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The Port of Long Beach director of environmental planning is moving toward a zero-emissions future.

From Heather Tomley’s perspective, the challenge to success in environmental programs in the transportation industry is to make sure that all stakeholders are involved and that they can maintain competitiveness as they move toward a zero-emissions future. “If the trucks and cargo handling equipment in the future need to be low, near zero or zero emissions, how can we get there in the most sustainable and cost-effective way?” she asked.

Tomley leads a division that is responsible for the Port of Long Beach’s Clean Air Action Plan, Water Resources Action Plan, and its Green Port Policy, which coordinates programs to improve air, water, and soil quality; preserve wildlife habitats; and integrate sustainability into port practices. The Port of Long Beach, the second-busiest container seaport in the U.S., handles $194 billion in goods annually.

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Heather Tomley, director of environment for the Port of Long Beach.

The Port of Long Beach has set aggressive targets to move to zero emissions, Tomley noted, and has achieved significant success in several areas. “Diesel particulate emissions from the drayage truck fleet serving the port were cut by more than 95% from 2008 to 2016, and that is due to the trucking industry’s active and enthusiastic participation,” she stated. “Our Clean Trucks Program was the first of its kind, and it has measurably improved air quality by banning trucks that did not meet the cleanest federal emissions standards.”

Under the recently approved update to its Clean Air Action Plan, Tomley said the port is now working on focusing its Clean Trucks Program on further reducing truck fleet emissions, with a goal of zero emissions by 2035. It is also involved in the Technology Advancement Program (TAP), a joint effort created by the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

“TAP’s goal is to nurture the development and demonstration of clean air technologies,” Tomley explained. “Under the agreement, each port provides funding every year to technology developers or port operators to test emerging cleaner technologies in actual operations, and we share the results.”

The Port of Long Beach also operates several monitoring stations that collect air quality and weather data in the area in real-time and makes that information available to the public. Additionally, the port’s emissions inventory is conducted each year by an independent consultant.

The inventory compares emissions and activity levels to 2005, the baseline year established by the San Pedro Bay Ports’ Clean Air Action Plan. Reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, and South Coast Air Quality Management District, in 2016 the inventory found that diesel particulate matter, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and greenhouse gases had all dropped by large margins.

Tomley has a B.S. degree in chemistry from California Polytechnic State University and an M.S. in environmental science from the University of North Carolina.

Having worked at an air quality regulatory agency before the port, Tomley gained valuable experience about the importance of public outreach and stakeholder engagement to the success of the port’s environmental programs. “My background in science, air pollution control, and the goods movement industry at the port prepared me for partnering with regulators, ocean carriers, trucking firms, shippers, railroads, the community, and other stakeholders to find optimal clean air solutions. The transportation industry is always looking to become more efficient, profitable, and sustainable,” she added.