Commissioner Creighton Comments on 2011 Air Emissions Report and Next Steps by Port of Seattle

Maritime-related air pollution has decreased—as much as 40 percent, depending on the type—since 2005, according to a report released today by the Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum.

“The results of the 2011 Emissions Inventory are significant, with substantial pollution reductions across the board for the Seattle harbor,” said Seattle Port Commissioner John Creighton.  “We still have work to do in protecting the environment and the health of both our workers and our communities, but the results of the 2011 inventory show that we are headed in the right direction.”

The report is the result of the 2011 Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory, which provided an update to the 2005 baseline inventory.

The inventory estimated greenhouse gases, diesel particulate matter and a number of other pollutants, such as sulfur dioxides and volatile organic compounds. It focused on pollutants related to ships, harbor vessels, cargo-handling equipment, rail, heavy-duty trucks and other fleet vehicles associated with maritime activities.

Much of the clean air progress is due to significant, voluntary investments of the maritime industry and government agencies in cleaner technology, cleaner fuels and more efficient systems of operation.

Results from the 2011 inventory will help guide and focus future emissions reduction investments.Emissions in the airshed dropped since 2005 from the following pollutants:

Nitrogen oxides: reduced 14 percent

  • Volatile organic compounds: reduced 40 percent
  • Sulfur oxides: reduced 14 percent
  • Particulate matter (PM10): reduced 16 percent
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5): reduced 16 percent
  • Diesel particulate matter: reduced 16 percent
  • Carbon dioxide: reduced 5 percent


Overall, emissions fell for most sources since 2005. Diesel particulate matter emissions are summarized below:


  • Ocean-going vessels: reduced 16 percent
  • Harbor vessels: increased 7 percent
  • Locomotives: reduced 24 percent
  • Cargo-handling equipment: reduced 40 percent
  • Heavy-duty vehicles: reduced 52 percent
  • Fleet vehicles: reduced 47 percent

In the harbor vessels sector, which includes ferries, tugs, fishing and recreational boats, some categories of pollutants increased.This is likely due to a 12 percent increase in boat traffic, as well as an increase in the use of larger engines, which have higher emissions.

The maritime industry has adopted a number of voluntary initiatives to reduce emissions, including switching to low-sulfur or biodiesel fuels, using shore power, replacing or retrofitting older engines and improving systems to use equipment more efficiently.

The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, a ground-breaking initiative of the ports of Tacoma, Seattle and Metro Vancouver, B.C., has helped further reduce emissions in the Puget Sound and Georgia air basins. Mandatory engine and fuel standards also have spurred adopting newer engines and cleaner fuels.

Some of the decrease also can be attributed to fewer ship calls and less cargo resulting from a sluggish economy.

Inventory results will help focus future efforts and investments. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are updating their Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy goals based on the inventory results.

Maritime partners will continue efforts to lower diesel emissions because they pose a public health risk. Exposure to diesel pollutants can contribute to increased rates of lung cancer, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease and other health effects.

Maritime industry partners continue to seek ways to reduce emissions from all sources, with particular attention to ships. While ship-related emissions have dropped, they account for 63 percent of the maritime-related diesel particulate matter emissions.

The 2011 results do not account for the North American “Emission Control Area” that went into effect Aug. 1, 2012, requiring ships operating in waters along the Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States and Canada to burn cleaner fuels. This regulation is expected to have a significant effect in further reducing ship-related emissions.

The Seattle Port Commission will also soon be considering the next generation, or “Phase 2”, of its Clean Trucks Program.  The Commission will be taking a look at a number of options to incentivize cleaner truck technologies in the harbor, including a proposal by Commissioner Rob Holland last year to sponsor a pilot program with respect to trucks powered by compressed natural gas, or CNG.

“We have set the goal at the Port of Seattle to be the cleanest, most energy efficient port in North America,” noted Commissioner Creighton.  “I want to thank Commissioner Holland for his efforts working with port stakeholders –regulatory agencies, manufacturers, shipping and trucking companies and truck drivers – to look at how the Port of Seattle can continue to improve air quality for our community.”

Solving Traffic Issues for Both Freight and Cars in the Puget Sound Region

In 2009, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, Seattle was ranked 10th in the nation in terms of traffic congestion. Commuters spent hours behind the wheels of their cars, simply looking at the license plates of the cars ahead of them.  Unfortunately, the problem has only gotten worse in the subsequent years.  In 2012, the city ranked 4th in congestion, according to news reports.  It is a sad statistic, but there are some reasons to be hopeful.  For example, while it’s true that people in the Seattle area are spending longer periods of time in their cars, just trying to move through the city, is likely in part due to road construction.

Because cars share the roads with trucks, congestion also negatively impacts the movement of freight and, ultimately, our region’s economic health.   For many years, state leaders have known that Seattle does not have an efficient system for moving freight, and they have attempted to allocate funds to fix the problem.  In 2005, the state legislature passed an increase in the gas tax – later affirmed by referendum – aimed at funding 274 projects over 16 years, including $542 million for 35 targeted freight mobility projects.

Critical projects being currently undertaken in the Seattle area include the replacement of the Alaska Way Viaduct with the Deep Bore Tunnel and the replacement and widening of the State Route 520 bridge.  Grade separations are being built in South Seattle and throughout the Green River Valley so that cars and trucks will no longer need to stop for passing trains.  The replacement for the South Park Bridge, which had to be closed because it was no longer safe for vehicle traffic, will be completed next year (this is a critical project both for South Seattle neighborhoods and for Boeing freight traffic).  North of downtown Seattle, the Mercer Street corridor is being reworked in a manner that, among other things, will ease the journey of buses and trucks from I-5 to the Port of Seattle’s terminals in North Seattle.

