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Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver ports aim to reduce air pollution

Bari Bookout

The ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, B.C., are working together to dramatically reduce emissions. And they’re trying to do that without scaring away any cargo companies. 

Most of the diesel air pollution at the ports comes from ocean-going ships, but also from tug boats, cranes, trucks and trains. 

The three ports have been working together since 2007 to reduce air pollution, and now they’ve set percentage reductions they want to achieve: a 75 percent reduction in diesel emissions by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020.

Stephanie Jones Stebbins with the Port of Seattle says they’re acting voluntarily as opposed to many other ports that have been compelled to by court order.

"With respect to voluntary efforts, these are pretty aggressive goals," she said. 

Part of the emissions reduction will come from stricter regulations the U.S. and Canada have adopted. But some of it will come from the ports’ efforts, such as subsidizing cleaner fuel for ships to use when they’re docked and giving grants to truck drivers to buy more efficient vehicles.

Jones Stebbins says the ports have to balance a cleaner environment with economic realities.

"We want to see reductions in emissions but we want to do it in a way that also works for the companies that want to do business here," Jones Stebbins said. "So that’s always a challenge for us to keep in mind."

The draft clean air strategy is open for public comment until the end of this month. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.