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Efforts to improve air quality at the Port of Charleston are paying off with a sharp reduction in pollutants in recent years, according to a report released Monday.
The report, compiled by the consulting firm of Moffat & Nichol, compares pollutants from port-related activities in 2011 to a 2005 baseline of such pollution compiled in an earlier study.
The latest report found that newer, cleaner engines for trucks and other port equipment have led to a 51 percent decrease in carbon monoxide and a 26 percent in hydrocarbons released into the air. The consultants analyzed a 2,500-square-mile area extending from the mouth of Charleston Harbor shipping channel inland to include Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
“New international fuel standards as well as efforts by the maritime community mean that our air quality continues to show improvement,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority.
New rules require the use of low-sulfur fuels for oceangoing vessels calling in North America. Those rules took effect in 2011 and are not reflected in the new report.
The report found that emissions from cargo handling equipment such as cranes resulted in a 57 percent reduction in particulate matter and a 99 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide.
The authority began using ultra-low sulfur in its handling equipment in 2007, three years before it was required by federal law. The authority has used federal grants to put newer, more efficient and less polluting engines on 21 gantry cranes and 35 container handlers.
The agency also has a program to get older trucks that frequently call at the port off the road.
That program started almost two years ago allows truckers driving trucks that are at least 20 years old to get a $10,000 incentive toward buying a newer vehicle. Truckers also get the scrap value of their old truck from a local recycler, usually around $2,000
Half of the $10,000 incentive is paid by the SPA, while the other half is paid through a federal grant. So far, 60 of the older trucks have been removed from the road.
Last week, the SPA said it extended a six-year voluntary agreement to improve air quality at its future facilities. The partnership with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control now runs through 2018,
Efforts to reduce pollution should also have benefits across the state in the future, the SPA said.
The Charleston-based authority recently broke ground on a new inland port in the Upstate.
The cargo yard is designed to more efficiently move containers and other goods by rail to and from the Charleston-area docks. It’s estimated that, when operational, it will eliminate 50,000 truck trips a year on busy Interstate 26 from the Greenville-Spartanburg area to the coast.
For now, the $35 million project is tied up in a condemnation dispute with a warehouse operator that leases part of the Greer site.
Last month, the SPA began process of forcing Nordic Cold Storage to move by seizing, condemning and demolishing the company’s building. The agency’s board voted March 12 to “extinguish” the lease.
A mandatory 30-day grace period following the SPA’s formal notification to Nordic is still in effect. The ports authority has said it wants to open the 80-acre inland port by Sept. 1.
The Post and Courier contributed to this report.
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