POLA has finally decided to make good

Working with the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) can be interesting; while on some days we work together, on others we are just miles apart. However, earlier in the week was a good day in the sand box. POLA has finally decided to make good on some of the settlement commitments it made to the community OVER 10 years ago. Here’s a little background on some of the happenings at POLA to get you up to speed.

On November 10th, the POLA Board of Harbor Commissioners voted on the approval of almost $10 million in funds. These funds had not been used and transferred from an earlier court settlement and were unavailable for community air quality mitigations. As litigants, the San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners’ Coalition, San Pedro Homeowners United, Coalition for Clean Air (CCA), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) had all been patient with the slow and arduous lawsuit spanning more than a decade. With multiple, major changes in POLA administration during the course of many negotiations, it often appeared the terms of “verbal” agreement between the parties would take one step forward, followed by a lengthy pause, and then two steps back – at least this is how it was described by Mary Silverstein, the founding Executive Director of the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF). The HCBF was also involved in the legal proceedings.

In a subsequent agreement crafted after the 2004 lawsuit (brought by NRDC and CCA), POLA was to provide $50 million for the mitigation of air quality and aesthetic impacts on the communities near the Port. The agreement also stated that if those funds were not spent within five years, the parties to the lawsuit would find another way to use funds to reduce harmful port-related air pollution. After five years passed, $10 million had not been used.

This brings us to today. We are happy to report that the Harbor Board of Commissioners just approved two agreements, one to direct $5.2 million to the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF) and $4 million to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). The HCBF monies are to be used to fund projects that demonstrate zero emissions (or near-zero) technology that significantly reduce emissions from port-related operations. The SCAQMD funds are going to be used to develop a catenary system for electric and hybrid trucks.

The expected growth of the freight and goods movement sector, along with the anticipated impact that will have on communities living near the ports, continues to be a driving force behind the work of CCA. The Commissioners’ approval of this amended agreement is an important milestone in CCA’s efforts to reduce air pollution at the ports. It’s also a huge boost to the HCBF, which CCA helped establish through our settlement agreement over the TraPac terminal project some years back.

On a related note is POLA’s admission of failing to meet 11 of the 52 mitigation measures from the China Shipping settlement. This is another issue on CCA’s radar. We will continue working with POLA and other agency stakeholders demanding transparency, collaboration, and public participation while addressing local concerns.

By Nidia Erceg

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