The S.C. State Ports Authority has been criticized recently because of air emissions from cruise ships idling at dock.

While it is an issue that deserves more attention, it would be short-sighted not to give the port credit for those successful air quality efforts that it has made.

In 2007, after a battle with the Coastal Conservation League, the SPA voluntarily began measures to reduce emissions from cargo-handling equipment and trucks. It recently extended that agreement with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Newly released numbers, reported by Moffat & Nichol consulting firm, show carbon monoxide emissions decreased 51 percent and hydrocarbons by 26 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Stricter international fuel standards should also make an impact, but they were implemented in 2011 and results are not conclusive.

The DHEC agreement includes the SPA paying for an ambient local air monitoring station to measure air quality for 23 months.

It also calls for the SPA to replace retired equipment with equipment producing less pollution. And the SPA agrees to periodic port-wide emissions inventories.

The new inland port, being planned for Greer, will use electric cranes for stacking containers.

SPA chief executive Jim Newsome said “a healthy, working port and a cleaner environment can be mutually compatible goals.”

Can be and should be.

So, not to take anything away from the SPA’s welcome air quality improvements, it’s fair to ask: Why not make that environment even healthier and cleaner by installing shoreside power for cruise ships?

After all, nearby neighborhoods have cited the need. And so have the local and state medical associations.

It’s another opportunity for the SPA to further burnish its air quality credentials.