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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Los Angeles Port, SoCal University to Join on Vessel Emission Scrubber Project

The Port of Los Angeles is partnering with the California State University Long Beach (CSULB) Foundation to develop and test a new $1.8 million vessel emission scrubber system next spring that has the potential to reduce emissions of docked cargo vessels by as much as 85 percent.

The scrubber system utilizes seawater to filter contaminants from a docked vessel's auxiliary engine emissions. Once solid carbon contaminants have been removed, the seawater used during the process is then treated, cleansed and discharged. The solid contaminants are contained and collected for later disposal.

"Seawater exhaust scrubbers show great long-term promise for reducing ship emissions," Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said. "It’s innovative, next-generation technologies like these that will greatly contribute to better air quality and greener, cleaner port operations in the future."

Hamid Hefazi, professor and chair of CSULB’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, and one of the co-principal investigators overseeing the project, said the partnership with the port is a good fit for the university.

"One of CSULB’s missions, in addition to its primary mission of providing high quality education, is to support community needs economically, environmentally and in other ways," Hefazi said.

"Pollution is not only a global issue but also a significant local problem. If we as a university can help with that, I believe we have made a very significant contribution."
Under CSULB’s leadership, technology and design firm Rolls Royce Marine will integrate and test a Belco Technologies Corporation seawater scrubber system on a Horizon Lines containership which makes monthly calls at the port.

The 36-month pilot program is being financed with funds from the Los Angeles port's $20 million Air Quality Mitigation Incentive Program. Established in 2004, the program provides financial incentives to spur evaluation and implementation of air pollution reduction projects.

The CSULB/Rolls Royce Marine seawater scrubber pilot is the second for the Port of LA; another similar project was launched earlier this year by the Port in conjunction with APL and the Port of Long Beach.

According to the port, seawater scrubber systems have been shown to substantially reduce ship exhaust emissions, including 85 percent for particulate matter (PM), 50 percent for sulfur oxide (SOx), and three percent for nitrogen oxides (NOx). Such technology, said the port, is of particular interest to large ships needing to meet new International Maritime Organization requirements for cleaner fuel and engine technology when these large vessels operate in designated areas along the coast.

Vancouver USA Port Board Nixes Annual Raise

The three-member governing board for the Washington state Port of Vancouver have agreed to forego a pay raise this year and have instead asked port staff to draft a rule allowing commissioner salaries to be adjusted by inflation every five years.

The board is expected to vote on the five-year wage resolution in mid-October.

Commissioners cited public opposition to an annual pay raise as a major factor in moving toward the five-year plan.

The three commissioners – Nancy Baker, Jerry Oliver, and Brian Wolfe – currently receive a $500-per-month salary for their part-time work on the port board, as well as medical, dental and vision benefits.

The commissioners also receive $104 for each day during the month that they conduct business, such as commission meetings.

Under state law, port commissioners are limited to a maximum of $12,535 in annual per diem compensation.

The Vancouver commission seats are elected positions, with terms lasting six-years.

SoCal "Green" Railroad Takes Delivery of New Tier III Locos

The short-line railroad servicing the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, already recognized as one of the greenest in the nation, has received the first of 16 locomotives the rail line is retrofitting with state-of-the-art clean-burning engines to slash rail-generated emissions in the port-area even further.

Pacific Harbor Line, which provides rail switching services for the ports and their nine on-dock intermodal terminals, as well as dispatching services for about 90 intermodal or unit trains per day, began retrofitting the locomotives with the new ultra low emission “Tier 3-plus” engines this summer, and expects to have all 16 upgraded by early 2012.

The new Tier 3-plus engines emit 85 percent less diesel particulate matter and 38 percent less nitrogen oxide than the previous generation engines they are replacing. The older engines, which came online three years ago, had already reduced pollution dramatically compared to previous generations. Overall, the Tier 3-plus engines represent a reduction of diesel particulates by 95.6 percent and nitrogen oxide by 67 percent compared to engines that were servicing the ports just five years ago.

PHL operates a total of 23 locomotives servicing the ports complex. The new engines are being installed in Tacoma, Washington, by Progress Rail Services Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc.

About 85 percent of the retrofit program funding was provided through a $12 million grant from the Carl Moyer Program, administered by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and California Air Resources Board.

The Long Beach and Los Angeles ports facilitated this project by entering into agreements with PHL that made it possible for the railroad to commit to the long-term use of ultra low emission locomotives.

