Public-health advocates have known for years that living around freight yards is hazardous to your cardiopulmonary health.
In smog-susceptible Los Angeles, the Port of LA was a huge hotspot of toxic emissions. And seven years ago, the Port embarked on an ambitious program to eliminate the bulk of those pollutants.
Now, the data is in: It worked.
Since 2005, emissions of diesel particulate matter has been cut 71 percent (PM10) and 69 percent (PM2.5), sulfur oxide has dropped 76 percent, and nitrogen oxide is down 51 percent.
Emissions of greenhouse gases have also fallen 19 percent, even as the Port has exceeded its 2005 levels of freight throughput by 6 percent.
The region's freight imports include large amounts of consumer goods from Asia to be distributed throughout the U.S.
The cuts are the result of a multi-pronged Clean Air Action Plan that survived several court battles. According to the Journal of Commerce, the program imposes new requirements on shippers, freight haulers, and the port's own operations.
It targets emissions from idling trucks, freight trains, docked ships, harbor vessels, and other sources of engine pollutants.
Vessels in the harbor must travel more slowly, ships are required to burn low-sulfur fuel, and docked ships must connect to shore-based electric power rather than running their engines on the highly polluting bunker fuel.
Los Angeles SmogEnlarge Photo
On shore, it funds new cleaner diesel trucks and engine retrofits for the truckers who haul freight in and out of the Port--one of the requirements that endured a long fight in court.
In addition, the program provides some zero-emission vehicles for cargo-handling operations within the freight yard, and in concert with the railroad operators, new switcher locomotives as well.
The data is contained in the Air Quality Report Card, 2005-2011 issued by the Port of Los Angeles, which actually straddles both the city of Los Angeles and the neighboring city of Long Beach.
Nissan's City of St. Petersburg cargo ship for transporting Leaf electric carsEnlarge Photo
More recently, shipping lines are starting to experiment with biofuels.
Last year, the UN agency that regulates global shipping adopted rules to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by even ships passing through international waters.