Port Of Houston Authority Refutes NRDC Report

Numerous agencies, community and industry stakeholders deliver high marks for PHA's environmental accomplishments

Houston, Texas, UNITED STATES


HOUSTON, March 24, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- During a press conference today, the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) rejected the Natural Resources Defense Council's findings about pollution control efforts at the port's facilities. Describing the Houston port evaluation as flawed and distorted, PHA Chairman Jim Edmonds said the NRDC's findings appeared to be heavily influenced by input from opponents of the Bayport Container and Cruise Terminal project. Edmonds also said he was disappointed that NRDC conveniently commingled the efforts and regulatory authority of PHA and those of private facilities that collectively make up the Port of Houston.

"It's important to note that the Port of Houston Authority does not have operational control or regulatory authority over the private conveyances of the Houston Ship Channel, including vessels, trucks, railroads, tug boats and barges," Edmonds said. "However, PHA continually works with various members of the private maritime industry along the Houston Ship Channel to coordinate the development and implementation of high quality environmental practices."

The PHA's eleven public terminals account for approximately 15 percent of the total cargo shipped through Houston. Nearly 150 other privately-owned terminals account for the remaining 85 percent of the port's cargo capacity.

"As the world's sixth largest port, the Port of Houston Authority delivers the goods through excellence in environmental stewardship and community outreach," Edmonds said. "Our chronicle of accomplishment includes diligent efforts focused on protecting and improving air and water quality, land utilization, and the overall quality of life in our community. As a dynamic, world class organization, the port authority is charting a course for enduring leadership in environmental stewardship."

Harris County Judge Robert Eckels said, "The Port of Houston Authority has done an outstanding job in meeting -- and in many cases exceeding -- environmental regulations within their area of control. It is unfortunate that the Natural Resources Defense Council characterizes the Port of Houston Authority as the administrator for air and water quality for the entire Houston Ship Channel. The Port of Houston Authority has no regulatory authority over the private entities of the channel, the vessels, trucks, railroads, tugboats or barges, which call on the 6th largest port in the world."

Air Quality

Air quality is a top priority component of PHA's commitment to excellence in environmental stewardship. We continually work with diligence to develop, implement and improve methods and technologies that greatly aid in the reduction of emissions, conserve natural resources, enhance the efficient performance of our operations to provide quality service to our customers, leverage partnerships with government regulatory agencies and industry groups, and strengthen relationships with our community. Through these endeavors, PHA has charted a course for maritime industry leadership.

While PHA realizes its operations are not the largest component of the Houston port's inventory, PHA believed it would work to reduce its emissions, prove technologies and educate tenants on the importance of reducing emissions. Subsequently, PHA has become a leader in progressive activities and commitments regarding clean air quality goals. Additionally, PHA is the first entity located in the HGA to test innovative technologies for off-road diesel engines. This was accomplished through a concerted effort to focus on reductions of NOx, VOCs and PM. As a result, PHA's efforts have set a standard for other HGA entities and ports examining similar demonstration tests on their fleet vehicles.

PHA developed an in-situ testing protocol with input from federal, state and local agencies and other interested stakeholders. PHA's demonstration ultimately led to the use of the diesel emulsion fuel PuriNOx in the cargo-handling equipment at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal. The PHA continues to conduct demonstration testing on a variety of technologies for reduction in NOx and PM from diesel engines in cargo handling equipment. For example, emission and operability tests have been conducted on diesel emulsion fuels, selective catalytic reducers, fuel additives, fuel enhancers, and particulate traps.

In 2002, Jeff Saitas, then-executive director of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, commended the port for its air quality improvement efforts. "The Port of Houston has been one of the most aggressive pursuers and users of advanced cleaner fuels and technologies," Saitas said. "The recognition by the port authority for its contributions to both the challenges and solutions to clean air in the Houston/Galveston area should be commended."

Dr. Pamela M. Berger, director of environmental policy for the City of Houston, said PHA has been a consistent partner in regional efforts to improve the environment. "Clearly, the City of Houston is strengthened through the PHA's successful commitment to being the first such facility in the U.S. to implement an environmental management system that is ISO 14001 certified," Berger said. "This environmental management system, developed in concert with community stakeholders, has demonstrated 25 to 35 percent reductions in air emissions of NOx and particulate matter, respectively."

Berger noted that PHA has also been involved in strategic discussion with the City of Houston Mayor's Office of Environmental Policy Brownfields Redevelopment Program, with regard to so-called "portfields." "The working relationship between the City of Houston and the port authority has been extended to statewide air quality issues addressed through the Texas Clean Air Working Group comprised of private and public sector stakeholders from most non-attainment and near non-attainment areas throughout Texas."

