US launches $3 billion Clean Ports Program

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched the $3 billion Clean Ports Program to fund zero-emission port equipment and infrastructure to tackle the climate crisis and improve air quality at U.S. ports.

Illustration: Courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles

The Clean Ports Program is designed to help ports across the country transition to fully zero-emissions operations, serving as a catalyst for transformational change across the freight sector. To achieve this, EPA is releasing two separate Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) as part of the $3 billion.

The nearly $2.8 billion Zero-Emission Technology Deployment Competition will directly fund zero-emission port equipment and infrastructure to reduce mobile source emissions at U.S. ports. Eligible uses of funding include human-operated and maintained zero-emission cargo handling equipment, harbor craft and other vessels, electric charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, and a number of other technology investments.

Applications under this competition will be evaluated under multiple tiers in order to ensure that funds are distributed across ports of different sizes and types, and to ensure funding for ports serving Tribal communities.

The approximately $150 million Climate and Air Quality Planning Competition will fund climate and air quality planning activities at U.S. ports — including emissions inventories, strategy analysis, community engagement, and resiliency measure identification.

Together, these opportunities are expected to advance next-generation, clean technologies that will more safely and efficiently drive the movement of goods and passengers at our nation’s ports, a critical part of America’s supply chain infrastructure while reducing pollution and advancing environmental justice.

“The funding for the two grant competitions is available to port authorities; state, regional, local, or Tribal agencies that have jurisdiction over a port authority or port; air pollution control agencies; and private entities that apply in partnership with an eligible entity above, and that own, operate or use facilities, cargo-handling equipment, transportation equipment, or related technology of a port. The funding can be used for projects at water ports (coastal and inland) as well as projects at facilities where goods are transferred between rail cars and trucks (dry ports),” the U.S. officials noted.

The funding opportunities were created under President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and will advance environmental justice by reducing diesel pollution from U.S. ports in surrounding communities.

Furthermore, they will help advance the U.S.’ commitment to environmental justice and the Justice40 Initiative, which sets the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments in climate, clean energy, and other areas flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.

“Communities living near America’s ports have borne the brunt of some of the worst air pollution coming from shipping, trucking, and maritime industries,” said John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy. 

“Our nation’s ports are among the busiest in the world, helping us to create good jobs here in America, move goods, and grow our economy… we’re making $3 billion available to install cleaner and more efficient technologies while cutting air pollution to protect the people who work at and live near ports,” stated EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

“For decades, ports have been hubs of pollution — but thanks to President Biden, we are turning them into hubs of American innovation,” empashized Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi.

“There’s an incredible array of new technologies that can make ports cleaner and greener, all while creating good-paying jobs and strengthening American supply chains. The Clean Ports Program is demonstrating how these technologies can work together to deliver clean air for our children, cut down on harmful climate pollution, and achieve fully zero-emission operations. That’s a gamechanger for port communities, for workers, and for America’s economy. That’s environmental justice – long overdue.”

Environmental organization Pacific Environment hailed the new clean energy program statiting that this is a “momentous opportunity to fund zero-emission port equipment, infrastructure, and planning at U.S. ports.

“The $3 billion in funding will move ports off of fossil fuels and instead use clean technologies like electrification and hydrogen fuel cells. It is imperative that we protect port workers and frontline communities from further exposure to harmful air pollution. The historic investments under the Clean Ports Program will save lives and help transition ports to a zero-emissions future,” Antonio Santos, Federal Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment said.

“This once–in-a-generation funding opportunity to address persistent pollution at ports is the result of tireless advocacy by portside communities who have lived with air pollution and health impacts for too long. This is the People’s Money and we are pleased that it will be used to move ports off of fossil fuels and help fund the clean infrastructure needed to address air and climate change pollution. We applaud EPA’s action and look forward to seeing results at the ports,” Fern Uennatornwaranggoon, Climate Campaign Director for Ports, Pacific Environment added.

The new program builds on the success of EPA’s Ports Initiative and the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act programs, which have invested over $196 million to implement 207 diesel emissions reduction projects at ports with an additional $88 million to multi-sector projects that involve ports.