The California Air Resources Board (CARB) continues its efforts to expand the state’s existing Ocean-Going Vessels At-Berth Regulation to further reduce air emissions from ships docked in California. (See here for prior alert). CARB recently released draft modifications to the At-Berth Rulemaking Documents. The modifications would include:

  • Allowing use of an Innovative Concepts (IC) provision as a compliance option. The IC provision would enable regulated entities to use potentially lower-cost options to achieve earlier or equivalent (or greater) emissions reductions in port communities versus reducing emissions directly at berth. The IC provision would also provide a pathway for regulated vessel fleets to continue using fleet averaging methods to comply with the proposed regulation.
  • Expanding use of Vessel and Terminal Incident Events to new and expanding fleets to encourage new business at California ports.
  • Providing additional operational flexibility: by extending the time a vessel has to connect to shore power or another CARB-approved emissions control strategy (CAECS) from one hour to two hours; by extending the timeframe for reporting deadlines; and by expanding the remediation fund to ports and third-party CAECS operators.
  • Broadening the scope of the interim evaluation to include a review of public information provided to CARB, including terminal-specific engineering evaluations, logistical considerations, public engagement, and independent studies, to help inform the evaluation and implementation timeline.
  • Accelerating implementation dates for roll-on / roll-off and tanker vessels to achieve earlier public health benefits.

The resolution and all other regulatory documents for this rulemaking are available online here.

CARB notes that the proposed modifications “provide additional operational flexibility to achieve the necessary emissions reductions in California’s impacted port communities, while encouraging continued cleaner economic growth.” However, stakeholders are certain to see higher costs related to infrastructure and capital improvements.

COVID-19 has also altered transportation practices, and many stakeholders fear that enacting a regulatory change could complicate economic recovery. Maritime and port stakeholders have requested a delay in approving the At-Berth regulatory package in order to afford ports and port workers time to manage the COVID-19 outbreak and navigate its economic impacts.

Not extending the time to allow for economic recovery from the pandemic will likely make compliance more costly (in relative terms) or, as some stakeholders argue, “infeasible.”

CARB is currently reviewing and preparing responses to comments received on the record during the comment periods. CARB’s responses will be published with its Final Statement of Reasons report upon submittal to the Office of Administrative Law, which CARB expects to occur during Fall 2020. How it will respond to stakeholder comments, including COVID-19 concerns, is currently unknown.