A U.S. EPA report has found that air pollution at the nation’s ports can be reduced significantly at all port types and sizes through a variety of strategies and cleaner technologies. Implementing these approaches, the report finds, would reduce greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions from diesel-powered ships, trucks and other port equipment.
“The National Port Strategy Assessment: Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases at U.S. Ports” examines current and future emission trends from diesel engines in port areas, and explores the emissions reduction potential of strategies like replacing and repowering older, dirtier vehicles and engines and deploying zero emissions technologies.
“This report shows that there are many opportunities to reduce harmful pollution at ports that we know will work,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “This is great news for the roughly 39 million Americans who live and breathe near these centers of commerce.”
U.S. ports are set to expand significantly as international trade continues to grow, and the size of ships coming to ports increases. This growth means more diesel engines at ports emitting carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.
These engines also emit fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants that contribute to serious health problems including heart and lung disease, respiratory illness, and premature mortality. Children, older Americans, outdoor workers and individuals with respiratory and heart conditions can be especially vulnerable. Many ports are located in areas with a high percentage of low-income and minority populations, who bear the burden of higher exposure to diesel emissions.
Accelerating retirement of older port vehicles and equipment and replacing them with the cleanest technology will reduce emissions and increase public health benefits. For example, the report found replacing older drayage trucks with newer, cleaner diesel trucks can reduce NOx emissions by up to 48 percent, and particulate matter emissions by up to 62 percent, in 2020 when compared to continuing business as usual. In 2030, adding plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to these fleets could yield even more NOx and PM2.5 relative reductions from drayage trucks.
EPA developed this national scale assessment based on a representative sample of seaports, and the results could also inform decisions at other seaports, Great Lakes and inland river ports, and other freight and passenger facilities with similar profiles.
EPA’s regulations are already reducing port-related diesel emissions from trucks, locomotives, cargo handling equipment and ships. For example, the North American and U.S. Caribbean Sea Emissions Control Areas require lower sulfur fuel to be used for large ocean-going vessels. This requirement has reduced fuel-based particulate-matter emissions from these vessels by about 90 percent.
In addition, some port areas are already applying the emission reduction strategies assessed in the report. The emissions reduction strategies assessed in the report would make a significant difference in reaching the nation’s air quality goals, and would help reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, states the EPA.
The report is available here.