To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Joining the EPA's war on soot

A new rule requiring a 20% cut in emissions is particularly important to California.



 December 28, 2012




A view of Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory

 The public is used to thinking of soot as the ashy, dirty smoke seen wafting from old diesel vehicles and industrial smokestacks. But what causes more pressing health concerns are the microscopic particles we can¿t see amid the smoke. Above: A view of Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory in Nov. 2010.



Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, did not produce the record some had hoped for, as she was continually held back from her ambitious regulatory plans by business and political opponents. And even her last major action — she announced last week that she is leaving her post — is overdue but still welcome. The EPA is demanding of local governments a 20% reduction in soot emissions. If it is successful in producing those results, the new standards will save thousands of lives and reduce the nation's healthcare costs by billions of dollars. The new rule is particularly important to Southern and Central California, where cleaning up soot emissions will be particularly challenging.

The public is used to thinking of soot as the ashy, dirty smoke seen wafting from old diesel vehicles and industrial smokestacks. But what causes more pressing health concerns are the microscopic particles we can't see amid the smoke. Soot can cause heart and lung problems and trigger asthma attacks. Strict enforcement of the new rules will begin in 2020, with some regions given extensions to 2025. By the year 2030, the stricter standards are expected to prevent a total of 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million lost work days from illness.

National restrictions on soot emissions were originally issued in 1997, but that was seen as a temporary step, with more stringent rules to come in following years. The George W. Bush administration rejected stricter standards in 2006. In 2009, a federal court ordered the EPA to devise tighter rules. The Obama administration dragged its feet, and last year 11 states, including California, successfully sued, leading to the regulations that Jackson announced in December.

Industry and conservative Republicans have fought against tighter soot restrictions for years, arguing that the EPA would be killing jobs. But industry doesn't have the right to kill or sicken people in order to keep expenses low. The EPA estimates the cost to industry at somewhere between $53 million and $350 million a year; the estimated savings by preventing illness, hospitalization and work loss is estimated at a minimum of $3.7 billion a year. The public should not subsidize industry's indifference.

Existing programs affecting diesel engines and coal plants have begun the work of reducing soot. At this point, all but 66 counties nationwide already meet the EPA standards. By 2020, only seven are expected to be in violation of the new rules — but all of those, including Los Angeles, are in Southern or Central California.

Unlike eastern areas of the United States, the chief source of soot in California isn't coal plants; it's tailpipe emissions, especially from diesel trucks and, in the Central Valley, farm equipment. California already has a program to reduce diesel truck emissions by requiring trucks to be retrofitted with filters that remove 85% of the soot. And in fact, there has been significant improvement in cleaning up some of these pollutants, both by the Port of Los Angeles and by companies such as Coca-Cola that have voluntarily retrofitted their trucks. The regulations are rolled out over time, and the start of the new year marked the deadline for retrofitting most heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses made from 2000 to 2004.

But the state's Air Resources Board has been less than stringent about enforcing the law and has not yet set retrofit rules for farm equipment. In December 2010, it delayed implementation of the truck rules because of the economy. Surveys by an association of filter manufacturers found that sales of the soot filters were running at about half of what they should have been during 2011 and the first half of 2012. But the board has been warning truckers that it plans stepped-up enforcement of the rules starting this month. That's an important sign of progress and suggests the potential for real gains once the new federal regulations take their belated effect.

Letters: Diesel do-gooders

 Re "Joining the EPA's war on soot," Editorial, Jan. 2

 The Times notes that "coal plants and diesel engines have begun the work of reducing soot" but left out how much has been accomplished.

According to the California Air Resources Board, particulate-matter emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks declined from 7.5% of all such emissions in the entire state in 1990 to 3.8% in 2008 and will be just 1.6% in 2020. The diesel truck share of particulate-matter emissions in the South Coast Air Basin decreased from 7% in 2005 to 3% in 2011.

 It would take 60 of today's trucks to equal the particulate emissions of one truck made before 1988. In fact, a UC Riverside study found more particle emissions come from charbroiling a single hamburger than driving a new diesel big rig 142 miles.

Allen Schaeffer
Frederick, Md.
The writer is the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum.

CES: Audi, Lexus explore self-driving cars



January 8, 2013

 Lexus autonomous vehicle
 Lexus unveiled this experimental autonomous car at the 2013 CES in Las Vegas. (January 8, 2013)

 Audi cars are stuffed with technology, with electronics making up "90% of innovations" at the German automaker, executives told a packed room during the CES convention Tuesday.

