Port of NY/NJ criticized for going soft on truck emissions

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 1/21/2016

The Environmental Protection Agency is pressuring a major U.S. port facility to keep strict emissions standards in place.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey rolled out a plan mid-January to spend $1.2 million of port money and $9 million in federal funds to replace trucks – a reduction from previous versions of its Truck Replacement Program. New York/New Jersey ports also decided not to ban pre-2007 model year diesel trucks from entering the ports by January 2017 as it had previously planned.

The ports of New York and New Jersey have set a goal that all trucks serving the ports be equipped with 2007 or newer model year engines. About 6,300 trucks serving port terminals have model year engines built between 1994 and 2006. They’d cost an estimated $150 million to replace.

An estimated 70 percent of trucks that serve the ports are pre-2007 model year.

The EPA is not happy with the revised plan.

In a letter to Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, the federal agency reportedly said it was disappointed.

“Your decision to reverse course on replacing older polluting trucks is especially disappointing given that in the past few years the terminals in Newark and Elizabeth have seen a significant rise in congestion and long lines at the gates,” EPA wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal. “It is becoming a common occurrence, hurting the terminals, the truckers and the communities.”

Others disagreed about the effects of slowing down the emissions program.

“Can you imagine banning 70 percent of the trucks…”Jeffrey Bader, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers Inc., told the Wall Street Journal. “This solution is absolutely the best solution for keeping commerce moving at the port.”

So far, the port says its Truck Replacement Program has replaced 429 trucks with newer models, resulting in emission reductions of 157 tons of fine particulate matter and 4,122 tons of nitrogen oxide, a port news release states.

“Our goal is to balance the need to efficiently and effectively move goods to and from our port terminals, while continuing to be good environmental stewards to the communities that surround our port facilities,” Port Authority Port Commerce Director Molly Campbell said, according to the port authority news release. “We believe our plan achieves this balance and will ensure that we continue to systematically address this issue for all stakeholders.”

The port authority news release said the ports will continue pursuing grand funding for truck replacement and said leaders are “working closely with financial institutions to explore whether low-interest loans can be made available for truckers for the replacement of trucks serving the port with model year 1996 to 2006 engines.”

Campbell previously worked at the Port of Los Angeles, famous for its combined plan with the Port of Long Beach to ban pre-2007 trucks in 2012. The twin ports oversaw more than $1 billion spent to replace thousands of older trucks after combining raised container fees, and grants from California. The program, however, was also plagued with problems including major motor carriers accepting replaced trucks but using them in other states while rarely calling at west coast ports.

Besides its truck program, the ports have invested more than $600 million in new rail equipment deemed environmentally friendly, and introduced incentives to replace cargo-handling equipment and the use of low-sulfur fuel for ocean-going vessels.


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