Railway Age Magazine, one of the oldest railroad industry trade publication in the nation, named PHL the top US short-line railroad in 2009, citing the railroad's environmental efforts.

Lease Language at Heart of Longview Labor Strife

At the center of an ongoing labor dispute at the Port of Longview, one that has as times spilled into neighboring Washington ports, is the meaning of two paragraphs in a more than 160-page lease agreement between EGT Development and the port authority.

While EGT disputes the meaning of the lease language – and has filed suit in federal court against the port over it – the port and local dockers union maintain that the language is unambiguous.

EGT signed the 30-year lease with the port in June 2009 after nearly two years of negotiations. Under the lease terms, EGT agreed to develop and operate a $200 million grain export facility at the port. The completed facility was nearly ready to open earlier this year when a dispute over staffing the facility arose.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union claim that the lease signed by EGT requires the firm to hire ILWU workers for roughly 25-30 positions at the terminal – positions that fall under the port's labor agreement with the ILWU and similar to positions performed by ILWU members at other facilities.

According to the ILWU, EGT and the union met in 2010 to work out the terms of staffing the grain facility. However, on Nov. 23, 2010, ILWU Local 21 president Dan Coffman notified the port governing board that EGT had ended the negotiations, telling the union that EGT had "no need for our services."

In response to this claim by the ILWU, the port sent a Dec. 3, 2010 letter to EGT CEO Larry Clarke informing the firm that it was obligated under the terms of the lease, and the labor contract between the ILWU and the port known as the "working agreement" (WA), to hire ILWU members.

"The Port believes that under these provisions of the ground lease, EGT must adhere to the WA for the types of traditional longshore/warehousemen jobs which the WA expressly describes," the port letter said.

The letter went on to say that if EGT disagreed, "then we have a serious dispute under our ground lease which the Port believes should be very promptly presented to the appropriate court and resolved in a declaratory judgment action."

On Jan. 12, 2011, EGT filed a federal district court suit against the port over the staffing disagreement.

EGT argues in the court filing that the port lease "did not impose any obligation whatsoever upon EGT to utilize union labor at the Terminal, much less obligate EGT to utilize persons who are represented by Local 21 of the ILWU."

While the case sat in federal court, EGT moved forward with opening the facility and during the summer hired members of another union to staff the grain facility positions.

The ILWU began protesting the move in July, and since, more than 200 ILWU members have been arrested.

In addition to the claims in the lawsuit, EGT has recently begun promoting the idea that the lease with the port only required the firm to meet with the ILWU, not hire ILWU members.

At the core of the dispute is section 6.3 of the lease, known as the "Labor Warranty."

The single sentence of the lease's Labor Warranty states that the port guarantees EGT that "there are no agreements or restrictions affecting the port... requiring union labor or prevailing wage compliance... except as expressly set forth in Exhibit G-2."

Exhibit G-2, also a single sentence located later in the lease, expressly refers EGT to "the provisions of the Working Agreement between the ILWU Local 21 and the Port."

In its response to the EGT lawsuit, the port states that the lease Labor Warranty "obligate[s] EGT to observe applicable provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, including union jurisdiction provisions governing traditional longshore work to be performed for EGT."

The port also points out in its response that the Working Agreement with the ILWU covers "handling of cargo on the dock or in warehouses, cars, scows or trucks," and "the operation and maintenance of all machines used in the working of cargo."

A decision in the case is not expected to come until after October.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fidley Watch: Saving for a Rainy Day

In late July, President Obama and congressional leaders reached agreement on a legislative package that would extend the federal debt ceiling. At press time, the US debt clock (www.usdebtclock.org) showed a deficit of $1.415 trillion, or a debt per taxpayer of $130,802, up from $94,011 on the same day in 2008.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 the federal deficit was around $400 million. The response to Katrina stretched the federal budget pretty thin, and the country was involved in ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time. Six years later, the US still has the Iraq and Afghan wars, and is also involved in military operations in Libya. Things are also pretty rocky in Egypt and Syria, and our military spending has risen from $450 billion to more than $700 billion.

As I write this column, category 3 Hurricane Irene, bringing winds as high as 115 mph with even higher gusts, is bearing down on the US East Coast. Irene directly threatens ports from Wilmington, North Carolina to the Canadian border, including the ports of Virginia and New York/New Jersey. The Navy has ordered three-dozen ships to leave Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia ahead of the hurricane, including submarines and the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the governors of Virginia and New Jersey have declared states of emergency.

