Study blames environmental record of major U.S. ports
A study published by two nonprofit organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Coalition for Clean Air, accused 10 major U.S. ports of being “the largest and most poorly regulated sources of urban pollution in the country,” and failing to implement measures to cut pollution.
The report, “Harboring Pollution: The Dirty Truth about U.S. Ports,” also awards largely poor “grades” to the 10 biggest seaports in America for their impact on air and water quality, land use, and nearby communities.
Despite the availability of technology to cut pollution, major seaports “are emitting ever-larger amounts of toxic diesel exhaust and other contaminants that damage public health, disrupt local communities and harm marine habitats” the two organizations said in a joint statement.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. The Coalition for Clean Air is dedicated to restoring clean air to California.
“With cargo volume at some ports expected to triple in the next 20 years, the report urges quick action by port operators and policymakers to implement cleaner practices,” the organizations said.
The study gave the 10 largest U.S. ports the following overall “grades,” based on air quality, water quality, land use and community relations:
* Oakland, B-.
* New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads and Seattle, C+.
* Miami, C+.
* Long Beach, C.
* Los Angeles, C-.
* Charleston and Savannah, D+.
* Houston, F.
The report emphasizes the need for improvements in environmental practices at all 10 ports, including Oakland.
The Coalition for Clean Air said ports can protect the health and environment of local communities by retrofitting ships, improving cargo-handling equipment and utilizing diesel pollution control devices on trucks and trains that transport cargo.
The report makes technical recommendations for container ports, including: dock-side power for all ships, cleaner fuels for all modes of transport, pollution controls for diesel engines, and stricter storm water management. It also makes policy recommendations for federal, state and local regulators.
The report alleged that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have practices that “fall woefully short in mitigating pollution generated by their operations and in addressing community concerns.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Coalition for Clean Air and local community groups recently resolved a three-year legal battle with the Port of Los Angeles over construction of the China Shipping terminal. The agreement will create a clean container terminal, at which cargo ships can plug into dockside electric power instead of continuously running their diesel engines to generate electricity. In addition, dock trucks will run on clean, alternative fuels and a new wharf will have two low-profile cranes that minimize “visual blight.”
“Together, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the single-largest source of air pollution in Southern California, emitting as much diesel exhaust as 16,000 tractor-trailers idling their engines 24 hours a day,” the two organizations said.
At a press conference Wednesday, the Port of Houston Authority rejected the Natural Resources Defense Council’s findings about pollution control efforts at the port’s facilities.
The Houston authority countered that the port evaluation was “flawed and distorted,” and alleged that the findings “appeared to be heavily influenced by input from opponents” of the Bayport Container and Cruise Terminal project planned by the Texan port.
The port authority said the Natural Resources Defense Council did not distinguish the efforts and regulatory authority of the port authority and those of private facilities at the port of Houston.