New Funds Bring New Hope for Cleaner Houston Air

Photo by Dan Kamminga. Some tugboats slated to receive new engines are more than 30 years old.

We are pleased to hear the news about possible new funds coming to Houston to help improve air quality.

Under the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency recently recommended two Houston-based grant proposals for full funding:

  1. With a grant proposal titled “Clean Vessels for Texas Waters Part 1: Mostly Main Engines,” the Houston-Galveston Area Council asked for replacement of six main engines and one generator engine for local tug/tow boats.
  2. The Port of Houston proposal requested funds for fuel switching, which involves oceangoing vessels switching to cleaner, low sulfur fuels.

While the proposals have yet to be finalized, the EPA recommendations for full funding represent an important step toward an actual offer.

How Reducing Diesel Engine Emissions Helps
Public health is the number one reason we continually seek ways to reduce diesel engine emissions. According to the EPA, air pollution is linked to a number of health problems including:

  • aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease;
  • decreased lung function;
  • increased frequency and severity of respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing and coughing;
  • increased susceptibility to respiratory infections;
  • effects on the nervous system, including the brain, such as IQ loss and impacts on learning, memory, and behavior;
  • cancer; and
  • premature death.

Millions of older, dirty diesel engines are in use today mostly because they last up to three decades. To help motivate and provide incentives to replace these dirtier engines with cleaner ones, programs like the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program (aka "DERA") give EPA grant and loan authority to promote diesel emission reductions such as those listed above for Houston.

DERA has been one of the largest funding revenues available to fleet owners to reduce emissions from diesel engines across many different sectors. DERA has issued up to $200 million annually for FY2007 through FY2011 to help fleet owners reduce diesel emissions.

Working together with fleet operators, manufacturers, Port officials and environmental and community organizations, such funding enables us to significantly reduce public exposure to diesel exhaust from marine engines in and around the Port of Houston. Our hope is that such actions will lead to more collaborative efforts, encouraging others to climb on board.

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