In 1821, a 13-foot storm surge flooded lower Manhattan. A similar surge today would cause millions of dollars in damage to the city’s low-lying financial district, port, power grid and subways. New York City police have deployed more than 80 boats around the city as well as several helicopters to prepare for emergencies, and city hospitals have tested their emergency generators.

Our nation’s capitol is higher in elevation, and will likely avoid the brunt of Irene and the attending storm surge, but recently suffered a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. The quake caused damage to the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument and came as quite a surprise to East Coast residents who rarely experience earthquakes. A smaller quake off the coast of Virginia in 2010 highlighted the possibility of an earthquake-triggered submarine landslide, which could trigger a tsunami similar to the wave that hit Japan in March.

The port of New Orleans was closed for two weeks after Katrina, and three months later was running at about half capacity. A similar catastrophe affecting the ports in Virginia and New York/New Jersey would be disastrous for the East Coast. The US is a big country, and in the past we have been able to absorb and overcome earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, as well as “man-caused disasters” which is the current administration’s euphemism for the terrorist attacks of 10 years ago this month. But we’re stretched pretty thin, and our credit isn’t as good as it once was. A natural or man-caused disaster now would be much more expensive to overcome, based solely on our ability to borrow.

With luck, Hurricane Irene will blow harmlessly back out to sea, the earth (on all three coasts) will remain relatively motionless and the deal hammered out by Congress and the President will work to bring the US fiscal house back into order. While we don’t hold much sway over the weather and the tectonic plates, we are each represented in Congress, and regardless of political ideology, I think we can all agree that it’s time for the US to get its fiscal house in order. Your congressman goes back to work this month – send him a note asking him to put a little back in the bank for emergencies.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor

Appeals Court Rules Against Los Angeles Port Clean Truck Regulation

A federal appeals panel on Monday ruled that the Port of Los Angeles cannot require thousands of port-servicing independent truckers to become trucking firm employees, dealing a major victory to the American Trucking Associations and a major setback to International Brotherhood of Teamsters efforts to unionize the drayage drivers.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-member United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel dismissed the port's argument that the port was a "market participant" in the drayage industry. Without the "market participant" claim, the court found that the port's employee-only mandate is not exempt from federal interstate commerce laws and permanently enjoined the mandate.

ATA President and CEO Bill Graves hailed the decision as a major victory for the trucking industry and consumers. The ATA, which represents some 37,000 members, is the largest national trade group for the trucking industry.

"By throwing out the [independent trucker] ban," Graves said, "the court has ensured that competition, not government regulation, will establish motor carrier's rates, routes, and services. This is a win for all involved; trucking companies; small business owner-operators; freight shippers; and ultimately average American consumers."

The appellate panel split 2-1 in favor of the port on four other minor issues opposed by the ATA, including an off-street parking provision, financial capability requirement, maintenance provision, and placard requirement.

The provisions, said the ATA in a statement, "although potentially administratively burdensome and costly, have a comparatively minor impact on trucking company port operations."

Los Angeles officials saw the split decision as both a victory and a defeat.

"We are pleased that almost all aspects of our concession program have again been upheld by the...Ninth Circuit," port executive director Geraldine Knatz said.

"The measures upheld in this ruling allow for significant accountability from the trucking companies that call at the [port]."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a major promoter of the employee-only mandate, took issue with the portion of the ruling in favor of the ATA.

"By failing to uphold the employee driver provision, today’s ruling hurts the long-term sustainability of the Clean Truck Program," Villaraigosa said.

"While we are deeply disappointed in the employee driver ruling, other components of today’s decision keep us on a path of green growth by ensuring that trucking companies that contract with the [port] are required to maintain a clean trucking fleet."

The case now heads back to US District Court Judge Christina Snyder, with instructions from the appellate panel to ignore the "market participation" argument that had formed the basis of her ruling last year that the port could move forward with the employee-only mandate.

It is expected that Judge Snyder, as she has done in the past regarding Ninth Circuit remands, will follow the appellate court's guidelines and also permanently bar the employee-mandate.

