South Coast AQMD Requires Warehouses To Curb Equipment Emissions

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The South Coast Air Quality Management District's governing board today adopted a rule requiring warehouses larger than 100,000 square feet to reduce nitrogen oxide and diesel particulate matter emissions or pay a fee.

"About half of the air pollutants that contribute to smog come from the goods movement industry, with the largest source being heavy-duty trucks heading to warehouses across Southern California,'' said Wayne Nastri, South Coast AQMD's executive officer.

"After many years of development, today's adoption of the warehouse rule is a major step towards reducing air pollution and protecting the millions of people directly impacted by this type of pollution."

The rule was approved by a 9-4 vote following a daylong meeting of the board the which regulates air pollution for major portions of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

According to the agency, heavy duty trucks and other cargo handling equipment that release great amounts of emissions frequent warehouses, contributing to local pollution, and this accounts for almost as many nitrogen oxide emissions as all the refineries, power plants and other stationary sources in the South Coast Air Basin combined.

Communities in the half-mile area around warehouses are more likely to be communities of color, bare a greater environmental burden and residents experience health impacts like higher rates of asthma and heart attacks.

The rule's passage was celebrated by the Coalition for Clean Air.

"Southern Californians have long subsidized the logistics industry with their health," the coalition's Deputy Policy Director Chris Chavez said.

"The warehouse ISR will bring life-saving air pollution reductions, especially for our most vulnerable communities."

"Today's successful vote was made possible by years of organizing and hard work by clean air, environmental justice, climate and public health advocates. While these new rules are not perfect, they will go a long way in helping bring clean air to all Southern Californians."

Under the warehouse rule, warehouse operators can choose from a menu- based points system to earn a specified number of points each year or pay a mitigation fee.

The points can be earned by using natural gas, near-zero emissions and/or zero-emissions trucks, zero-emissions cargo handling equipment, solar panels or zero-emission charging and fueling infrastructure, and more.

Funding from the mitigation fee will be used to incentivize operators to purchase cleaner trucks and charging/fueling infrastructure, AQMD said.

California Retailers Association President and CEO Rachel Michelin voiced opposition to the rule Friday, saying it would complicate warehouse operations by "adding complex reporting requirements for data that operators often do not have" and require upgrades for trucks that the operators don't own.

"In the alternative, it levies a mitigation fee that amounts to a tax of nearly one billion dollars -- costs that will be passed down to the consumer in the form of higher prices on goods. Southern California is already a high-cost region. We do not need additional costs," she added.

The rule was developed through extensive research and discussions with environmental justice groups, government agencies and industry representatives over four years, AQMD said.

Officials expect the rule to reduce smog-forming emissions caused by warehouse-related sources by 10-15%, and the program will be phased in over the next three years, starting with the largest warehouses.

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