Division remains on how to get to zero-emission port truck fleet in Los Angeles, Long Beach

The first of two public workshops on Thursday, Aug. 26 — to gather feedback on an ambitious plan to transition to a zero-emissions truck fleet serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — again highlighted some sharp differences of opinion on how to proceed.

While the goal has widespread buy-in, how to get there — including how it all will be financed — remains unclear.

The two-hour Zoom event, which drew 113 participants who answered survey questions about whether low-emissions trucks are acceptable in a transition period and whether those trucks also should be exempt, along with zero-emission rigs, from a port clean truck fee.

Janine Hamner Holman, founder and CEO of J&J Consulting Group, led the online-only event that allowed participants to mark surveys on their screens and also send in emails to comment further or flesh out their online yes-or-no and multiple choice answers.

The ports have a 2035 deadline to meet for the transition to zero-emissions trucks that carry cargo to and from the twin-port complex.

But challenges loom large, including that it will cost in the neighborhood of $10 billion, the source of which hasn’t yet been fully identified.

Survey answers also showed that division remains over whether to opt for near-zero (including natural gas) drayage trucks until more zero-emissions trucks are available on the market.

Many environmentalists say the ports need to be forced to aim immediately for zero-emission trucks only, arguing that allowing for near-zero trucks — while an improvement — will only detract and slow down the move to a fully emissions-free truck fleet.

“We’ve identified about 100 zero emissions trucks today so the future is bright,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero in opening remarks, adding, “but that goal requires a lot of money.”

The workshops, Holman said, are aimed at “getting your feedback around some critical issues not laid out yet about how all of this is going to work.”

zero-emission trucks cost $350,000 each and up, said Christopher Cannon, director of Environmental Management for the Port of Los Angeles, adding that the port currently was testing out a model that costs $1 million.

In June, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said, a “detailed road map” was adopted, setting both ports on a course to collect a $10 cargo fee per twenty-foot equivalent unit, the measurement used for containers, to help fund the transition. That won’t be nearly enough money, however, and it remains unclear where the rest will come from.

Answers to poll questions were largely split among the participants.

When asked if low-emissions trucks should be exempt from the fee — which is slated to go into effect early next year — 29% of respondents said there should be no exemptions for those vehicles. Other respondents who thought there should be an exemption were split over how long that should last — 20% said it should expire by the end of 2022, while 20% said the end of 2027, for example, with others choosing dates beyond that.

Another question asked whether there should be a full or partial exemption from the fee: 33% said the low-emissions trucks should receive a full exemption, 29% said they should receive no exemption.

The next workshop, set for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, will tackle issues of how the program will be equitable with a focus on potential rate impacts on drivers.

Comments also are being taken via email: teams@JandJCG.com.

Results and analyses will be given to both port commissions, who are expected to take action on the tariff portion of the cargo fee — which sets in motion the actual collection process — in 2023.

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