The port's final option following such a ruling by Judge Snyder would be an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The case began in 2008 when the port approved implementation of its "Clean Truck Program," developed in conjunction with the neighboring Port of Long Beach from late 2006 to early 2008. The program sought to phase out the roughly 19,000 highly polluting trucks servicing the two ports with 2007-or-newer model year trucks. The program hinged on requiring trucking firms to sign so-called "concession agreements" to gain access to the port facilities. In addition to requiring trucking firms to abide by the programs' truck model year standards, the concession agreements included various ports-defined criteria. While both ports' truck programs were similar, the Los Angeles version included the employee-only mandate.

The industry has pointed out that independent operators – which make up more than 80 percent of the two ports drivers – are barred from unionizing and the promotion of the truck program employee-mandate is an admitted effort by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to organize the port drivers.

Indeed, the idea of an employee-only mandate in the truck program was first suggested to Mayor Villaraigosa, a former union organizer, by Teamsters President James Hoffa during a 2006 meeting. The mandate was subsequently incorporated into the then-developing truck program.

The ATA filed suit in federal court over five of the concession requirements shortly before the two ports implemented their versions of the program on Oct. 1, 2008.

While supporting the environmental goals of the truck plans as embodied in the older truck model phase outs, the ATA argued that the five concession agreement criteria were preempted by federal law which holds authority over local regulation in the case of interstate commerce.

The ATA was initially denied a preliminary injunction against the five components by Judge Snyder. In this initial test of the ATA arguments against the truck program, Judge Snyder held that the "market participation" doctrine did not apply.

Judge Snyder's ruling was then overturned by the Ninth Circuit and on remand to the lower court, Judge Snyder issued an injunction against three concession agreement criteria: the employee-only mandate; a requirement that each trucking firm implement an off-street parking plan; and, that each trucking firm prove its financial capability to follow the concession agreement terms.

Judge Snyder also denied an injunction against two additional criteria: a requirement that trucking firms have a verified truck maintenance plan in place, and that each permitted truck bear an informational placard.

At the time, both ports were still defendants in the case, but a December 2009 agreement between Long Beach officials and the ATA removed Long Beach from the case. Under the agreement, trucking firms wishing to service the Long Beach port must agree to register with the port and comply with all environmental, safety and security requirements. In exchange, the trucking firms are provided with a transponder that permits access to port facilities.

Long Beach officials at the time cited that the agreement allowed the port to achieve what it needed to allow the environmental goals of its version of the truck program to move forward while de-tangling the port from the costly litigation.

Following a full trial on the ATA case in 2010, Judge Snyder ruled that the Los Angeles port could include all five criteria in the truck program concession agreements. Her September 2010 ruling was based on her interpretation that the port was a "market participant" in the local drayage industry, the same concept she dismissed in the earlier injunction ruling. As a "market participant," Judge Snyder said, the port fell outside the authority of the applicable federal law.

Judge Snyder reinstated the injunction against the five criteria later the same month, pending review by the Ninth Circuit.

The lengthy litigation, which has cost the Port of Los Angeles more than $1 million in legal fees, has not slowed the core environmental goals of the programs at either port.

Since the 2008 implementation of the two ports' programs, the combination of millions of dollars in incentives from the ports, and a more than $700 million investment by the trucking industry, has resulted in the rapid transition of the local drayage fleet to a predominantly 2007-or-newer model year fleet.

The two ports estimate that about 95 percent of the gates moves at the two ports are now done by 2007-or-newer model year trucks. In addition, about 87 percent of the roughly 11,000 trucks currently servicing the two ports now meet the 2007-or-newer model year standard. A final phase of the truck program, set for implementation at the end of this year, will ban all remaining pre-2007 trucks.

This rapid modernization of the local drayage fleet resulted in a dramatic, and equally rapid, reduction of ports-generated diesel truck emissions. At the start of 2010, the truck programs had already cut drayage diesel emissions by 80 percent – a goal the ports had not originally predicted to surpass until 2012. When compared to the baseline year of 2005, truck emissions at the two ports are currently down nearly 90 percent.

Port officials at both ports have referred to the truck programs as an overwhelming environmental success.

Longview Port Labor Trouble Takes More Twists

In the latest twists to the ongoing Port of Longview labor strife, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Longview on Monday filed a petition to recall Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson, claiming that Nelson and his officers have been overly aggressive in dealing with the union protestors.

Also on Monday, the National Labor Relations Board asked a federal judge to assess nearly $290,000 in fines against the ILWU for damage and costs related to a Sept. 8 free-for-all where hundreds of ILWU members and supporters raided a Longview grain terminal.

