Merkley, Colleagues Unveil Groundbreaking Legislation to Boost Sustainability Among America’s Ports

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is leading five of his Senate colleagues in introducing the Climate Smart Ports Act—legislation that would create a $1 billion per year federal program dedicated to improving sustainability measures at America’s ports. The legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan.

Greenhouse gas pollution from mobile sources at ports is on the rise. The Climate Smart Ports Act would assist ports and port users in reducing harmful pollution by replacing cargo handling equipment, port harbor craft, cargo delivery trucks, and more with zero-emissions equipment and technology. In addition, the legislation would help ports develop onsite clean energy microgrids to power their facilities and equipment, and authorizes an additional $50 million per year for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) to be spent specifically on reducing port emissions.

“Nearly 40 percent of Americans live within 3 miles of a port—meaning these investments will not only improve port facilities, but also dramatically reduce the pollution that has long affected port-adjacent communities, which are home to millions of low-income families and communities of color,” said Merkley, who serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is a member of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus. “Every American deserves to breathe clean air that’s free of harmful chemicals from port equipment and trucks. The Climate Smart Ports Act lays out a commonsense plan to help turn that principle into a reality, while also creating good-paying, reliable jobs.”

To ensure that money in this program finds its way to communities that need it the most, the bill sets aside a minimum of 25% of funding for areas in non-attainment with Clean Air Act criteria pollutants. In addition, applications for grant funding are scored in part on how they will reduce public health disparities in communities and reduce toxic air pollution.

The bill also includes provisions to ensure that the upgrades create good jobs, by requiring payment of a local prevailing wage for work performed with federal funds, encourage project labor agreements and local hiring, give preference to equipment produced in the United States, and includes language protecting dock workers from automation.

“We are pleased by Senator Merkley’s ongoing efforts to promote the success of our nation’s ports, while prioritizing environmentally sound legislation to minimize the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions,” said John Burns, CEO of the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay. “Ports are economic drivers in the communities and regions where they operate.  It is critical that they continue to facilitate the flow of commerce while investing in a greener tomorrow.”

The Climate Smart Ports Act is endorsed by International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA), Washington Public Ports Association (WPPA), Moving Forward Network, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund, Food & Water Action, Greenpeace, Eastyard Communities for Environmental Justice, Friends of the Earth, Jobs to Move America CA, the American Lung Association, Indivisible San Pedro, the San Pedro & Peninsula Homeowners Coalition, Green For All, Union of Concerned Scientists, by Humankind, Oregon Public Ports Association (OPPA), International Port of Coos Bay, and Port of Portland.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

A summary of the bill is available here.