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Houston Funded to Clean Up Dirty Diesel Drayage Trucks at Port

HOUSTON, Texas, August 27, 2009 (ENS) – Owners of the more than 3,000 diesel-fueled, heavy-duty trucks that transport shipping containers at the Port of Houston will be getting economic stimulus funding to retrofit their trucks with pollution controls or buy newer, less-polluting vehicles.

To help clean up regional air pollution, U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy today announced a $9 million award to the Houston-Galveston Area Council, or H-GAC. The council is the voluntary association of local governments in the 13-county Gulf Coast Planning region of Texas where more than 5.7 million people reside.

The program will be funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act SmartWaySM Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a mouthful usually called just DERA, together with local funding sources leveraged from the state and the port.

Environmental Defense Fund, with the Port of Houston Authority and H-GAC, together with air quality consultants Emisstar LLC, partnered on the grant application for SmartWaySM program funds to tackle diesel exhaust from drayage trucks.

“This collaborative effort represents exactly the type of other partnerships needed to address the serious air quality issues in our region,” said Dr. Elena Craft, an air quality specialist with EDF, which pioneered the effort. “When business, civic, and environmental communities come together to address seemingly insurmountable issues, great progress can be made,” she said.

EDF estimates that over the life of the program, the following emission reductions are anticipated: 1,638 tons of nitrous oxide; 26.7 tons of particulate matter; 27.4 tons of volatile organic compounds; 239 tons of carbon monoxide; and 3,636 tons carbon dioxide.

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, OSHA, says adverse health effects of exposure to diesel exhaust range from headaches and nausea to cancer and respiratory disease.

“The commitment and broad-based support of local leaders illustrates that the quality of the air we breathe is everyone’s responsibility,” said Alan Clark, H-GAC Director of Transportation Planning.

The first of its kind. A plug-in hybrid electric terminal tractor is tested at the Port of Houston. (Photo Stephen Fry)

The Port of Houston Authority has been supportive of clean truck technologies. A prototype pluggable hybrid electric terminal tractor was tested at the port in April. Made by Capacity of Texas in Longview, the truck uses 60 percent less fuel that conventional trucks and produces substantial emissions reductions.

“The Port of Houston Authority is pleased to continue its support of programs that help in the reduction of air emissions,” said Port Chairman Jim Edmonds today. “The Clean Truck program is just one part of an important series of strategies in the Port of Houston Authority’s Clean Air Strategy Plan, an environmental stewardship program designed to help improve air quality in our region.”

In addition to submitting its own grant application, the port authority submitted grant applications on behalf of local private maritime businesses totaling $14.58 million, for projects to replace, repower and retrofit cargo-handling equipment, drayage trucks, and marine vessels, and to assist ocean-going vessels in port switching to cleaner fuels.

The EPA awarded some funds directly to the Port for its own initiatives, and also awarded $2.85 million to Port of Houston Authority on behalf of the local maritime industry.

Port of Houston Authority will report to the U.S. EPA on the progress of the projects funded by the grant, and distribute the reimbursement funding for eligible projects from EPA to the local maritime industry.

The Port of Houston Authority owns and operates the public facilities located along the Port of Houston, the 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities designed for handling general cargo, containers, grain and other dry bulk materials, project and heavy lift cargo, and other types of cargo.

Each year, there are more than 8,000 vessel calls at the port, which ranks first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage and second in overall total tonnage.

Other Ports are cleaning up their diesel truck emissions too. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have had clean truck programs in place since October 1, 2008, and the Port of Seattle announced in April that it will gradually ban old, polluting trucks from the harbor.

Port of Seattle is contributing $2.3 million to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in support of a buy-back and scrap program for pre-1994 trucks. Truck owners will receive $5,000 or fair market value, whichever is greater, and trucks will be scrapped, permanently removing them from the road.

At the Port of Baltimore, EPA contributed $3.5 million in Recovery Act funds to clean up diesel emissions. This funding is expected to reduce diesel emissions of the busy port by up to 90 percent. Harbor craft, like tugboats and skiffs, as well as locomotives, work trucks, and load handing equipment will all be replaced or upgraded with clean diesel technology.

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