And, like Google and Lexus, Audi is trying to develop a self-driving car. The company said it has developed a laser scanning system that will be able to create 3-D maps of a vehicle's surrounding, allowing computers to guide the car around obstacles.

A prototype shown at Tuesday's talk, meant to be mounted on a vehicle's grill, is much smaller than the bulkier towers being outfitted on the tops of other driverless test cars.

But, as Lexus officials made clear Monday, Audi executives stressed that they're focused on "piloted driving," not "autonomous driving" without any human input.

"Our ultimate responsibility rests ... with the driver," said Ricky Hudi, Audi's chief executive engineer of electrics and electronics.

Still, he said he believes that piloted driving "will become reality in this decade," though he and other executives declined to speculate on a more specific time line. Japan and other areas with crowded downtown spaces will likely become first adopters, they said.

Other tech factoids: Every Audi A8 sedan has about 5,000 semiconductors. The connected nature of the company's cars -- Wi-Fi-equipped "infotainment" systems, ingrained safety features that protect against impaired driving -- helps draw younger buyers.

About 46% of Audi owners are Gen X or Gen Y consumers, said Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America -- that's more than other luxury rivals Lexus and BMW.
AQMD Workshop on: Near Roadway Air Quality Monitoring 

A very important workshop.
You are cordially invited to attend this workshop which is free. Please feel free to spread the word out by forwarding this invitation or posting the attached flyer .

AQMD Workshop
Date: Jan 12, 2013 9:21 AM

South Coast Air Quality Management District and
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
A Workshop on Near Roadway Air Quality Monitoring – Requirements and Status in the South Coast Air Basin
January 23, 2013 • 1:00 pm
South Coast Air Quality Management District Headquarters
Room GB
21865 Copley Drive
Diamond Bar, CA 91765
Over the past several years, the U.S. EPA has expanded its air quality requirements to include near roadway monitoring for selected pollutants. The first of these requirements were for nitrogen oxide (NO2) and then carbon monoxide (CO). Most recently near roadway requirements were added for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The U.S. EPA has issued technical guidance for the evaluation, selection and implementation of near roadway monitoring locations, with deadlines for deployment staggered over the next few years. The SCAQMD is currently evaluating near roadway monitoring locations; and, as part of the process is seeking public input on the factors being considered in selecting locations. The current monitoring requirements will be discussed, followed by a status report and discussion of SCAQMD’s planning efforts to meet those requirements. In addition, results and findings from past and current SCAQMD near roadway special monitoring studies will be presented.

Philip Fine, Ph.D.

Matthew Lakin, Ph.D.

Rainbow Yeung
Sr. Public Information Specialist
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
South Coast Air Quality Management District
21865 Copley Drive, Diamond Bar, CA 91765
www.aqmd.gov | CleanAirConnections.org
#Journo100 Finalist: Richard Risemberg of GRID Logistics


 by Sarah Erickson
 Dec 04, 2012

To highlight the wide diversity of journalism innovation projects proposed by our 100% Journalism finalists, we’re running short Q & As with our ten finalists. 

Though they’re not usually the sexiest aspects of a major metro area, shipyards, railyards and container transit systems in a port city like Los Angeles make up a huge portion of commerce and industry vital to a country’s economy. The downside? Traffic, pollution and stress to aging local infrastructure.

Journalist Richard Risemberg and his partners at GRID Logistics have a point of view on all that, but
they’re also keen to research the effects of the port on local transport systems and find solutions for the future.

Ebyline spoke with Risemberg about his #Journo100 project proposal. The following is an excerpt of that interview, edited lightly for clarity.

Your project looks at big plans to revamp LA’s transport system.

Right now there are plans afoot to expand the southern end of the 710 freeway to 14 lanes, including an aerial truck viaduct and then to build a gigantic tunnel at the north end to bring [the truck route] under Pasadena to the 210 freeway. This would be horrible because all the pollution from the trucks would still be there, it would just be vented from this tunnel into the communities around it. It would basically extend the diesel death zone another four miles into some of the most charming neighborhoods in Los Angeles county.

How would you employ freelancers?

We want to use Ebyline’s freelancers to build up a body of articles examining a history of the I-710 corridor [where goods are shipped to/from the port], the actual state of things in various communities along the corridor—so actually interviewing not just the politicians but people who live in a house by the freeway, people who have to send their kids to a school by a freeway, homeowners in Pasadena, business owners whose businesses would be demolished to make room for the freeway, etc. There’s the political opinions and attitudes of the municipalities, since there’s about 18 cities along the route that we would be going through.

