The Port of Long Beach, known as “The Green Port” for its environment friendly policies, is facing serious criticism as it goes ahead with plans to export dangerous carbon material.
Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest organization, has criticized the port’s recent decision to continue with two export agreements involving coal and petroleum coke, or petcoke, for the next 15 years according to the Long Beach Post.
“This is a senseless project to lock these communities into 15 years of dirty coal pollution,” Adrian Martinez, a staff attorney at Earthjustice, said. “The coal goes overseas but its health impacts stick around for a long time if this project goes through.”
The port, intent on making sure it is seen as a “Green Port” adopted a Green Port Policy in 2005, which focusses on making environmentally friendly decisions in regards to port practices.
The policy outlines guiding principles, including protecting the community from harmful environmental impacts of port operations and promoting sustainability.
The port still plans to continue exporting petcoke and coal on a massive scale.
“There has been a controversy over the coal, but it’s a material that’s going to be shipped out and we’re only doing about one percent of the coal exportation from the United States,” Lee Peterson, a media relations specialist for the Port of Long Beach, said.
Petcoke comes from all the refineries in L.A. County, and is sent overseas where it’s used as a fuel and in the making of steel. It is brought in covered trucks to the Port of Long Beach where its loaded into covered sheds for storage until it can be loaded onto a ship via a closed tube to eliminate or minimize any dust from the petcoke, a solid carbon material similar to coal is a product of oil refining and consists mostly of carbon and is criticized by environmental groups for being dangerous both to human health and the environment, Peterson said.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency petcoke produces more CO2 per pound than most other energy sources, causing it to be a contributor to greenhouse gases and consequently a driver of climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency stated on its website that it is particularly concerned about the health effects that could be caused by the export of petcoke because particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter are typically the fragments that pass through the throat and nose and can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.
Earthjustice and other environmental groups, such as Natural Resources Defense Council came together to appeal to the Long Beach City Council. They argued that if passed, the agreement would violate key provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act that entails appropriate environmental impact analysis and disclosure for projects.
In a 9-0 vote, city council voted in support of the port to annually export 1.7 million tons of both coal and petcoke to the global market out of Pier G.
“It’s deplorable that a port that calls itself the ‘Green Port’ has allowed for the movement of coal and highly pollutant petcoke through its harbor year after year, and will now extend and expand those operations without any second thought to the environmental ramifications,” Martinez said.
Peterson said that the Long Beach Port ships petcoke because it is one of the greenest alternatives for shipping coal from a port.
“We do understand the concerns about the use of coal around the world, but right now we’re here to facilitate international trade,” Peterson said.
The port states on its website that in order to be a model to the world with their environmental policies and to “[have] made tremendous improvements to the environment in recent years.”