HARBOR AREA : EPA Plan for Port User Fees Challenged

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are challenging an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to impose fees on vessels that pollute the air as they enter Southern California waters.

In efforts to meet the federal Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, the EPA has suggested charging ship operators up to $10,000 per ton of nitrogen dioxide emitted, starting from a distance of 100 miles from port. A three-tiered fee system for marine vessels, effective beginning in 2001, would be enforced only in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Barbara Dykman, an environmental scientist with the Los Angeles Harbor Department, said the port supports reduced air emissions in the South Coast Air Basin, which has the worst ozone pollution in the country.

But, she said, the department believes that the EPA Federal Implementation Plan, which also aims to regulate locomotive and truck emissions, will affect cargo transport throughout the basin, hurting jobs and the local economy.

Dykman calculated that a modern container ship entering one of the ports for a 36-hour stay would face a fee of more than $100,000.

Burdened with the costs of retrofitting their vessels to meet new standards, she said, many shipping lines will simply divert their cargo to a port without the fee.

Representatives from the two harbor departments are meeting to devise alternatives to be submitted to the EPA by an Aug. 31 public comment deadline.

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