We’re trying to get a comprehensive view of the corridor, it’s history, it’s problems, and the various solutions being offered for it. Not just GRID. People are searching for a way out of this mess and we want to use Ebyline’s resources to get the big picture of it.

Describe for me the plan that GRID Logistics has to transform Los Angeles.

The Grid project is a more advanced, more compact system for unloading and transferring containers between ships and trains in the harbor. The cranes, instead of being separate from the storage yards, are built into a storage structure that can also sort the containers. So by consolidating the storage into the cranes themselves, which was a concept originated in the 60s by Henry Kaiser of Kaiser steel, you basically eliminate all the trucking activity within the ports.

We also wanted to address LA’s traffic concerns, especially in the I-710 freeway corridor where the air pollution is so bad. Instead of just putting stuff on a train that goes into a trench in the existing Alameda corridor, we want to build underground rail tunnels using large diameter water pipe with unmanned robotic shuttles, which increases efficiency, safety, and reduces pollution and congestion.

So is the GRID plan in talks to be implemented?

We’re in the middle of reaching out to the various municipalities and stake holder groups. Because we envision using private money for most if not all of it there’s not much need to get more than permission to do. Since we envision putting as much as possible of the freight pipeline in the bed of the regional rivers that parallel the freeway routes and then remediating those routes so they’re no longer concrete trenches but they’re something more beautiful, we have to deal primarily with the Army Corps of Engineers who have reviewed the project and said it looks great to them.

High court to hear case on Port of L.A.'s Clean Truck Program

The trucking industry is challenging rules that Los Angeles adopted five years ago to reduce air pollution from trucks at the nation's busiest port.


January 11, 2013

Trucks at the Port of Los Angeles
 The trucking industry is fighting regulations adopted by Los Angeles five years ago to reduce air pollution for trucks that move in and out of the nation's busiest port.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed to hear the trucking industry's challenge to the Clean Truck Program at the Port of Los Angeles in a case testing whether cities and states have any authority to limit pollution from trucks that help move long-haul cargo.

The industry is fighting regulations that Los Angeles adopted five years ago to reduce air pollution for trucks that move in and out of the nation's busiest port. Similar rules apply to the neighboring Port of Long Beach.

The justices said Friday that they would hear the case of American Trucking Assn. vs. City of Los Angeles in the spring and rule by July.

The L.A. rules required trucking firms to enter into agreements with the port authority that included provisions regarding the maintenance of trucks, off-street parking and posted placards that display identifying information.

Separately, the Port of Los Angeles included a controversial rule that would require all drivers eventually to become employees of trucking firms, rather than independent contractors.

The American Trucking Assn. sued over the L.A. rules, contending that the local regulations violated the federal law that deregulated motor carriers. One provision of the federal law blocks, or preempts, any state or local measure that is "related to the price, route or service of any motor carrier."

The aim of the federal law was to speed the free flow of trucks, buses and other shippers and to prevent local or state rules that would add to their costs.

In the past, the Supreme Court has given this federal law a broad interpretation.

In 2008, the court unanimously threw out measures in Maine and several other states that warned shippers and delivery services, such as United Parcel Service Inc., against delivering packages that contained cigarettes to minors.

In that case, the states argued they had the authority to bar retailers from selling cigarettes to minors. But Justice Stephen Breyer, who as a Senate aide worked on the deregulation measures, said Congress meant to prohibit states from imposing any such regulations on shippers.

So far, the Los Angeles regulations have fared well. U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in Los Angeles rejected the trucking industry's preemption challenge in 2010.

And last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed her decision and upheld all the regulations, except the rule restricting independent contractors. The appellate judges said the rules at issue were not like ordinary laws governing motor carriers in Los Angeles, but rather special rules involving vehicles operating in the city's port facility.

But the Obama administration's lawyers poked a hole in that theory.

"A container port like the Port of Los Angeles is … akin to a publicly managed transportation infrastructure, like a highway or a bridge," U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. told the justices in a brief filed in November.

He said it could pose a problem at ports and other facilities across the nation if cities were free to impose restrictions on truckers who operate in publicly owned facilities. Still, Verrilli advised the court to steer clear of the Los Angeles case because the regulations had little significance.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined the trucking industry in urging the court to hear the case and to hold the line against regulation of truckers by cities or states.

"This continues to be a hard-fought battle against an industry clinging to its polluting practices," said Melissa Lin Perrella, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The Clean Truck Program at the Port of L.A. has dramatically reduced harmful air pollution," she said, "but it won't stay that way unless the trucking companies step up and shoulder the necessary costs of upkeep and care."