Air

Our approach to air quality—as with other environmental issues—focuses on leadership instead of compliance.

Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy

The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy (Strategy) is a collaborative effort between the Port of Tacoma, Port of Seattle, The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), and Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in British Columbia to reduce air and greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and port operations in the ports' shared airshed

First adopted in 2008, the Strategy was the first international strategy of its kind in the Port community. The original Strategy sought to encourage environmental action above competition and created a means for the four Northwest ports to work collectively and voluntarily to reduce air pollution. In 2020, the Northwest ports renewed the Strategy with a new vision to phase out emissions from seaport-related activities by 2050, supporting cleaner air for our local communities and fulfilling our shared responsibility to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy documents:

Watch the recording of the community briefing on April 14, 2021.

Background

The Strategy was developed in partnership with the U.S. and Canadian government agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Metro Vancouver, Province of British Columbia, Transport Canada, and Environment Canada, with input from non-governmental organizations, near-port community groups, industry, and local governments.

Shared objectives

To advance the vision, the Strategy sets joint objectives that the Northwest Ports will work toward in each sector. The joint objectives follow three core themes:

  1. Implement programs that increase efficiency, phase out old, high-emitting equipment, and increase use of lower-emission fuels;
  2. Facilitate collaboration among government, utilities, fuel providers, and industry to ensure the infrastructure needed to enable zero-emission technologies in in the place at the right time, addressing key constraints as soon as possible before 2030; and
  3. Facilitate collaboration toward commercialization and drive adoption of zero-emissions technology before 2050.

    2020 Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy puts forward ambitious new vision 

    In 2021, the Port of Tacoma, Port of Seattle, NWSA, and Port of Vancouver, British Columbia, are adopting the updated Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, setting the direction for their air quality and sustainability programs for the next 30 years and beyond.

    The new 2020 NWPCAS is an opportunity for ports to align emission reduction strategies with current policy, including the ports’ response to the Paris climate accord, align with current technology trends, increase stakeholder involvement, increase visibility and clarity around how emission reduction projects are prioritized, and improve flexibility in achieving performance-based targets.

    To phase out emissions from seaport-related activities by 2050, supporting cleaner air for our local communities and fulfilling our shared responsibility to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

    This vision advances the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets adopted by the Port of Tacoma, Port of Seattle, and NWSA via resolutions in 2017; aligns with the most recent climate science; recognizes the urgency to address environmental health disparities; and provides an ambitious but flexible timeframe for action.

    The Strategy also puts forward shared objectives and actions by the ports to advance the vision, metrics against which the ports will monitor and report annually on progress, and an adaptive management approach through which the ports will facilitate implementation of the Strategy while sustaining and enhancing commercial competitiveness.

    Each of the participating ports is developing a separate implementation plan, customized to their respective lines-of-business and emissions profiles and detailing port-specific actions to advance the vision of the joint Strategy.

    The Strategy provides a mechanism to ensure that through partnered action, environmental performance is not compromised, but driven forward over and above competing interests.

    Strategy scope

    The Strategy seeks to reduce emissions from key operational sectors including:

    • Ocean-going vessels
    • Drayage trucks
    • Cargo-handling equipment
    • Rail
    • Harbor vessels
    • Port admin and facilities

    Operations within the “airshed” boundary are considered, with the U.S. ports focused on activities south of the border. (A map of the Puget Sound-Georgia Basin Airshed boundary above, the green shaded area is the U.S.-ports area of influence.)

    To date, the Strategy has focused on diesel particulate matter (DPM), the key driver of air pollution related impacts in the Puget Sound region, and greenhouse gasses (GHGs). In the new 2020 Strategy, the ports place increased focus on other air pollutants and emissions that affect climate such as nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and black carbon, while maintaining focus on DPM and GHGs.

    Past versions of the Strategy have set sector specific as well as overarching emission intensity targets (emissions per ton of cargo moved). The emission intensity targets are as follows:

    • Reduce diesel particulate matter emissions per ton of cargo moved by 80% by 2020 relative to 2005 levels.
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions per ton of cargo moved by 15% by 2020 relative to 2005 levels.

    Progress

    Since implementation of the Strategy began in 2008, substantial progress has been made toward the strategy goals. Progress has been documented in the annual implementation reports. 

    In the 2015-2016 emission inventories, the four port entities had collectively met the 2020 emission intensity targets, as shown in the graph. The U.S. ports estimate their emissions every five years in an effort called the Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory.

     

    Clean Truck Program

     

    The Northwest Seaport Alliance, a partnership between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle to manage our marine cargo business and facilities, is forming an integrated Clean Truck Program to meet the clean air strategy's goals. Learn more.

    On-dock rail

    Our four dockside rail yards move cargo efficiently from container terminals and also help reduce the number of trucks on city streets and highways. Each full train that leaves the Port represents 250 to 300 trucks not on our roads, reducing roadway congestion and diesel emissions.

    Green Gateway study

    The lowest emission route to ship cargo from Asia to the U.S. Midwest is through the Puget Sound, according to the results of the Green Gateway study released in May 2009.

    Commissioned by the Port of Seattle, the study analyzed carbon footprints of trade routes between Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and the U.S. distribution hubs of Chicago, Columbus and Memphis.