The Port of Tacoma and its industrial partners have been working together to improve air quality for a number of years. New requirements for ships went into effect nationwide in August, which require them to burn cleaner fuels. Andrew Green, director of Air Quality Programs with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, said “ships visiting our region will use fuels with roughly 60 percent less sulfur than before, which means less pollution, and cleaner, healthier air for all of us to breathe.” On Nov. 1, Port of Tacoma Commission held a study session on the 2011 Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory. An update was presented by two members of the port’s environmental staff, Jason Jordan and Ron Stuart. Jordan said the first study in this series, done in 2005, was led by the Port of Seattle. Port of Tacoma took the lead on this one. He said most of the data was compiled by port staff. This data is being compiled to help develop policies that minimize health risks, protect the environment and maintain a productive working waterfront. It examined fine particulate matter, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and three greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
Port of Tacoma is a member of Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum. Other members on its steering committee include American Lung Association of Washington, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Port of Seattle, Washington State Ferries and Western States Petroleum Association, Since 2005, diesel particulate matter per ton of cargo has been reduced by 12 percent. For greenhouse gases this figure is 3 percent, and for sulfur dioxide it is 1 percent. Overall fine particulate matter in the air is down 16 percent. Stuart said ships on Puget Sound contribute somewhat to fine particulate matter. Within the Tideflats there has been a very significant reduction. “This speaks to what we done within the terminals to reduce emissions,” he remarked. Commissioner Connie Bacon noted that wood burning stoves remain the biggest contributor to this type of emissions in Pierce County. She said if all activity in the port were eliminated, there would not be a significant reduction in the Tacoma area. She suggested the port get more involved in efforts to help low-income resident exchange their older, dirtier wood stoves for more efficient models. “I think it is important for the public to hear the whole story,” Bacon remarked. The report delved into greenhouse gases by sector. Rail has reduced its emissions by 35 percent, trucks by 16 percent and cargo handling equipment by 42 percent. “We are going in the right direction,” Commissioner Dick Marzano said. “This is really a good news story,” Jordan observed.