The Environmental Protection Agency plans to develop a new program to recognize ports for their sustainability efforts, which could ultimately influence multinational corporations' shipping decisions.
The program could be similar to the agency's SmartWay Transport Partnership, which encourages trucking companies, rail carriers and others to move goods in a clean and efficient way. Companies that commit to reduce transportation-related emissions can use the SmartWay logo.
The EPA wants to provide the same recognition for ports, Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, said. The nonprofit forum serves on a committee formed to help with the EPA's ports initiative.
“Ports are very competitive,” Schaeffer told Bloomberg BNA April 8. For example, if a port on the East Coast is designated as a sustainable port, “that could have value for people making their shipping decisions,” he said.
He said such a program could allow global shipping companies, manufacturers of automobiles, or retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. to choose to use ports that are recognized for having lower impacts on the environment.
The as-yet-unnamed ports recognition program was announced in Baltimore April 8 at a sustainable ports summit organized by the EPA.
Like the SmartWay partnership, the new ports program could provide a market-based incentive for cleaner transportation of goods, James Jack, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, said.
In SmartWay, trucking companies can receive certification themselves. But retailers, such as Lowes or Home Depot, can also pledge as SmartWay partners to move the majority of their cargo with certified carriers.
That way, “if you want access to this business, deploying a clean trucking fleet creates a business opportunity for you,” Jack, who moderated a discussion at the summit, told Bloomberg BNA.
The ports program will be based on input the agency has collected over the past eight months from stakeholders in community organizations, port authorities, shippers, local governments and academia.
“Ports are the main gateway for U.S. trade and are critical to our country's economic growth, yet the communities surrounding ports face serious environmental challenges,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said April 8. “Today we demonstrate that through collaboration and innovation we can achieve the goals of economic growth and environmental stewardship.”
Most of the country's busiest ports are located in or near large metropolitan areas and, as a result, people in nearby communities can be exposed to high levels of pollution, including particulate matter and black carbon emissions, EPA said. These communities include a disproportionate number of low-income households and African Americans and Hispanics, according to EPA studies.
EPA is providing $4.2 million in grant funding for clean diesel projects at six U.S. ports. to help improve local air quality, reduce carbon emissions and address environmental justice issues.
The ports of Seattle, Hueneme, Tacoma and Los Angeles as well as the Maryland Port Administration and the Virginia Port Authority will receive Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants to retrofit, replace or repower diesel engines in trucks and other equipment used to move goods in and out of ports.
Schaeffer said “immediate improvements can be made at our ports today” through investments in clean diesel technology.
“Diesel power is the engine for America's ports,” Schaeffer said in a statement. Diesel-powered vehicles, engines and equipment move 84 percent of all tonnage nationwide, he said.
But diesel engines are a source of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (PM) and other types of emissions, according to EPA.
Schaeffer said diesel engine and equipment manufacturers are now producing clean trucks and material handling equipment, such as lifts and cranes, that have near-zero emissions.
These technologies are helping ports, such as the Port of Los Angeles, improve their air quality, he said. The port estimates that its efforts to reduce diesel exhaust helped cut particulate matter by 77 percent and reduce nitrogen oxides by 56 percent between 2005 and 2012.
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