Reduce Pollution from Ports and Shipping

Ships, trucks, trains, and other heavy-duty vehicles help move cargo and power economic growth, but they also burn fossil fuels and create air pollution that has been linked to respiratory disease, premature death, and cancer. This pollution increases regional smog and creates toxic hot spots, particular in low-income minority communities.

NRDC uses litigation, advocacy, and technical solutions to slash pollution from America’s busy ports, rail yards, and truck routes. Our California team has led the effort to clean up the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—the nation's largest port complex and biggest contributor to regional smog.

Thanks to legal action taken by NRDC and local residents, the Port of Los Angeles began plugging ships into electric power at the dock to avoid idling their diesel engines, becoming the first port to do so. This case inspired additional clean air initiatives at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, including a program to modernize the entire fleet of diesel trucks—approximately 13,000—serving those ports and a landmark Clean Air Action Plan that enables growth while slashing port pollution. We also helped spur the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt tougher standards for diesel exhaust from trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. We continue to track progress and ensure states don’t delay efforts to reduce diesel pollution from trucks and buses. Moreover, ports across the nation are now modeling their environmental initiatives around programs developed in Southern California.

Our advocates continue to monitor both ports, and together with environmental justice groups, we meet regularly with the California Air Resources Board, local air districts, ports, and other government agencies to create strong state, regional, and local freight strategies that cut pollution from ships, trucks, and trains.

We have brought this experience to other freight hubs around the nation and are working with communities in New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Kansas, among others. We grade ports and share best practices for reducing pollution. And wherever possible, we push for zero-emission freight movement, encouraging a shift to electric power for vehicles and equipment. When ports fail to follow existing safeguards, NRDC takes them to court. We also work alongside ports and other government agencies to defend clean air initiatives when they are subject to industry attack.

Shipping is an international industry, and so is NRDC’s port work. We provide technical analysis to several ports in China and advocate at the International Maritime Organization for stricter diesel standards for oceangoing ships.