Tuesday, January 26, 2010

West Coast Action on Port Emissions. East Coast ... not so much.

(Container ship idling at Red Hook Container Terminal, Jan. 2010)

I've recently set up a Google news alert for "port emissions". You know how it works - Google will search the web for any news that contains the words you have selected, and then send the search results to your email address - daily, hourly, however often you would like. I also have "Port Emissions" selected as a customized "section" in my Google news page.

These are some of the headlines from the recent couple of weeks -

Five Years of the Green Port Policy - the Long Beach Port Transformed

Oakland Port Bans Aging, Emissions-Belching Trucks

Port of LA in talks to purchase zero-emission trucks

Port of Seattle cuts sulphur emissions

Cold-ironing to have electrifying effect on California port

Notice a trend here?

That's right. These are all stories regarding West Coast city initiatives to reduce harmful emissions from their ports by mitigating the impact of the carcinogenic, extra-dirty diesel smokestack emissions from container, cargo and cruise ships, and also through measures to reduce pollution from trucks, port machinery and other sources. Whether it be Long Beach, California, which has cut emissions from trucks by 80%, 5 years ahead of schedule, through their "clean truck program", or the Port of Seattle, where cruise ships can turn off their idling engines while in port by plugging into the city's electricity grid by the use of "shore power", or the Port of Los Angeles, which has been allowing container ships to plug into "shore power" since 2004, most of this good news has been coming from the West Coast.

These actions have been taken in response to the growing awareness of the dangers posed to human health from port emissions. I have written about these health dangers a lot in this blog - there are statements from the EPA about these matters on the sidebar of this blog - and you can do your own search if you're curious. However, there is one other matter I have not touched on in my writing on this blog - the human health costs - in dollars - of not dealing with port emissions. This recent extensive study, done in response to the proposed expansion of the East Cost port of Charleston, South Carolina, estimates the cost of the health care burden posed by the expanded port to be $81 million per year. Some of the headings included in the "Adverse Health Impacts" section of the study include - "premature mortality", "asthma-related emergency", "chronic bronchitis", "heart attack", etc.

In the newspaper in which this study is cited (above) there is also an opinion piece (here) written by William J. Hueston, M.D., president of the Charleston Medical Society, where he states -

"A new port, or any another industry with significant emissions, should do a cost analysis to determine the costs associated with remediating the air quality problems that they are expected to create. Just as a developer is required to add emergency medical services in order to build a large new subdivision, the port must examine the impact of expansion and add appropriate pollution control measures."

This in particular resonated with me, considering the expansion of the operations of the Red Hook Container Terminal, both in trucks and shipping, that is being created by the relocation of Phoenix Beverages to the Brooklyn Piers - all without any Environmental Impact Study.

The doctor continues -

"As concerned physicians who care for the health of our community, we must insist that the port industry address the air quality issue and its associated health care costs immediately. Otherwise, we can anticipate paying for the consequences with our limited resources, and ultimately with our own health."

So, it's obvious. Here on the East Coast, we're not really getting it.

That's not to say there's nothing going on. There is the action being taken to establish "shore power" at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal - though not at the Container Terminal. You can read my many posts on this subject at your leisure. Once it is up and running, Brooklyn will be the only terminal using this practice on the East Coast. There is also yesterday's news regarding the Ports of New York and New Jersey moving toward instigating a "clean truck program".

Here's the story -

Port of New York and New Jersey's Programme to Reduce Port Emissions

Here's an excerpt -

"Examples of these actions include replacement of the oldest and most polluting trucks serving the port, installation of shorepower capability at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, retrofit of two switcher locomotives serving the Port's on-dock rail operations with GenSet systems, and modernisation of cargo handling equipment used by terminal operators leasing space from the Port Authority,"

Sounds pretty good, but, as you can see, there's nothing about "shore power" for the container and cargo ships here. It's true that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is moving forward with "shore power" at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and seems to be proceeding with plans to start a "clean truck program" at their ports. Both of these initiatives have been helped, I believe, through the recent EPA Diesel Emission Reduction grants, which are part of the broader Recovery Act, that were awarded to the Port Authority last year. My post on this story from July, 2009 is here.

