff’s recommendation and go further by setting a zero-emission shipping standard for ocean-going vessels by 2040.”

In 2020, CARB adopted Control Measure for Ocean-Going Vessels at Berth, an update to their 2007 regulation to further address environmental and public health concerns from at-berth air pollution. The expanded regulation includes additional vessel types and visits (auto carriers and tankers). Staff recommends full implementation of the rule, without delay. CARB estimates that the updated policy will save 237 lives and yield $2.31 billion in public health benefits for Californians between 2021 and 2032.

“CARB’s report demonstrates the need for stronger standards to protect California residents – especially in low-income communities of color – from toxic air emitted by ocean-going vessels,” said Bill Magavern, Policy Director with Coalition for Clean Air. “We urge the Board to act on the report early next year by calling for forward-thinking and enforceable limits on ship pollution.”

CARB found that fossil fuel pollution from ships during the 2021 cargo congestion at San Pedro ports has caused an increase in smog-forming oxides of nitrogen emissions equivalent to 5.8 million passenger cars in South Coast, and an increase in particulate matter emissions equivalent to 100,000 big rig trucks (or “Class 8 diesel trucks”) per day.

​​​​​​​“Any delay in implementation of the At-Berth rule normalizes the disproportionate pollution burdens Portside communities face everyday,” said Matt Holmes, Environmental Justice Director with Little Manila Rising. “It’s time we standardized this basic best practice across California Ports and provide our communities with the relief they deserve.”

“CARB must fully implement the at-birth rule without delay, as staff calls for in their report, to ensure that port communities can finally have breathable air,” said Daniel Barad, Associate Director of Sierra Club California. “The Board must also act on the report’s recommendations to develop and implement a new measure that will reduce additional toxic emissions.”

“Over the past year, surging port emissions and record-breaking volumes of cargo have brought staggering levels of pollution to portside communities. This must be a wake up call that more needs to be done to protect frontline communities from port pollution,” said Regina Hsu, Senior Associate Attorney with Earthjustice. “We call on CARB to continue to lead and take action to further reduce ship emissions, including by fully implementing the vital at-berth rule and developing regulations for ships at-anchor and in transit.”