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EPA Names Long Beach Port an 'Environmental Hero'

June 02, 2005|Deborah Schoch | Times Staff Writer

The Port of Long Beach has received an award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for promoting clean air and water, despite recent criticisms of the port by clean-air activists.

The port is one of 37 "environmental heroes" named this week in EPA Region 9, which encompasses the Southwest.

The fast-growing ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles together constitute the single-largest air polluter in the Los Angeles region. Long Beach is the nation's second-busiest seaport, after Los Angeles.

EPA officials praised the Long Beach port for taking steps to stem air pollution from ships, trucks and yard equipment. They cited such efforts as the installation of devices to reduce diesel emissions from yard equipment, a liquefied natural gas demonstration project and plans to allow oil tankers to plug into onshore electric power while in port rather than running diesel-burning engines.

"We're delighted to get recognized for the positive things we're doing," said Robert Kanter, the port's planning director.

One environmental attorney, however, took issue with the award.

"It's premature to give the port an award when they are one of the largest polluters in the region," said Gail Ruderman Feuer, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Some of the port's programs are relatively small, such as a "minimal" liquid natural gas project, she said. "Much of what they're getting an award for is fluff."

But EPA Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri disagreed, saying that both the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports are ahead of many other ports in combating pollution.

"We want to make sure those achievements are noticed," Nastri said Wednesday. "The fact is, when we can get a real achievement -- an example they set for others -- that's a good thing."

Also receiving EPA awards were the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, watersheds division, for its work in a flood-prone area of Sun Valley; Justin Rudd of 30-Minute Beach Cleanup in Long Beach, who has organized more than 75 beach cleanups since 1999; and the Audubon Center at Debs Park on the border of Highland Park and Montecito Heights, which the EPA called "the greenest building in the city of Los Angeles."

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