New clean air rules for harbor boats draw cheers and jeers – Orange County Register

Californians — especially those who live around major ports — will breathe easier thanks to aggressive regulations approved Thursday, March 24, for tugboats, ferries, sport fishing vessels and whale-watching boats.

But some say the regulations are too costly and should come into force too quickly. Tugboat operators said the strict rules could put some of them out of business, leading to further disruptions to supply chains. And a representative from the Catalina Island tourism office expressed concerns about the possible impact on ferry service.

Still, most other harbor craft operators seemed poised for the costly upgrades as they approached the California Air Resources Board at Thursday’s hearing. After public comment, the board voted 14-0 to approve the new bylaw.

The move was prompted by dangerous levels of smog, soot and greenhouse gases produced by ships in ports and harbors across the state. Council staff said the move will eliminate 531 premature deaths from 2023 to 2038 and reduce South Bay’s cancer threat from ships from 10 in 1 million to one in 1 million.

Disadvantaged communities that typically surround major ports are the most affected by pollutants.

The stricter rules were announced by clean air advocates.

“Diesel ship emissions are a major source of cancer risk for these communities, and the transition to cleaner engines and zero-emissions technologies will generate billions in health benefits, save hundreds of lives and reduce a large range of lung and heart disease,” said Mariela Ruacho of the American Lung Association.

A single sport fishing boat produces the equivalent of the exhaust fumes of 162 diesel school buses, according to a report by the Air Resources Board. He estimated the cost of modernizing and replacing port ships at $1.8 billion from 2023 to 2038, less than half of the monetary health benefits, set at $5.25 billion.

Tugboat, ferry problems

The new rules will start to come into effect next year and will run until 2031, depending on the type of boat, its age and the type of engine. Those with the most polluting emissions are targeted first.

There are also provisions for a range of extensions that could delay upgrades until 2034, including extensions if the required new technology is not available. The particular concerns of sport fishing boat operators were addressed through these extensions, leading these operators to drop their opposition and support the new rules.

“The new compliance schedule is aggressive and we will need to be diligent in ensuring continued compliance as new technologies become available,” said Ken Franke, president of the Sportfishing Association of California. “The good news for our coastal communities is that our boats will not be retired from service starting next year. They will continue to provide millions of Californians with affordable access to the sea while working to reduce emissions. .

Operators of tugs, tugs and barges remained strongly opposed, who complained that the deadlines were too steep, that the costs could threaten the continuation of their activities and that the grants and subsidies available were insufficient to help them pay. the transition.

“Unfortunately, the CARB harbor boat regulations risk sidelining not only the most environmentally sustainable mode of freight transport, but also an industry that has kept goods moving safely and reliably for the pandemic and the supply chain crisis of the past two years,” said Jennifer Carpenter, president of the American Waterways Operators trade group.

The impact on Catalina ferries remains uncertain.

“Without state funding, regulations place an impossible financial burden on the Catalina Express and other ferries,” said Jim Luttjohann of Love Catalina Island, a tourism bureau.

A 2021 letter from Catalina Channel Express to regulators detailed the costs of complying with the new regulations and said the company could not afford the upgrades. However, no company officers or employees spoke at Thursday’s meeting.

Hector De La Torre, a member of the Air Resources Board, said efforts were underway to ensure the ferry company got the funding it needed, and Catalina State officials – Senator Ben Allen, D-Redondo Beach and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach – had said they would help solve the problem.

“I’m very sensitive to the Catalina situation,” De La Torre said. “(The ferries are) the lifeline for the people who live there.”

Although the new regulations are complicated – with many deadlines and contingencies – council members praised their staff for developing a plan that takes into account the varied circumstances of different harbor boats as well as the need to better protect public health.

“The staff did a good job threading the needle,” said board member John Balmes.

Earnest A. Martinez