These are the pertinent paragraphs from the EPA's press release regarding the grants -

Port Authority of New York & New Jersey – Shore Power Installation at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal ($2,858,200): This project will install the land-side electrical infrastructure necessary for cruise vessels calling at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal to hook up to shore power while docked, eliminating the need to operate on-board generators. Carnival Cruise Lines has committed to use the facility.

Port Authority of New York & New Jersey – Regional Truck Replacement Program ($7,000,000): This project will replace up to 636 model year 1993 and older drayage trucks that service Port Authority facilities with cleaner, 2004 and newer model year trucks by offering truckers 25% off the cost of the newer truck.

But my point is, there's nothing here or in the previous story in relation to the pollution from ships - no initiatives to encourage container and cargo ships to use "cleaner" diesel while coming in to port or while "hoteling" (this is the term used for when the ships are docked and idling their diesel engines), let alone any articulation of a path towards instigating "cold ironing" at the ports, where ships turn off their polluting diesel engines completely by plugging-in to "shore power".

This is despite the fact that it is the ships that are the main contributor to the diesel emissions problem at the ports. It is the ships that use the extra dirty diesel that creates emissions that have Sulphur Ox levels at least 90 times greater than the fuel used in trucks - more if the ships use "bunker fuel". The same goes for their creation of smog-forming, greenhouse gas, Nitrogen Ox, not to mention particulate matter at levels that threaten the health of those who breathe them in.

I don't have exact statistics for the Ports of New York and New Jersey, but as can be seen by this breakdowns of diesel emissions from the Port of Long Beach, it's clear that it is the ships that contribute the lion's share of the diesel emissions at ports.

It's also clear that it's the emissions from the ships that have to potential to be the most drastically reduced - in fact cut to almost zero - when the practice of using "shore power" can be introduced.

The "clean truck program" proposed by the Port Authority is a worthy one, and as seen by the success of such a program in Long Beach, can reduce emissions from trucks by 80% in pretty short time. However, without real action in addressing the emissions from the ships themselves, the problem will persist and the health effects and costs will continue to be borne by the residents surrounding the ports, and throughout the city itself.

What are the health effects of this inaction - what are the costs? The Charleston study, cited above, should give us some ideas. Charleston is the 10th largest port in the U.S., with the Ports of New York and New Jersey coming in third - behind Long Beach and Los Angeles. The port of Charleston moved 2/5 of the containers handled by the Ports of NY and NJ in 2006. So if the health care costs of their expanded operation is said to be $81 million per year, what is the health care burden and resultant cost to the City of New York and its residents? Only a comprehensive study, such as the one done in Charleston, will tell us, but surely it is huge.

Added to this is the fact that shipping activity is growing world wide. The Ports of NY and NJ will be seeing more shipping, and larger, post-Panamax ships (brought about by the imminent increase in ship size allowed by soon to be completed improvements in the Panama Canal) over the coming years. They are planning for it. The Ports of NY and NJ are dredging channels and looking at options for the raising of the height of the Bayonne Bridge to allow for these ships.

For an eye-opening look at how polluting these large ocean going vessels are, have a look at this article, from the English "Daily Mail" newspaper - How 16 ships create as much pollution as all the cars in the world.

This should be a big issue - not just for Red Hook and Brooklyn, but for our city and region as a whole. The fact that so little comes up in my Google alert on this issue, though certainly not a scientific survey, is telling. In our city, and seemingly on the East Coast in general, there is little coverage of this issue in the news - print, radio or TV - and not much more in blogs. I'm always coming across West Coast blogs and web sites focusing on these issues, and there are regular stories in the media on the actions those cities are taking in addressing the problems of port pollution. We, on the East Coast, are letting ourselves down.

Until there is more attention given to these issues here in New York, and unless the operators of our city's ports, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, take real action to, as the Professor from Charlotte stated, "address the air quality issue and its associated health care costs immediately" we can, again quoting the doctor, "anticipate paying for the consequences with our limited resources, and ultimately with our own health."