Berger added, "Area environmental challenges are profound. The port authority's address will continue to require significant investment of resources in development and application of inventive technologies. However, the City of Houston and the region as a whole are fortunate to count the Port of Houston Authority among stakeholders committed to achieving environmental excellence."

Water Quality

As a leader in the maritime shipping industry, the Port of Houston Authority firmly believes that every effort must be taken to enhance and protect the Texas Gulf Coast region's water quality for both recreational and commercial uses. To that end, PHA is actively involved in independent and partnership efforts aimed at reversing coastal erosion, monitoring and mitigating the impacts of stormwater discharges into the waterway system, and developing and implementing most effective technologies and rapid response systems for preventing and correcting pollution incidents. Through these endeavors, PHA strives to meet and exceed environmental regulatory standards and provide models of best practices that can be emulated throughout the entire maritime shipping industry.

Since PHA operates marine terminal facilities located along various portions of the Houston Ship Channel, the condition of the channel's water quality is of utmost importance. State and federal regulations require the water quality in the 14 segments of the channel to meet high standards of suitability for supporting or sustaining aquatic life use, general use, fish consumption, and other activities.

Over the years, the ship channel's water quality has been improved largely as a result of the concerted efforts of PHA, state agencies, local governments, and industry groups located along the waterway. Areas of the channel that were once void of aquatic life now support abundant communities and recreational fishing. Many of the human health and environmental risks once associated with the channel area have been reduced or eliminated. Still, a number of water quality limitations and impairments remain to be addressed. That's why PHA maintains a proactive approach to monitoring discharges from port facility operations into the channel. This proactive approach is based on a steadfast commitment to meet or exceed all relevant water quality regulations.

Additionally, PHA has collaborated with state and federal agencies to create or restore islands in Galveston Bay along with a 220-acre demonstration marsh. This is part of the Houston Ship Channel widening and deepening project which has diverted dredge material disposal from disposal in the bay to the creation of 4,250 acres of marsh

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has participated with the PHA and other agencies for 14 years in the Beneficial Uses Group. "Through this initiative, the port authority has been working with the agencies to develop innovative uses for material dredged from the Houston Ship Channel, which led to increased habitat and significant improvements in water quality," stated Phil Glass, a biologist with USFWS. "During this time we have found the PHA to be good partners in exploring new techniques to create natural wildlife habitat for the Galveston Bay system."

City of Baytown Mayor Pete Alfaro said, "As mayor of Baytown for nearly 11 years, I have been quite impressed with the Port Authority's commitment to good environmental stewardship. The port authority's programs were the foundation of some of the most significant milestones Baytown has achieved."

Alfaro noted that for decades, Goat Island was an important and historic part of the Baytown community. Once accessible by foot, Goat Island was a recreational area for fishing and duck hunting. However, over time, the island subsided into Galveston Bay.

"Today, the Port of Houston Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Beneficial Uses Group are turning back time in Baytown," Alfaro said. "Along with improving the Galveston Bay area, this team is restoring Goat Island. I consider this project a great gift to the citizens of Baytown."

Alfaro also pointed out the importance of PHA's support of the Upper Texas Coast Water-Bourne Education Center, a non-profit group that teaches students in elementary through senior high school about biology and chemistry through programs involving water salinity testing, fishing and trawling for marine life, and identifying birds.

"Since the program began four years ago, more than 6,000 people have taken part in the water-bourne education center," Alfaro said. "The Port of Houston Authority has assured that the program will continue to be successful by providing $50,000 over two years. This funding has enabled WBEC to expand its services plus purchase necessary equipment such as engine oil for the boats."

Alfaro added, "Clearly, Baytown benefits from these great environmental programs of the port authority, and I applaud the port authority for its diligence to our community."

Land Utilization

Based on the quantity of containers handled per acre per year, the PHA's Barbours Cut Container Terminal is among the most efficient container facilities in the U.S. The site of the planned Bayport complex consists of property the PHA has owned for as long as 40 years, always with intentions of utilizing it for marine terminal facility development. The site has been heavily affected by the placement of dredge material and agricultural practices. Both the Barbours Cut and Bayport facilities were planned to be located on existing industrial ship channels with good access to highways and rail transportation. Moreover, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bayport requires the least number of new highway lane miles to be added of all the alternative sites that were examined.

Community Outreach

The Port of Houston not only delivers goods. It delivers heart and soul. The PHA's contributions to the community involve dollars, volunteerism and advocacy in support of the advancement of maritime activities and excellence in environmental stewardship.

