With Council Approval, LA Port Director Vows Port Environmental Compliance

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka today praised the City Council's approval of environmental measures for a port terminal, allowing cargo shipping to proceed, but he said he also anticipates litigation against the approval.

Since 2008, China Shipping Container Lines had been trying to meet 10 of 52 mitigation and lease measures from a 2008 agreement, which environmentalists found the company and the port were not practicing.

“There were several newly proposed technologies that the port included as mitigation measures in the hope that they would become proven and implementable,'' Seroka said of the 2008 environmental approvals.

“Unfortunately, over time it became abundantly clear that neither the technology nor the manner of the proposed implementation proved feasible.''

Seroka said that the new environmental policies adopted by the City Council are far stronger than any other countries he's seen, but the National Resources Defense Council and other organizations stated those measures don't go far enough.

“We're here today because in 2008, the port promised that it would adopt about a dozen health protective measures for ships trucks and equipment at the terminal. Instead, the port hid its illegal mission emissions for nearly a decade,'' said Claire Woods, a senior attorney for the NRDC.

The NRDC contends that the terminal's emissions standards have not met required standards to reduce the pollutants.

The NRDC and the California Air Resources Board are among those that filed appeals, asking the council to review and overturn the decision.

Seroka said that when he was appointed as executive director in 2015, “In the spirit of transparency, I immediately brought this issue to the public, stating that I would disclose it, own it and fix it and also acknowledging that the process to rebuild trust must start with that transparency, with a focus on remaining solutions oriented.

“I also immediately directed our staff here at the port to begin a supplemental environmental impact report to bring about legal compliance and to ensure that we fulfill our obligations under the California Environmental Quality Act for the container terminal at 97-109.''

Seroka said the Port of Los Angeles risked losing China Shipping as a tenant if the new regulations were not approved by the council, as it would be operating illegally without an environmental impact statement per California state law.

“I commend the Los Angeles City Council for acting on this important issue, allowing us to return to compliance,'' Seroka said about the vote taken Wednesday. “Wednesday's vote moves the ball forward to protect jobs, supporting our local economy and having one of the cleanest conventional not automated facilities anywhere in the world.''

According to an article published in February by the Daily Breeze, the China Shipping container terminal, at Berths 97 to 109 in the port, has long drawn the ire of environmentalists.

China Shipping has run the 142-acre terminal since it became operational in 2005 and has a lease that runs until 2045, but even before China Shipping came in, which now employs between 800 and 1,000 workers at the San Pedro terminal, there has been tension, with port officials having had major plans to upgrade the area, the Breeze reported.

Although the City Council approved the environmental mitigation measures for the China Shipping terminal, some council members said they think their action could be defeated in an anticipated lawsuit.

Regarding Aug. 4 the massive ammonium nitrate explosion that took place in Beirut, Lebanon, Port of Los Angeles officials said while the chemical compound does come through the port, it is “highly regulated'' by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard and other agencies, and it is only transferred one container at a time.

Ammonium nitrate is commercially used in soil fertilizers.

The officials said ammonium nitrate is “limited in its time and dwelling'' in the Port of Los Angeles, two hours at a time, and there is no storage of it in warehouses at the port.

Photo: Getty Images

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