In other words, the reality for the residents of greater New York, courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will be as shown in the photos below - taken by a resident of Red Hook / Columbia Street.

Ships idling their dirty diesel engines while in port, spreading their harmful emissions over our residential neighborhoods. Meanwhile, it's the residents, especially the most vulnerable, who will bear the burden of the resultant health costs - physically and monetarily.

Maybe the Port Authority could take a lead from the guiding principles of the "Green Port Policy" of the Port of Long Beach - as stated in the first article I linked to at the top of this post.

The Green Port Policy of Long Beach is based on five guiding principles:

  • Protect the community from harmful impacts of Port operations
  • Distinguish the Port as a leader in environmental stewardship
  • Promote sustainability
  • Employ best available technology
  • Engage and educate the community
The taking up of such principles by our Port Authority could be the beginning of a bi-coastal Green Port Policy and a welcome acknowledgment by the operators of ports of their responsibility to ensure their operations don't harm the residents in the communities of which they are a part, or impact their home cities with huge health care costs - on both coasts.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Parking Lot Possibilities

The negative health effects of the carcinogenic pollution created by the smokestack emissions of container and cruise ships were little known in our neighborhood until 2006 when the presence of the newly built Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal, nestled into the waterfront of Red Hook's dense residential community, eventually brought the issue to the fore. This was despite the fact that for decades the equally, if not more, polluting container ships had been idling their extra dirty diesel engines 24 hours a day at the Container Terminal. Not to mention the additional diesel emissions from the machinery, cranes and trucks servicing the port that had been floating through Red Hook and beyond with little awareness in the community of their effects. However, it was the introduction of the Cruise Terminal to the neighborhood that became the catalyst for the broader awareness of these issues, in turn energizing the community to demand measures to mitigate the effects of these harmful emissions.

Little, unfortunately, has been done or even proposed to mitigate the pollution emanating from the container terminal and the ships that visit it. Some of the cranes have been converted to electricity (with more in the works, I believe), but there has been little movement on creating an L.A. style clean truck program, let alone (and most importantly) instigating the practice of "cold ironing" - where the container ships can plug into shore power and turn off their polluting engines, as is being done up and down the West Coast. This is despite the expansion of the operations of the container terminal that will result from Phoenix Beverages imminent relocation to the Red Hook piers and the growing awareness of the impact of the port's operations of the health of our most vulnerable residents.

There has been, however, a commitment from the cruise lines - Carnival, who operate the ships - and the Port Authority, who owns the site, to build infrastructure and convert ships to allow for such practices at the Cruise Terminal - and the Cruise Terminal only. This is still "in the works" with issues regarding obtaining an economically viable electricity rate from Con Edison still to iron out, but at least it is moving forward and when it's all in place will be a great improvement to the negative impact the Cruise Terminal has brought and is currently bringing to our neighborhood. This is especially important considering Marty Markowitz's statement, in this Brooklyn Courier article by Gary Buiso, about bringing more cruise lines to the Red Hook Terminal through "aggressive outreach". Let's hope these pollution mitigating practices are in place before that happens and that the Borough President makes sure more ships don't bring more carcinogenic pollution to our neighborhood and into the lungs of our kids - you slipped it under our noses last time, Marty. Not again.

Which brings me to the other matter regarding the Cruise Terminal, and the subject of Gary Buiso's article, "City Eyes Uses Near Red Hook Terminal". The use of the Cruise Terminal site itself.

In the planning and building of the terminal site, attention to its integration with, and benefits to the community, its general aesthetics and the planning for possible creative uses of the areas surrounding and within the terminal building itself were sorely missing. The NYC Economic Development Corporation had not only neglected to incorporate the previously mentioned pollution abating measures, they had not created anything that "gave back" to the neighborhood of which it was now a part.