The labor troubles center around the Longview port's new $200 million grain export terminal, operated by EGT Development. The ILWU maintains that in signing a lease with the port, EGT is obligated to abide by the ILWU/port labor exclusivity agreement and hire ILWU workers for about 30 positions at the terminal.

The ILWU protests began in June, shortly after negotiations between EGT and the ILWU broke down and EGT hired workers from a different union to staff the terminal.
More than 150 ILWU members and supporters have been arrested since June for everything from alleged trespassing to accosting EGT employees to blocking access to the grain terminal.

Federal District Court Judge Ronald Leighton has admonished the union for its aggressive protesting and issued an injunction barring the protestors from engaging in such aggressive activity as well as blocking access to the grain terminal.
The ILWU insists that actions by EGT and local law enforcement are to blame for escalating tensions in the protests.

In their petition to recall Sheriff Nelson, the ILWU contends that Nelson has ordered his officers to harass union members at home, publically arrest union members, and has charged nearly $30,000 in unnecessary police overtime to the protests.

The recall effort still faces several hurdles. A superior court judge must first determine that the charges in the petition rise to the level of "malfeasance" or "misfeasance" by Nelson, and then the recall supporters must gather thousands of voter signatures to get the recall on the ballot. Cowlitz County officials have yet to release what might be the exact number of votes needed by the petitioners.

As the ILWU was filing its petition against Nelson, attorneys for the National Labor Relations Board were filing a damages and costs claim with Judge Leighton related to one protest incident.

In the early morning of Sept. 8, as many as 500 union members and supporters broke down the gate at the EGT terminal, damaged rail cars in the terminal yard, dumped grain from the cars, and damaged security vehicles before fleeing.

At the request of Judge Leighton, the NLRB compiled an assessment of the damage and costs related to the incident. The report found that EGT suffered $140,000 in damages, including the loss of nearly 10,000 dumped bushels of grain, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe suffered $13,000 in damages to rail equipment.

In addition, the report details just over $76,000 in police overtime costs related to the incident and $66,000 in NLRB attorney fees to compile the damage and costs report.

The NLRB is also asking that ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman, Treasurer Byron Jacobs and Executive Board member Michael Kelly Muller be found in violation of Judge Leighton's restraining order for blocking a train headed to the EGT terminal on Sept. 21.

Judge Leighton is expected to rule Friday on how much he will assess against the union.

BNSF Unveils Draft EIR For $500M Los Angeles Port Rail Yard

Class I railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe on Friday released draft environmental documents for a proposed $500 million rail facility to be located at the northeastern edge of the Port of Los Angeles.

The 153-acre proposed facility, named the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), would serve as a intermodal train-building yard to compliment the existing on-dock rail systems at the port's various container terminals. Estimated to have a throughput capacity of 1.5 million containers a year, the facility is being touted by BNSF as the "greenest" facilities of its kind in the nation, featuring numerous methods of drastically reducing both pollution and the health risk to surrounding communities.

As part of the facility construction, BNSF will remediate an existing industrial site that currently requires cleanup.

To reduce pollution, BNSF plans to utilize wide-span all-electric cranes, ultra-low emission switching locomotives and low-emission rail yard equipment. The railroad has committed to initially allow only trucks meeting the port's Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) goal of 2007-or-newer trucks to transport cargo about four miles from the port terminals to the SCIG. BNSF plans for 90 percent of the facility truck fleet will be LNG or equivalent emissions vehicles by 2026. Trucks will be required to adhere to strict routes, avoiding residential areas by traveling on designated, industrial routes with GPS tracking to ensure adherence.

The more than 1,500-page Draft Environmental Impact Report, prepared by the Environmental Management Division of the port, also determined that the proposed SCIG would reduce area cancer risk 10 times more than the port's own standards.

This is the second time the project has gone out for public comment. In 2005, the port sought public comment on the scope of the EIR released Friday. Most of the public concern raised at the time related to air quality, public health and increases in traffic.

"The release of this report is a significant moment for green growth in Los Angeles," BNSF Chairman and CEO Matthew Rose said.

"Railroads are the most environmentally-friendly mode of surface transportation. We believe that this facility proves that 'green' and 'growth' can go together as the mayor and the ports have long promised."

During the three-year construction phase, approximately 1,500 jobs a year would be created, with estimates suggesting that they would create more than $85 million in federal, state and local taxes.

According to a study by IHS Global Insight, the SCIG upon completion will create up to 14,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Los Angeles and 22,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Southern California by 2036.