The goods movement industry in recent years has made significant strides in reducing air pollution, but the major trade gateways must continue to innovate until they approach zero emissions, said a top Environment Protection Agency official.
“The approach to growth must be with near-zero and zero-emission technology,” Jared Blumenfeld, administrator of EPA’s Pacific Southwest region, told the Pacific Ports Clean Air Collaborative.
Southern California is leading the way for implementation of technology to reduce health-risk and carbon emissions from vessels, cargo-handling equipment, trucks, trains and harbor craft. The ports’ clean-truck program, for example, reduced harmful diesel emissions by more than 80 percent since it began three years ago banning pre-2007 model trucks. The truck program is part of the ports’ joint Clean Air Action Plan.
The ports are phasing-in the use of shore-side electrical power for vessels at berth, slow-steaming and the use of low-sulfur distillate fuel for vessels approaching berth, alternative fuels for cargo-handling equipment, Tier 2 and Tier 3 switcher locomotives and hybrid tugs, among other technologies.
While these measures have resulted in a reduction in total port-generated pollution of more than 45 percent compared to the 2005 baseline, more must be done, Blumenfeld said. Los Angeles and Long Beach, like many major container ports, have a significant regional impact because pollution from vessels, trucks and trains penetrates deep into neighboring communities.
In many port cities, trucks and trains traverse communities that are economically disadvantaged. Those communities have cancer and respiratory disease rates that are among the highest in the nation. Since goods movement traffic is likely to increase in the years ahead, the only way to eradicate these health risks is with technology approaching zero-emissions, he said.
While each transportation mode is unique, replacing diesel fuel with electric power where possible is especially promising for a future that is built on zero emissions, Blumenfeld said.