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Janice Hahn calls for independent oversight of Port of L.A.'s anti-pollution efforts

"It is incredibly troubling that the Port of Los Angeles has failed to carry out court-mandated pollution reduction measures," Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) said in a statement.
(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) is throwing her support behind the demands of harbor-area residents calling for independent oversight of the Port of Los Angeles after its failure to impose air quality improvements at one of its busiest shipping terminals.

“It is incredibly troubling that the Port of Los Angeles has failed to carry out court-mandated pollution reduction measures and, making matters worse, went for years without informing the community,” Hahn said in a statement Wednesday.

Her comments followed reports in The Times that the port has not completed measures to reduce harmful emissions from diesel-powered trucks, container ships and cargo-handling equipment at the China Shipping terminal.

The city-owned port agreed to take the steps to cut air pollution in a highly publicized 2004 legal settlement with environmentalists and homeowners and when it approved the expansion of the terminal seven years ago.

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But port officials disclosed in September that they did not carry out key requirements, including the use of cleaner natural-gas-fueled trucks, less-polluting yard tractors and cargo-handling equipment, and measures to reduce emissions from container ships. Some of those shortcomings went back several years, but port officials did not make them known to the public.

The Times reported Monday that beginning in 2009, top port administrators violated the settlement by privately giving China Shipping permission to ignore requirements that ships shut down their diesel engines and plug into electricity while docked to reduce harmful emissions.

“This was a settlement won on behalf of local residents to protect the health of the people living in the port communities of San Pedro and Wilmington and we trusted that the port would do what was promised,” Hahn said. “Clearly, trust is not enough.”

Hahn’s remarks echo those of residents and environmental groups, who this week urged Los Angeles city officials to establish an independent oversight body to ensure the nation’s busiest container port is carrying out the environmental measures it has pledged.

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Community groups say the port’s unfulfilled promises have had health consequences in harbor-area neighborhoods that have for years contended with higher asthma rates and cancer risk from port emissions. They have asked the port to account for how much excess pollution was released, analyze the health effects and make up for the damage caused.

Gene Seroka, who was hired as head of the port last year, has vowed to fix the situation and to move forward with a new plan to put in cleaner technology at the terminal to make good on its pledges.

Hahn, a former Los Angeles city councilwoman whose congressional district includes the harbor area, also called for harbor commissioners to reinstate the Port Community Advisory Committee, a panel of homeowners, businesses, labor leaders and environmental activists that was disbanded by the city in 2013. The standing committee was established in 2001 by Hahn’s brother, then-Mayor James K. Hahn, to watch over waterfront development and its effects on nearby communities.

“It was a mistake to dissolve this committee,” Janice Hahn said, and the latest issues show it “must be reinstated to keep local residents informed and allow them to hold the port accountable.”

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

Twitter: @tonybarboza


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