The lack of vision shown in the planning and design of the terminal lead me to do this post comparing the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and the cruise ship terminal in my old home town of Sydney, Australia. The point was, so much was possible but so much was missing - integration with the neighborhood, public spaces, waterfront access, park benches, cafes, potential for other uses within the terminal - events, conventions, etc., benefit to the local small businesses - all missing.

These shortcomings were regularly made known to the EDC at meetings that were convened regarding their other plans for the Red Hook piers - including those regarding the relocation of Phoenix Beverages to Pier 7 and Pier 11 at the Atlantic Basin. The representatives of the EDC seemed quite cognizant of their falling short on the planning of the Cruise Terminal but seemingly open and willing to look for ideas to address those shortcomings.

Which brings us to the meeting last night.

About 40 or so members of the Red Hook community, including residents, store owners, representatives from community groups - Red Hook Civic Association, Red Hook Houses, Red Hook Initiative, Red Hook Economic Development (RED), SWBIDC, NY Water Taxi, PortSide NY, Red Hook's Waterfront Museum and Barge, Brooklyn Greenway - and representatives of elected officials, including from Borough President Marty Markowitz, CM Sara Gonzalez, CM Brad Lander, Congress-member Nydia Velazquez, Councilwoman Joan Millman, and a representative from the Mayor's Office were invited to a roundtable discussion, convened by the NYCEDC, to generate ideas for possible uses of an underused bus parking lot on the cruise terminal site.

OK, the site doesn't sound very inspiring, but the point was, the EDC was interested in getting some feedback from the community about what it could envision in the way of programming for the site. The 2 acre site is adjacent to the Imlay Street buildings, on their Southern side. There is a terminal access road between the site and the future location of Portside NewYork on the Atlantic Basin. Here's a map - (the site is the blue rectangle)

View Cruise Terminal Bus Parking Lot in a larger map

There were definitely some opportunities to take advantage of. The site was available nearly 300 days a year, including 27 weekends. The site was close to the waterfront, with the possibility of tying waterfront activity to it. There would be a storage shed made available and paid parking available in the main part of the Cruise Terminal site. However, there were also certain parameters set that proposals had to take into account - the site would be only used on non-cruise days and would need to revert to a bus parking lot on cruise days, there was no electricity or water, no city funds allocated for programming, and uses would be subject to NYCEDC and Port Authority approval.

OK, OK ... yes, it sounds a bit limited, but after the meet and greet and explanation of what the EDC was trying to achieve by reaching out to the community - including the suggestion that by doing this the EDC was trying to make amends for some of the bad blood that had been created during the EDC Maritime section's push for Phoenix Beverages' presence at Pier 11 - the attendees were split into 3 groups where people suggested ideas and each group member was given an opportunity to have input. Afterwards, all of the groups came together to present the ideas their members had come up with.

Some of the ideas presented were -

Green/Flea market - using containers as stalls
Skateboard Park / wintertime sledding hill
Outdoor cinema / theater
Urban Campground
Sand lot with equestrian, volleyball or other sporting activities
Sculpture or Art exhibition - connected to other sculpture and art in the surrounding neighborhood
Bike Parking for Greenway / plus amenities - rental, repair, shop etc.
Concert / Circus venue
Fish Market
Site for staging regatta or other waterborne activities in the Atlantic Basin
Kiosk to promote Red Hook and its businesses
County Fair site - promoting Red Hook artisans, restaurants, businesses
Wine and Food Festival

... and I'm sure there were others I missed.

One of the points made through all presentations was the need for connection to the waterfront, despite the site not being directly on the water - perhaps through a strong physical connection to PortSide's adjacent location, right on and in the Atlantic Basin, and to new associated activities in the Atlantic Basin itself.

Also, the site's location was on the Brooklyn Greenway route, so that needed to be seen as an important element to be integrated into any plan.

The fact that the site would have to revert to a bus parking lot on cruise days was also seen as an impediment by most presenters, as any activities would have to be temporary and structures removable. It was asked whether the buses could park elsewhere - perhaps permanently. As a side note, when the EDC first proposed the cruise terminal (perhaps even two) at this location, this bus parking site was to be used for a hotel - so they presumably had enough parking in the rest of the site for their anticipated needs. However, as I discovered last night, the parking at the Cruise Terminal is operated by a private contractor. Perhaps they would not be willing or contractually able to give up some of their parking space for buses - despite the fact the parking lot is never anything like full.

