Having been born and raised in the Inland Empire, I am old enough to remember that a third degree smog alert meant no recess or outdoor lunch. The improvements in our air quality have been significant and there is more we must do to clean our air.
Improving air quality for Inland Empire residents is a mission we should all support, but new regulations must balance these critical environmental goals with the needs of Southern California’s workers. And at a time when we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic, threatening our region’s economy is the last thing local regulators should be doing. Instead, businesses, labor, environmental groups, and policymakers should be working together to ensure we can protect our air while preserving our economy for the future.
In April, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) will continue discussions on a proposed “indirect source” rule (ISR) that would require warehouse operators in the region to take steps to reduce emissions from shipping trucks that move goods to and from their warehouse. Warehouse operators that fail to take such steps, such as transitioning to electric trucks, would be required to pay a tax to the AQMD. The ISR would apply to owners and operators of facilities with at least 100,000 square feet of indoor space in a single building, meaning it would affect about 3,000 warehouses across the region.
Putting aside the serious legal questions about the AQMD’s authority to actually implement such restrictions — which would be the first of its kind in the United States — this plan could have disastrous economic effects for workers and consumers while failing to do anything to curb emissions.
This is because it would be nearly impossible for warehouse operators to fully comply with the regulations any time soon — specifically the goal of shifting existing truck fleets to zero-emissions (ZE) vehicles. As the clean transportation group CALSTART’s has noted, ZE commercial vehicles will not be commercially viable until 2025. Even the AQMD itself has admitted that there is insufficient evidence to support that there will be enough zero- and near-zero emission large trucks, noting in a recent report that “additional research and demonstration are needed to commercialize zero- and near-zero emission technologies” for heavy-duty vehicles.
Overall, the goods movement industry is a vital artery of the broader Southern California economy, moving more than $1.7 trillion of goods across the region each year while supporting more than 850,000 jobs. Prior to the pandemic, the growth of e-commerce was changing long held purchasing practices as people embraced package delivery at their door. Throughout the pandemic e-commerce has meant grocery delivery, pharmaceutical delivery and a new normal of how we shop.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Inland Empire’s logistics industry has been a critical source of economic activity and thousands of jobs for displaced workers in our community. Unfortunately, this unfeasible and unworkable proposal aimed at curbing emissions threatens to derail this growth by costing area businesses billions of dollars every year — jeopardizing jobs and stalling the region’s economic recovery from the pandemic while doing nothing to improve our air quality.
Passing a rule that threatens jobs, is a regulatory overreach and does nothing to clean our air is not just bad policy making, it is a threat to the economic future of our region.By PAUL GRANILLO | Press-Enterprise
PUBLISHED: April 8, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. | UPDATED: April 8, 2021 at 9:00 a.m.