Ports criticize environmental report

Ports criticize environmental report

LOS ANGELES - Industry executives labeled "inaccurate" a report by an environmental watchdog that gave U.S. ports poor grades in their efforts to fight pollution, saying it overlooks millions of dollars in initiatives currently underway to clean up water and air.

While ports concede they can do much more to establish "green" terminals, they said took the Natural Resources Defense Council to task for issuing a damaging report with a minimum of input from the industry.

The review, released by the NRDC Monday, graded the 10 largest ports on air quality, water quality, land use, community relations and overall environmental performance. Overall grades ranged from a B-minus for Oakland to an F for Houston, with most ports receiving a grade in the C or D range. The ports scored many Ds and Fs in the individual categories.

"We would have appreciated the opportunity to contribute materially to their report," said Bernard Groseclose, president of the South Carolina State Ports Authority.

"Apparently, inaccurate information and opinions provided to NRDC by some of their sources caused Charleston to get lower grades than it deserves in air quality, land use and community relations," Groseclose said.

Charleston has implemented a number of costly improvements, including $40 million to replace diesel gantry cranes with cleaner electric cranes. The port has also established strict environmental requirements for development of the former Charleston Naval Complex, Groseclose said.

Ports are aware much remains to be done to clean up operations, but the NRDC report takes a "glass is half-empty" view of port efforts to date, said Robert Kanter, director of planning at the Port of Long Beach.

Long Beach and neighboring Los Angeles have at least a dozen projects underway to reduce emissions in the harbor area, Kanter said. They include the use of alternative fuels in container-handling equipment; replacing old rail locomotives and trucks with less polluting vehicles; reducing vessel emissions by slowing down vessels near the coast, and dockside electrical power for berthed ships.

Ralph Appy, director of environmental management at the Port of Los Angeles, said he was surprised that the port ranked only seventh out of 10 ports and Houston last when those ports have been among the most creative in tackling their pollution problems.

Los Angeles, for example, is the first U.S. container port to equip a terminal for "cold ironing," or dockside electrical power for ships, and anticipates that its first call by a vessel equipped for shore-side power will occur in the next month or two. The port established 'green' terminal requirements as the top priority in its request for proposals to operate its only remaining container terminal, Appy added.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is investing more than $500 million to shift thousands of truck moves to rail and barge and to purchase and preserve environmentally valuable land in the harbor estuary, said Rick Larabee, executive director.

Kanter said the NRDC obviously intended to increase the visibility of ports as a source of pollution, which it accomplished, so now it is up to ports to increase their environmental efforts.