Despite that, it was suggested that there could be something permanent on a portion of the site, still allowing for adequate bus parking. This would allow having permanent structures - stalls, perhaps - or a permanent corridor that could connect the neighborhood to the waterfront.

It was seen as important to accomplish the "greening" of the site with trees and the like. The aesthetics had to be taken into account.

The activities should bring visitors to Red Hook and to its businesses.

An important element that had to also be addressed was the transportation options for the site. It was stated that a ferry service was of utmost importance in attracting exciting proposals and the City should make good on its promise, made when it took over Governor's Island, to create a connecting ferry service from Red Hook.

Efficient and reliable transportation would be vital to any proposal's success.

As some of the "elected"'s representatives were in the room, it was also asked if, considering the lack of City funding for this programming, they could come up with some money out of their budgets for these proposals. (cue the sound of crickets!)

So, as the roundtable came to an end, it seemed as though there were some creative ideas out there. The point of this process was to come up with ideas to shape and inform the EDC's RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest)/RFP (Request for Proposals) process in selecting a site programmer that can, as the EDC stated, "best meet the needs of the community". Any or all of these ideas could come to fruition, with different things scheduled on different days - I guess that's up to the programmer. But the attendees were assured that their ideas would advise the RFP process, and the needs of the community would be the utmost priority. It was a much appreciated sentiment.

A programmer is said to be picked by Spring 2010, with the first event on the site in the summer.

As the attendees started to leave, I also asked if the EDC was considering improving other parts of the Cruise Terminal site. Couldn't there be a better experience created for travelers and non-travelers alike by making the waterfront areas of the terminal site more people friendly - you know, some greenery, grass, trees, park benches - somewhere to sit and watch the waterborne activity on the harbor. There is also a whole corner of the underused main parking lot, on the water at the bottom of Sullivan Street, that could be turned into a green space - isn't that a possibility?

After I left the building I took a stroll along the waterfront - catching my first look at the magnificent views from that location - from the Statue of Liberty, across to Governor's Island, the lower Manhattan skyline, all the way up the East River and the triumvirate of bridges with the lights of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings piercing the sky behind them.

I wondered why the Cruise Terminal building didn't have any windows looking out at this view. Even from the VIP room in which we had been having our roundtable there was no acknowledgment of the water that was literally feet away - just behind the almost blank walls within which we were being hosted. I also remembered about "Antiques Roadshow" - something included in the list of "endless possibilities" that BP Marty Markowitz was mentioning for this site in that Brooklyn Courier article - including conventions. Someone told me that "Antiques Roadshow" was considering using the terminal building for an event - but it didn't work out. The building has no loading dock .... and no kitchen.

Oh well, let's at least start with the bus parking lot then.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Port Pollution in the News

When I first started this blog, it was in response to what I perceived to be the lack of awareness of the harmful effects of port pollution on our community - air pollution that is created by ships, trucks and the other activities of the port - and also to draw attention to the already available remedies and other mitigating measures to address this harmful pollution. So, I thought it apt to return to that subject as a way to start off a new year of blogging.

First, if you'll indulge me, a quick recap.

Until the NYC Economic Development Corporation started planning and building the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook (opened in 2006), I, and most (if not all) of my neighbors, were unaware of the harmful effects of the pollution that would emanate from the ships that would soon be idling at the end of our residential street. It wasn't till after researching a little that I discovered that cruise ships - and other ocean going vessels, including container and cargo ships - use an extremely dirty form of diesel that has sulfur levels at 90 times more than the fuel used by cars, trucks, or even trains. Some even use "bunker fuel", a form of fuel that has sulfur level one thousand times higher than regular diesel . The pollution that emanates from these ships is described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a "likely carcinogen" that is "harmful to the pubic generally, and especially to our children, the elderly, people with lung disease, those who exercise outside, and low-income and minority communities located near ports."