Kathleen Bailey, port sector liaison for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said PHA leads the maritime industry in its environmental programs and initiatives. "Last year, the Port of Houston Authority was accepted into the EPA's National Environmental Performance Track, which recognizes and encourages top environmental performers to go beyond compliance to attain levels of environmental performance and management that benefit people, communities, and the environment.

"This program requires applicants to present documentation of its environmental improvements and commit to future goals to reduce environmental impacts," Bailey said. "So far, the Port of Houston Authority is the only port in the U.S. that has been accepted into this prestigious program, clearly setting an example for other ports to strive to emulate."

Galena Park Mayor Bobby Barrett said, "I have only high commendations for the ways in which the Port of Houston Authority communicates with Galena Park. The port authority has been instrumental in developing several important civic projects in Galena Park, including the Main Street project, which will construct a four-lane road to the Woodhouse Terminal."

Barrett also had high marks for PHA's financial support for Galena Park's new fire truck and well as the 99-year lease for the Galena Park school district's FFA complex. "The school district could not have built that complex without the help from the port," Barrett said. "The port authority always keeps us informed of its activities, and we have an excellent relationship."

Top Accolades for Environmental Stewardship



  -- EPA's National Performance Track Program (2002): recognizes  and 
     encourages top environmental performers to go beyond  compliance 
     to attain levels of environmental performance and  management that 
     benefit people, communities, and the environment.  The PHA was 
     accepted into the program in April 2003 with goals  for improving 
     air quality, reducing storm water impacts, and  reducing energy 
     consumption at the port. All Performance Track  members are 
     recognized nationally for their environmental  stewardship and 
     receive various incentives from the USEPA.

  -- ISO 14001 Certification (2002): recognizes the PHA's voluntary 
     development and implementation of an innovative environmental 
     management system (EMS) focusing on reducing and recycling solid 
     waste, lowering air emissions, and improving storm water quality.

  -- TCEQ Environmental Excellence Award (2003): recognizing the 
     PHA's Houston Ship Channel widening and deepening project as an
     initiative that provides a positive impact on the state's air,
     water and land.

  -- American Association of Port Authorities' Environmental Improvement
     Award (2001): recognizing the PHA's air quality  program which 
     achieved significant reductions in emissions of  nitrogen oxide,
     volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter  at PHA's 
     operational facilities.

  -- American Association of Port Authorities' Calvin Hurst Award (2002):
     recognizing the PHA's innovative EMS. The PHA was the  first port
     since 1998 to be named the recipient of this coveted port industry
     accolade, which is named posthumously in remembrance of the first
     professional marine environmentalist who served at the Port of
     Los Angeles from 1972 to 1987. Because of the exemplary nature of 
     its intended recipients, the AAPA does not  necessarily present 
     the award every year.

  -- The Gulf of Mexico Program Gulf Guardian Award (2002): recognizing
     the PHA's demonstrated efforts to enhance natural wildlife habitats 
     through the creation of wetlands in Galveston Bay.

Read the numerous stakeholder comments regarding PHA's environmental stewardship at: http://www.portofhouston.com/pdf/pubaffairs/Stakeholder-comments.pdf

Read the PHA's response to NDRC report at: http://www.portofhouston.com/pdf/pubaffairs/Enviro-responses.pdf

View the charts and graphs on PHA's environmental results at: http://www.portofhouston.com/pdf/pubaffairs/Enviro-graphs.pdf

View the PHA environmental advertisement at: http://www.portofhouston.com/pdf/pubaffairs/Report-card-ad.pdf

The Port of Houston Authority owns and operates the public facilities located along the Port of Houston, the 25-mile long complex of diversified public and private facilities designed for handling general cargo, containers, grain and other dry bulk materials, project and heavy lift cargo, and other types of cargo. Each year, more than 6,600 vessels call at the port, which ranks first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage, second in overall total tonnage, and sixth largest in the world. The Port Authority plays a vital role in ensuring navigational safety along the Houston Ship Channel, which has been instrumental in Houston's development as a center of international trade. The Barbours Cut Container Terminal and Central Maintenance Facility are the first of any U.S. port facilities to develop and implement an innovative Environmental Management System that meets the rigorous standards of ISO 14001. Additionally, the port is an approved delivery point for Coffee "C" futures contracts traded on the New York Board of Trade's Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange. For more information, please visit www.portofhouston.com.

The Port of Houston Authority logo can be found at: http://media.primezone.com/prs/single/?pkgid=720



        

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