OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Diesel emissions at the Port of Oakland have declined dramatically since 2005, the result of a concerted effort by the port to improve air quality in neighboring communities, port officials said Friday.
From 2005 to 2015, diesel emissions from trucks, ships, tugboats, trains and cargo handling equipment declined 76 percent, from 261 tons to 63 tons annually, according to the port's 2015 Emissions Inventory report released Friday.
"Probably the most important thing that we do here at the Port of Oakland is to make sure that the negative impacts of cargo movement and ship movement and truck movement does not impact our community that's adjacent to the port," port executive director Chris Lytle said during a news conference.
The reductions are part of the port's effort to reduce overall diesel emissions 85 percent by 2020.
The key factors that led to the improved air quality include a program to upgrade and replace old trucks that pick up and drop off cargo at the port, a ban on trucks that don't meet California emissions standards, a requirement that ships switch to cleaner burning fuel within 200 nautical miles of the port, a switch from diesel generators to electric power for refrigerated shipping containers inside the port and a requirement that berthed ships plug into dockside electrical power instead of running their diesel engines.
As a result, truck emissions are down 98 percent and ship emissions are down 75 percent, according to the port.
The effects can already be detected in the neighborhoods that abut the port, said Margaret Gordon, a former port commissioner and a leader of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.
"I notice that I have less soot on my windows," Gordon said, adding that her asthma attacks are less frequent as well.
Oakland City Council president Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents the West Oakland and Jack London Square neighborhoods near the port, praised the emissions reductions but noted that they came after years of activism that brought environmental justice issues to the port commission board.
Gibson McElhaney mentioned the results of the Alameda County Health Department's 2008 study "Life and Death from Unnatural Causes," which found that people born in West Oakland can expect to live 15 fewer years than those born in the more affluent Oakland hills.
"This really comes down to people," she said. "We suffer three times the particulate matter of anywhere else in the Bay Area and black children are two-and-a-half times more likely to visit the ER for asthma than any other children in the Bay Area."
She added that she's happy the port has committed to being a good neighbor.
The driving force behind the reductions is the port's 2009 Maritime Air Quality Improvement Plan, port officials said. The plan was developed in cooperation with local residents, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, trucking companies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board as well as marine terminal, railway and shipping operators.
"You don't see a 'Mission Accomplished' banner in the back. This is an ongoing fight," Lytle said. "We are not taking the position that OK, we are done now."
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