On February 26, the Port of Houston Authority Commission reviewed its operations and approved a 2013 budget with a higher total revenue, net income and profit margin than either 2011 or 2012. The port also projected growth in both 2013 and 2014 and reported a record year in 2012 in terms of total tonnage (the number of tons coming into the port). The nearly 20 percent increase in the amount of tonnage at the port between 2010 and 2014 (projected) and the cruise business that will draw more than 100 vessel calls over the next several years are expected to contribute to regional air quality challenges. Couple the additional traffic from the port with population growth in the metro region, current nonattainment status for ozone and strengthened standards for particulate matter, and the Port of Houston faces an uphill climb in helping the region meet its air quality goals.
EDF has promoted clean air strategies in Houston for many years and has worked closely with the port on implementation strategies that have made a real difference in reducing air pollution. There is much more to do, and EDF is looking forward to taking the next steps with the port on actions that include:
- Comprehensive adoption and implementation of revamped Clean Air Strategy Plan (a framework for emissions mitigation programs at the port)
- Increased support for the Clean Truck Program (by 2015, almost half of all emissions at the port are expected to come from trucks)
- Buy-in from port executives for environmental strategies
- A plan to mitigate emissions resulting from the additional cruise traffic
- Support for the environmental performance benchmarking system
- Engagement with local communities on ambient air quality concerns
Importantly, the Texas Legislature is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, March 13 to discuss, among other issues, a bill that would significantly reform governance at the Port of Houston Authority. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, comes as a direct result of the Sunset Review conducted last year and is an opportune time for our state policymakers and port leadership to advance clean air policies at the Port of Houston.
The 2013 budget paints a bright financial future for the port. Now is the time to make sound investments in emissions mitigation programs that will ensure sustainable growth and help protect everybody’s clean air.