At this time, as the terminal was being built, I also discovered that there was technology, already used in other parts of the world and being implemented on the West Coast, to allow these ships to "turn off" their polluting engines while in port - a process called "cold ironing" - by hooking up the ship to the electricity grid on land - "shore power". To my dismay, after writing to the Mayor's Office and others, I was told that this process, however, was not being considered at the $56 million "state of the art" cruise terminal. The ships would be "idling" while in port - the equivalent of 12,000 cars idling at the end of our street, per ship, daily - and while the cruisers on the Queen Mary II were sipping their flutes of Krug, the kids of Red Hook and beyond would be unknowingly sucking in their ship's carcinogenic fumes. The EDC and Port Authority, who owns the land on which the port operates, seemed happy enough to live with this "trade-off". It was all in the name of economic development - and no one seemed to be protesting. Yet.

After the Cruise Terminal opened, I wrote a couple of letters, asking for some coverage of the subject, to the Brooklyn Paper. Their editor, Gersh Kuntzman, said he'd "get on it", but no story materialized. The following couple of years were devoid of stories on port pollution in the local press, the New York Times, or elsewhere.

It wasn't till after the EDC's announcement in the first week of 2009 of their contentious plan for Phoenix Beverages' relocation to the Red Hook waterfront at the Atlantic Basin and Pier 11, and, by proxy, the expansion of the operations of the container port, including 200 more truck trips a day through our neighborhood, that the issue of the impact of port pollution came to the fore. Questions were being asked. How could the EDC be trusted with their assurances about Phoenix using less polluting trucks, and the environmental concerns about the expanded operation of the port being addressed, despite lack of an Environmental Impact Study, when they had been so negligent on those matters regarding their last big project - the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal? It seemed like the EDC and Port Authority were again brushing environmental and health concerns under the carpet (as well as other concerns about the overall merits of this plan) - as long as their "bottom line" goals were being met.

It was in the wake of these protestations that the Port Authority came to Red Hook's PS15, a couple of weeks later, to announce it was planning to implement the use of "shore power" at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. They were allocating $3 million for the needed infrastructure, and the operators of the cruises - Carnival - were "on board" and were committed to retro-fitting their ships to allow them to use the "shore power". The representative of the Port Authority making the presentation was asked why it had taken the PA three years to get to this place. His response was that he'd only known about this process for "a couple of years" - a stunning statement from a representative of an entity that is called the "Port Authority". Was it believable that I known about this technology before them? Hardly.

There was also the matter of the container terminal and the equally, if not more, polluting container ships. Was the same pollution mitigating process being considered there? Despite some noises being made about the possibility from the ports operators, American Stevedoring, no real steps have been taken on that front. Nor has there been any commitment to a comprehensive "clean truck" program. All this remains to this day, despite the uptick in activity and resultant pollution that Phoenix Beverage's imminent presence at the port is going to bring.

2009 did, however, bring some further action on the Cruise Terminal situation. The process of obtaining an economically feasible (for the ships) power rate from Con Edison for the "plugging in" of the cruise ships went to the Public Services Commission. The PSC came back with a ruling that it was not Con Ed's responsibility to supply power to the Port Authority, so it could not rule on the matter. They stated that the electricity at the ports came via the New York State Power Authority, and it was with them that the rate should be negotiated. At the end of 2009, this matter was still unclear - New York Post story here - and, despite looking positive, was still a hurdle to jump in the process. However, during the PSC hearing, the EPA submitted some compelling evidence for why the establishment of shore power at the port should be vigorously pursued. The impact on the health of the residents surrounding the port was of prime concern, and the EPA deemed "shore power" to be "a crucial step for cleaning our air and improving the health of New Yorkers." Their other important statements are on the side bar of this blog.

