Cypress has sent a letter of protest to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, backing one of the city’s largest landowners in the Cypress Business Park, Warland Investments Co., in opposing new proposed rules that would require warehouses to function at near zero emissions.
Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Collegiate News Service, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Collegiate News Service Editor Vik Jolly at email@example.com.
The proposed rules would require operators of warehouses in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties that are bigger than 100,000 square feet to reduce their pollution from either trucks, equipment, or infrastructure to meet the new emission requirements. Not doing so would result in mitigation fees. Additionally, warehouse owners would also have to report and record emissions from their properties.
These rules are a part of the Air Quality Management District’s existing Warehouse Actions and Investments to Reduce Emissions plan. Said rules would become part of an already developed menu-based point system that gives warehouses various options to reduce their emissions, according to Bradley Whitaker, the district’s public information officer.
“Some options include buying and using cleaner trucks, but other actions focus on onsite measures such as zero emissions charging infrastructure or onsite cargo handling equipment. Warehouse operators can also potentially develop a custom site-specific plan or choose to pay a mitigation fee which would then be used to incentivize cleaner trucks and charging/fueling infrastructure,” Whitaker said in an email.
According to Whitaker, diesel trucks make up a large portion of warehouse emissions, so focusing on reducing vehicle emissions like cargo handling equipment will be the focal point.
The Cypress City Council in late March voted unanimously to send off the letter protesting the proposed rules, which the Air Quality Management District is set to consider May 7.
“It’s another tax. Warehouse operators either have to adopt certain technologies which are near zero emission trucks, or pay the fee,” Mayor Pro Tem Stacy Berry said during the council meeting. “Well, (zero-emission) trucks aren’t available. The warehouse owners and operators are going to have to pay this fee and it’s another reason for businesses to leave California.”
Cypress officials say they are concerned about the economic impact of the proposed rules. And so is Warland.
“While Warland supports the district’s clean air goals, there are significant concerns regarding the impact of the proposed rules on the local economy, specifically the Cypress Business Park,” according to a Warland Investments statement read during public comments.
Warland has 13 buildings totalling 233,160 square feet in the Cypress Business Park, according to its website. Executing the new air quality rules, if approved, would result in substantial upgrading costs or an annual average compliance cost of 90 cent per square foot as early as 2025, according to a city staff report that quotes from a letter Warland representatives sent to the district. The city echoed the same sentiment in the letter it sent to the district as well.
The city’s letter, dated March 30, goes on to say, in part: “While the city supports the intended objectives of reducing emissions in order to improve air quality, the proposed rules as currently written will result in substantial operational cost increases to warehouse owners and operators, and are likely to result in increased costs of goods and services for businesses and residents.”
South Coast Air Quality Management District is responsible for keeping air pollution under control in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, so as not to pose health hazards to residents. The region under the agency’s jurisdiction is facing upcoming federal air quality standards deadlines. Failure to meet these standards will result in sanctions from the federal government, according to Whitaker.
“Our region continues to have the worst smog in the country … with the largest source being heavy duty diesel trucks. Warehouses contribute both to the overall regional smog, as well as local pollution, including toxic emissions, to the communities that live near them,” Whitaker said in an email. “These proposed rules could be a key measure to help reduce emissions in order to meet those federal standards. Near zero and zero-emission technologies are the solution to cleaning our air.”
“Warehouse owners and operators are currently unregulated when it comes to air pollution and have a key role to play in deploying these cleaner technologies,” Whitaker said.
The district’s governing board will meet May 7 to consider the proposed rules via a district meeting teleconference on Zoom. The rules will go through phasing-in periods, allowing companies the time to adjust.