Meeting Ozone Reduction Goals to Improve Air Quality in the Region
How much do you know about Southern California air pollution? How much should you know? Did you know, if the South Coast Los Angeles region fails to meet its ozone reduction goals, USEPA can mandate draconian penalties? Penalties may include:
According to SCAQMD, the allowable NOx emission budget for the region (nitrogen oxides, the most prominent air pollutant responsible for ground level ozone formation) is 132 tons/day. The region must attain this budget by 2023 or face EPA penalties; however with all current SCAQMD, CARB (California Air Resources Board) and US EPA regulations in place, the region is expected to emit NOx at a rate of 265 tons/day, double SCAQMD’s target. The task is even more formidable considering SCAQMD will have reduced NOx emissions 90% from a high of 1,352 tons/day in 1987.
Source: SCAQMD, 1997 AQMP, 2003 AQMP, 2007 AQMP, 2012 AQMP and Draft Emission Inventory for 2016 AQMP Advisory Group – Discussion Purposes (March 2016)
So it is easy to take a myopic view on air quality in Southern California. The region’s geography, climate population density and economics create optimal conditions for ozone production and path to attaining the US EPA NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) for ozone is daunting (ozone is a byproduct of a photochemical reaction between NOx and VOC (volatile organic compounds)). As environmental regulators continue to wring NOx reductions out of local industry, it has become painfully evident that non-California externalities, in this case motor transport, are the lynchpin in solving Los Angeles’ ozone dilemma. The irony is SCAQMD has virtually no authority over motor vehicles as these fall under federal jurisprudence as dictated by the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. The SCAQMD is formally petitioning USEPA to adopt tougher NOx standards for all heavy-duty trucks, while ARB simultaneously moves towards adopting those standards specific to trucks sold in California.
Source: SCAQMD Draft Emission Inventory for 2016 AQMP Advisory Group – Discussion Purposes (March 2016)
A consortium of Southern California organizations, including LA Metro (Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority), SCAQMD, and SoCalGas (the Southern California Gas Company), have rallied around this issue and challenged Cummins Westport, one of the foremost developers of heavy-duty natural gas engines, to develop an advanced natural gas powered engine that emits NOx at a significantly reduced rate. Cummins Westport responded with a USEPA and ARB certified, 0.02 g NOx/bhphr engine which is 90 percent lower than USEPA’s most stringent NOx emission standard. SCAQMD has termed this technology as near-zero emissions as it approaches the tailpipe performance of a battery-electric or fuel cell vehicle.
Incentives would be the primary mechanism for incentivizing the adoption of this technology and the California Assembly is circulating AB 2415, a bill to requires the state to support the commercial deployment of existing zero- and near-zero-emission heavy-duty truck technologies by spending whichever is greater: $100 million or half of the funds allocated each year for the development of zero- and near-zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty truck technologies. This bill is currently under review by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Likely initial targets for adoption of this technology would be the transit bus and the port drayage truck market as these vehicles travel extensively and exclusively within the region. SCAQMD has yet to assign an emission reduction value associated with a program of this nature. However the greatest opportunities for NOx reduction are contained in the nonroad sector, which has seen fewer NOx reduction victories. Mechanisms to transfer near-zero NOx technology the nonroad sector could provide the region significant benefit.
Kimba Anderson, Associate Consultant, Kimba.Anderson@altaenviron.com