Solving Truck Pollution at Ports

Many of us may think about air pollution coming from industries and freeways, but our nation’s sea ports are also a significant source of pollution, mostly from diesel trucks and ships entering and leaving. We’ve been a partner in cleaning up truck emissions at the Port of Houston and just last week announced a Clean Trucks Initiative in Florida to help clean up southeastern port pollution.

Given some of the momentum building around trucks at ports, I thought I’d offer some basic points on why we should care and how we can improve the situation here in Texas. [Note: If you’re a trucker, there’s especially good news here for you.]

Why should we care about port pollution?

Many ports are very close to neighborhoods and these local communities experience increased health risks from the pollution generated. Additionally, ports are gateways to population-dense cities like Houston, which are constantly seeking ways to reduce harmful air emissions.

What are the sources of pollution at a port?

Typically, the main sources of emissions at a port include:

  • Cargo Handling Equipment
  • Heavy Duty Diesel Trucks
  • Ocean Going Vessels (OGVs)
  • Rail
  • Harbor Craft

Why start a truck program?

Trucks and large ocean going vessels typically comprise the majority of pollution at a port, and are thus the focus of many emission reduction efforts. In the Port of Houston’s Emissions Inventory, for instance, heavy duty diesel trucks were responsible for over one-third of the nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx).

Why are nitrogen oxides a health threat?

Nitrogen oxides can react with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of heat and sunlight to create ozone, one of EPA’s criteria air pollutants, and a pollutant that has been difficult to reduce in the Houston area. Ground-level ozone is associated with serious respiratory-related health effects and deleterious impacts on the vitality of our nation’s forests, plants, and valuable agricultural commodities. Environmental Defense Fund has worked hard to reduce ozone around the state. One strategy has been to work with local stakeholders to help develop a clean truck program in Houston, previously mentioned in this blog post. The program is under way and is now being used as a model for other truck programs around the country.

What will the Houston truck program do?

  • Provides low-interest loans for truckers to purchase a new or newer truck. The applicant agrees to operate the truck for the majority of time within the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria region to help attain the 8-hr ozone standard
  • Will reduce emissions of NOx, particulate matter (PM), greenhouse gases, and other air toxics
  • Will help drivers purchase trucks that are more reliable and less polluting, resulting in job growth as well as security

Who administers the program?

The Houston Galveston Area Council (HGAC) administers the Houston Clean Truck Program. Regional stakeholders including the port, truckers, truck dealer, and non-profits  participate on a steering committee to help guide HGAC as they implement the program.

How can you apply to get a new truck?

You can contact HGAC for an application for the clean truck program. HGAC will work with you through the application process. You could be driving a new or newer truck in no time!

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