But the 2005 measure does not address all of the state’s transportation needs.  A task force appointed by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire in 2011 estimated that the backlog in funding transportation projects in Washington State is at least $50 billion, though most important needs could be met with the expenditure of $21 billion over ten years.

To meet the Port of Seattle’s 25 year goals to grow seaport cargo throughput to 3.5 million containers per year and to triple air cargo activity at Sea-Tac Airport, it is critical that the state complete the extension of State Route 509 from the airport south to Interstate 5.  Similarly, for the Port of Tacoma to meet its long-term growth goals, the completion of State Route 167 is needed.  Both of those are $1 billion-plus projects however.

Our conversations about transportation funding tend to focus on the merits of specific projects. That usually leaves out a discussion about whether the project complements a broader regional and national strategy.  Does it warrant the dollars it requests, compared to other projects still waiting for funding?

Roads and railways are only as effective as the system they support.  If U.S. ports are going to continue to generate the family-wage jobs and economic opportunity they have produced in the past, transportation funding needs this kind of a new framework, one that ranks projects that best support the economy that move goods from farm to market. Moreover, a properly planned, constructed, and maintained freight system – adding capacity and building grade separations where appropriate – also benefits passenger rail, buses, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

John Creighton: Port of Seattle Goals Can Be Complex and Overlapping

As Port Commissioner, John Creighton has been involved in many difficult decisions involving the Port of Seattle. At times, he’s endured fire from critics who claim that the Port is losing its soul and is crumbling to the needs of gentrification and a never-ending population boom.  He’s also heard complaints from business leaders who want improved access to the port or else they will find neighboring communities who are willing to provide them with the access and government policies that they feel they need to operate. While listening to comment is part of any politician’s job, John Creighton feels that these sorts of comments are particularly hard to deal with, as they point to the crux of what the Port means to Seattle, and that meaning can vary from group to group.

In Seattle, the Port is a thriving business that brings both revenue and jobs into the community. Each container that comes into the Port represents an economic opportunity for Seattle, and that’s not an opportunity the region can afford to waste. According to a blog entry written by John Creighton, the state of Washington, the Port, King County, the city of Seattle and public and private interests have invested over $1 billion in infrastructure to support the industrial activities at the Port. Pushing out industry through gentrification means wasting these investments.

However, the Port provides some of the most sought-after real estate in Seattle, with stunning views of the water and amazing access to the hip and trendy parts of downtown. It’s no wonder that so many people want to live in this part of Seattle, John Creighton says, and it’s no wonder that businesses want to place restaurants, stadiums and other enticements there to make them stay.

The key is to make smart investments so that competing uses on the waterfront can co-exist, John Creighton says, to make good decisions on a case-by-case basis. This is what Port Commissioner John Creighton hopes to do in moving forward the Port’s Century Agenda, its 25-year plan to bring another 100,000 port-related jobs to the region.

Port Commissioner John Creighton on Public Service

Before being elected Port Commissioner, John Creighton worked as a lawyer who specialized in international transactions. It was rewarding work, allowing him the opportunity to travel as well as the opportunity to meet with some amazingly interesting and powerful people within the business community.  However, for John Creighton, Seattle would always be home, and in time, he felt the urge to return home and give back to the community he loved.

He returned to the Seattle area in the year 2000, and began working for Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, LLP, as an associate in the firm’s corporate group. He later moved to K&L Gates LLP, once again working in the company’s business group. Soon, John Creighton felt the pull of public service, and he ran for a spot on the Seattle Port Commission. He chaired that commission between the years of 2007 and 2008.  The work of the Seattle Port Commission may not be well known, but it is critical work for our community, impacting almost 200,000 jobs in our region. In this city that is almost entirely surrounded by water, the Port is responsible for the ownership and operation of some $6 billion in cargo and equipment. For people like John Creighton, who want to make a difference, it’s a good place to start.

When asked to explain his approach to public service, John Creighton says, “I am dedicated to service, and the idea that elected officials should make decisions based solely on how they can better their community, not on how they can benefit themselves or any particular interest group. It might not be a glamorous statement to make, but I do work hard to ensure that my decisions reflect the needs of my constituents. I’m there to represent them, and ensure that they have their needs met.”

John Creighton: Seattle Voters Expect Twitter Presence

As a public figure, John Creighton is expected to maintain some sort of online presence. It’s the best way to ensure that he can respond to breaking news, and remind voters of his works in the months leading up to an election. There are many different sites public figures can use to reach out to the electorate, but according to John Creighton, Twitter remains the tool of choice. In fact, in Seattle, John Creighton is known as an early and an enthusiastic user of Twitter.

According to the official Twitter blog, the first tweet was sent on March 21, 2006, and it read, simply, “inviting coworkers.” Since that time, tweets have grown much longer, and they’ve also become much more prevalent. Now, Media Bistro reports, Twitter is seeing a remarkable 400 million tweets per day, which represents an increase of almost 18 percent in less than three months. At a time when pundits are claiming that Facebook is close to death, Twitter is claiming new users on a daily basis, and the company is beginning to make money due to the extensive traffic the site generates on a daily basis.

When shopping for a method by which to stay in touch with his constituents, Twitter seemed like an obvious choice for John Creighton. Here, he could share links to press releases and blog entries that outlined his accomplishments and hopes for the future, and he could encourage his followers to read up on the topics that would make them more informed voters. He could also interact with voters, without sharing the sort of private information that commonly makes up a Facebook page. Currently, Port Commissioner John Creighton submits multiple tweets each day, and Twitter users can follow him by clicking on this link.