Thursday, September 22, 2016

An EPA report finds that air pollution at the nation’s ports can be reduced significantly at all port types and sizes through a variety of strategies and cleaner technologies.

EPA Releases National Assessment of Strategies to Reduce Air Pollution at Ports
Contact Information:
Christie St. Clair (

Washington – An EPA report finds that air pollution at the nation’s ports can be reduced significantly at all port types and sizes through a variety of strategies and cleaner technologies. Implementing these approaches, the report finds, would reduce greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions from diesel-powered ships, trucks and other port equipment.

“The National Port Strategy Assessment: Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases at U.S. Ports” examines current and future emission trends from diesel engines in port areas, and explores the emissions reduction potential of strategies like replacing and repowering older, dirtier vehicles and engines and deploying zero emissions technologies.

“This report shows that there are many opportunities to reduce harmful pollution at ports that we know will work,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “This is great news for the roughly 39 million Americans who live and breathe near these centers of commerce.”

U.S. ports are set to expand significantly as international trade continues to grow, and the size of ships coming to ports increases. This growth means more diesel engines at ports emitting carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change. These engines also emit fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants that contribute to serious health problems including heart and lung disease, respiratory illness, and premature mortality. Children, older Americans, outdoor workers and individuals with respiratory and heart conditions can be especially vulnerable. Many ports are located in areas with a high percentage of low-income and minority populations, who bear the burden of higher exposure to diesel emissions.

Accelerating retirement of older port vehicles and equipment and replacing them with the cleanest technology will reduce emissions and increase public health benefits. For example, the report found replacing older drayage trucks with newer, cleaner diesel trucks can reduce NOx emissions by up to 48 percent, and particulate matter emissions by up to 62 percent, in 2020 when compared to continuing business as usual. In 2030, adding plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to these fleets could yield even more NOx and PM2.5 relative reductions from drayage trucks.

The new assessment supports EPA’s Ports Initiative’s goals to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases, to achieve environmental sustainability for ports, and improve air quality for all Americans working in and living near our nation’s ports. Through this initiative, EPA is engaging a wide range of stakeholders including ports and port operators, communities, tribes, state and local governments, industry, and other technical and policy stakeholders. EPA developed this national scale assessment based on a representative sample of seaports, and the results could also inform decisions at other seaports, Great Lakes and inland river ports, and other freight and passenger facilities with similar profiles.

EPA’s regulations are already reducing port-related diesel emissions from trucks, locomotives, cargo handling equipment and ships. For example, the North American and U.S. Caribbean Sea Emissions Control Areas require lower sulfur fuel to be used for large ocean-going vessels. This requirement has reduced fuel-based particulate-matter emissions from these vessels by about 90 percent. In addition, some port areas are already applying the emission reduction strategies assessed in the report. The emissions reduction strategies assessed in the report would make a significant difference in reaching the nation’s air quality goals, and would help reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

To view the report, visit For more information on EPA’s Ports Initiative, visit

Port-related diesel emissions impact public health and the climate.
Emissions from diesel engines, especially PM2.5, NOx, and air toxics such as benzene and formaldehyde, can contribute to significant health problems—including premature mortality, increased hospital admissions for heart and lung disease, and increased respiratory symptoms—for children, the elderly, outdoor workers, and other sensitive populations.10 

EPA has determined that diesel engine exhaust emissions are a likely human carcinogen,11 and the World Health Organization has classified diesel emissions as carcinogenic to humans.12 

Many ports and portrelated corridors are also located in areas with a high percentage of low income and minority populations
who are often disproportionately impacted by higher levels of diesel emissions.13

Port-related diesel emissions, such as CO2 and black carbon, also contribute to climate change. Research literature increasingly documents the effects that climate change is having and will increasingly have on air and water quality, weather patterns, sea levels, human health, ecosystems, agricultural crop yield,
and critical infrastructure.14 

Other health impacts that are projected from climate change include heat
stroke and dehydration from more frequent and longer heat waves and illnesses from an increase in water and food-borne pathogens.15 

This assessment provides options to inform voluntary, place-based
actions that may be taken by federal, state, and local governments, Tribes, ports, communities, and other stakeholders to reduce these impacts and enhance public health and environmental protection. 

10 Third Report to Congress: Highlights from the Diesel Emission Reduction Program, EPA, EPA-420-R-16-004, February 2016,; and EPA’s Health Assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust, 2002.

11 Health Assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust, prepared by the National Center for Environmental Assessment for EPA, 2002.

12 Diesel Engine Exhaust Carcinogenic, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), World Health Organization, June 12, 2012,

13 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Control of Emissions from New Marine Compression-Ignition Engines at or Above 30 Liters per Cylinder, 75 FR 24802 (April 30, 2010).

14 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 4th edition, 2016,

15 United States Global Change Research Program, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, April 2016,