In July, the EPA also came to the rescue with the awarding of a "clean diesel funding assistance" grant to the Port Authority that gave them a further $3 million for the building of shore power infrastructure at the Cruise Terminal (my post here). More money will also go towards the goal of having cleaner trucks servicing the ports of NY and NJ. As far as "shore power" at the cruise terminal goes, hopefully this grant will help the Port Authority have this process up and running by 2011, their stated goal - though many unnecessary tons of SOx, NOx and and particulates later.

Meanwhile, other broader pollution abating measures are being given some life. The EPA asked the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to create an Emissions Control Area - something being proposed by both the US and Canadian governments - that would require that, by 2030, all ships, regardless of nation of origin, create lower emissions in a buffer area starting 230 miles off the continental coastline. Reductions in emissions would range between 98% for Sulfur, 85% for particulates and 80% for Nitrogen. This is expected to increase air quality as far inland as Kansas, let alone coastal areas, and prevent up to 30,000 premature deaths. This request will be voted on by the IMO in March this year.

In December 2009, there was also the announcement that U.S. ships will also be affected by stricter diesel emissions standards being brought in by the EPA - starting 2011, for new ships, and 2016 for all ships.

EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, stated, (story here)

"There are enormous health and environmental consequences that come from marine diesel emissions, affecting both port cities and communities hundreds of miles inland. Stronger standards will help make large ships cleaner and more efficient, and protect millions of Americans from harmful diesel emissions," said Jackson.

"Port communities have identified diesel emissions as one of the greatest health threats facing their people – especially their children," Jackson said. "These new rules mark a step forward in cutting dangerous pollution in the air we breathe and reducing the harm to our health, our environment, and our economy."

Is there a more compelling argument for moving forward with these measures as quickly as possible? I don't think so.

The EPA's recent proposal (story here) for stricter smog standards should play into the goal of cleaner air from our ports, also. Nitrogen oxides (as are present in ship emissions) are a significant contributor to smog.

Overall, it's been a pretty good year for raising awareness of the dangers of port emissions. As I mentioned, the New York press was absent on this subject for a long time, but over the past year various journalists, from Gary Buiso at the Brooklyn Courier, to Mike McLaughlin (previously) from the Brooklyn Papers, to Jake Mooney at the New York Times, and others have done stories on the subject. I've linked to them in my various posts, and have been very grateful for the coverage they have given and the raised awareness their articles have created - resulting, I think, in the promise (though not yet put into action) of real progress - particularly with the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

To finish off here, I'd like to link to some recent stories about port emissions and the success some are having with mitigating these emissions.

As we move forward with this process, I think it's important to not only recognize the problems and dangers of port pollution, but to also see that there are solutions out there - real, available solutions - to mitigate their negative effects.

This from Colin Milner at the New York Times, "Reducing Emissions at the Ports" -

"The Port of Los Angeles, which in 2004 (hear that, Port Authority?? ... 2004! - AA) became the first in the world to provide Alternative Maritime Power for container ships, is expanding that effort" to include cruise ships.

This article also mentions the effort in New York to "bring shore power to its facility in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

There is also this recent article - "Port trucking fleet achieves clean-air goal nearly two years ahead of schedule"

This press release refers to the clean-trucks program at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California that has shown quick progress, with an 80 percent decline in diesel emissions expected by the end of 2010 — over a year ahead of schedule

Nick Sramek, President of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners is quoted -

“As proud as we are of the Clean Trucks Program’s success, it’s just one example of the many ways we are tackling air pollution at the Port,” Sramek said. “The locomotives, the ships, tugboats, cargo equipment – if it creates pollution, we’re working on a way to clean it up.”

I hope the NYCEDC and the Port Authority make it their business to work toward implementing these solutions - whether it be as part of any plan they have for expansion of the port, or regarding any further uses proposed for our waterfront. So far, their track record has not been good - preferring to push forward with plans and address their "bottom line" goals first, and deal with the pollution and negative health effects on the community later. Often, much later.

As awareness of these issues grows in the community, as examples are set here in the U.S. and abroad, as the press continues to shine more light on the facts, and as the EPA speaks out on these matters, perhaps the EDC and Port Authority will be compelled to do things differently in 2010.

Well, that's my New Year's wish.