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U.S. EPA Clean Ports Initiatives

Last March, Stephen L. Johnson, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stood at the Port of Houston in Texas to unveil to the media tough new emissions standards for locomotive and marine diesel engines that will slash emissions and help people to breathe cleaner air near ports and elsewhere.

EPA’s Clean Diesel Locomotive and Marine program works in collaboration with our partners in various sectors – private and public – to cut emissions from all types of diesel locomotives, including line-haul, switch, and passenger rail, as well as from a wide range of marine sources, including ferries, tugboats and all types of marine auxiliary engines.

Each environmental step at ports brings new achievements and cleaner technologies to improve the health of residents and general quality of life. As a result of the  new diesel rule, the Houston area alone is expected to see reductions of nitrogen oxide emissions of more than 15,000 tonnes in 2020 and 32,000 in 2030.

In 2020 the final rule will annually reduce particulate matter emissions in the Houston metro area by 560 tonnes and by 2030 these reductions will double to about 1,200 tonnes per year. These pollutants are associated with health issues that range from bronchial disorders to cancers.

This year, EPA’s commitment to the health and vitality of America’s ports has significantly increased. America’s ports, and ports around the world, are clearly vital to the economic wellbeing and quality of life of citizens.

Ten billion dollars will be spent over the next five years to expand the commercial use of public port terminals. An equal amount may be spent to expand port security. This growth has tremendous implications for several forms of port-related transportation like ships, trucks, and trains, as well as for the property utilised for port activity.

So as one might suspect, the environmental issues surrounding port activities are numerous: they include reducing air emissions, improving water quality, and  protecting the health of communities near port facilities. The great challenge is to help ports and their trade partners minimise their environmental footprint, even as
they grow – to be economically viable as well as environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.

That is the goal of port management normally, and that is also the goal of the U.S. EPA. Which is why on March 7 of this year, the agency unveiled a new plan of action for working with public port authorities and other groups interested in reducing the environmental impacts that can be involved with moving goods and cargo through ports.

This new ‘Vision, Mission, and Strategy for Sustainable Ports’ recognises the steady growth in global maritime commerce and also the critical role American ports and relatedtransportation and supply-chain partners play in managing the environmental impacts of moving goods across the country. EPA’s goal under the new strategy is important and achievable and involves working collaboratively with ports, their business associates, their communities and other stakeholders to enhance
environmental sustainability and to minimise the negative effects of port activities on human health and the environment.

The strategy itself focuses on general six themes: clean air and affordable energy, clean and safe water, healthy communities and eco-systems, global environment, ports communications, and enforcement.

The strategy involves some 70 different actions which can include EPA working directly with port authorities, their business partners and other sectors of the transportation industry to take progressive steps like quantifying and reducing air emissions from all sources along the shipping supply chain; setting up state innovative financing funds to help small owner-operators of diesel equipment finance the upgrading or replacement of older, dirtier engines; and collaborating with the international port community on innovative technologies and development of international standards.

EPA’s strategy complements the recent resolution and guiding principles on port sustainability issued by the American ssociation of Port Authorities. EPA programs will work with AAPA, individual port authorities, private port operators, transportation supply and logistics companies, government agencies, states, communities, and other interested groups to promote and implement sustainable practices at ports and their related operations.

The new strategy involves flexibility and partnership. EPA will work collaboratively with individual ports to select from among the full menu of over 70 possible actions in the EPA strategy. These shared action plans will address the unique environmental impacts and opportunities for ports in different parts of the country.

We believe these efforts will produce measurable results in as early as this year. A progress report will be made available to the public by the end of 2008. And we will continue to move forward with other agency rules that affect ports, such as the newly announced diesel emission reduction programme for ships and locomotives.

America’s ports are critical to our country’s economic welfare just as the ports of countries everywhere are critical to their own nation’s welfare. The same is true, of course, for the environment affected by activities at those ports. The key to our new strategy is to make those two goals compatible – we can have vibrant, busy ports and high levels of protection for our air, land and water.

Kathleen Bailey, EPA Ports Sector Liaison, Washington, DC, USA
Edition: Edition 40

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