Business, Environmental Interests Push For Renewable Natural Gas As Near-term Solution For Cleaner Air

By Samantha Mehlinger Assistant Editor, Long Beach Business Journal.

What if we could capture the gases naturally produced by landfills, water treatment plants, dairy farms and other sources of organic waste, strip out the majority of associated greenhouses gases and toxins, and convert the gases into a renewable, clean fuel?

What if we could use that fuel source to power the infrastructure and vehicles that cause pollution at local ports years before zero-emission electric technology will be required?

And what if doing all this would create more than 100,000 high-paying jobs in the state and generate an estimated $14 billion in economic impact?

This is the vision championed by the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, an organization representing 90% of all renewable natural gas (RNG) producers in the United States and Canada. As the San Pedro Bay ports work together to revise the emissions requirements of infrastructure and vehicles operating within their scope under a new version of their joint Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), the coalition is pushing to see this vision incorporated.

“The ports for many years have had the admirable goal to get zero emissions in operations around the port,” Greg Roche, vice president overseeing sustainable trucking for RNG Coalition member Clean Energy, a leading provider of natural gas fuels and fueling stations, told the Business Journal.

According to Roche, the discussion of zero-emission technologies in relation to port operations typically revolves around electric-powered equipment and vehicles. When it comes to heavy-duty trucks, however, that technology is not yet available and may not be for some time.

“And that means you have got to kind of look out and push things off into the future because it doesn’t really exist yet,” Roche said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves from a technology standpoint, so we can just kind of talk about very long-term goals.”

The CAAP draft discussion document proposed a 2035 goal of converting all trucks at the port to zero-emission technology. The document also proposed requiring all cargo-handling equipment to be zero-emission by 2030. “But from an actionable document of what happens between now and 2035, it lacks detail,” Roche said.

The RNG Coalition, in addition to other groups like the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition and the Coalition for Clean Air, are advocating that the ports include a 2023 benchmark in CAAP that would require trucks and perhaps terminal equipment to operate at zero-emissions equivalent, or near zero-emissions.