Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver ports agree to cut pollution


Last updated May 16, 2007 5:29 a.m. PT


SEATTLE — Two efforts to cut pollution from port operations have been announced, including a coordinated plan to reduce the release of toxic soot in Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The amount of particulates in soot, smoke, exhaust and diesel fumes from docked ships would be slashed by 70 percent and from cargo-hauling equipment on shore by 30 percent by 2010 under the three-port plan announced Tuesday.

Officials said the effort would likely include more reliance on biodiesel and ultra-low-sulfur fuel. In March, for example, American President Lines, which has operations in Seattle, announced a switch to cleaner burning fuel in auxiliary engines that are kept running when a ship is docked.

The effort is intended to accommodate anticipated increases in shipping at all three ports, said Dennis J. McLerran, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

“This gets Northwest ports to take competitiveness out of the environmental equation,” McLerran said. “This is an attempt to develop a strategy for sustainable growth at the ports.”

Separately, cruise ship company representatives and state and Port of Seattle officials announced a ban on wastewater dumping by luxury liners in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Already cruise operators avoid flushing ship sewage into the 3,310-square-mile sanctuary in the Pacific Ocean off the Olympic Peninsula, said Erik Elvejord, a spokesman for Holland America Line.

The two moves signal “a sea change in the attitude of the Port of Seattle,” said Fred Felleman, a longtime environmental activist, port critic and consultant for Friends of the Earth.

Tiny particles in diesel fumes are believed to cause cancer and worsen asthma. Residents near ports are subjected to exhaust from freighter engines burning dirty fuel and from trains, trucks and heavy equipment that are used in moving cargo on land.

Docked freighters account for about 3 percent of the diesel soot emissions in the Puget Sound region and cargo handling equipment added 2 percent, according to a study issued last month.

Port officials have yet to determine precisely how to achieve the goals for reducing that pollution, Port of Seattle spokesman Mick Schultz said.

Too few details are known yet to determine how the emissions plan would affect the industry, said Jordan Royer, a spokesman for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

A draft plan will be released for comment from the general public as well as from affected industries, followed by action on a final plan by the Seattle and Tacoma port commissions and the Vancouver Port Authority Board of Directors in December, McLerran said.

The framework is meant to encourage adherence to the goals by a variety of means without enforcement by regulatory agencies.

“The performance goal leaves the door open for innovation, new methods which could move the whole strategy forward rather than relying on a regulatory approach which may not have same incentives to innovate,” Shultz said. “This strategy, at least in the near term, focuses on the berth.”

~ by fredfelleman on May 16, 2007.

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