Thursday, December 11, 2008

Port Authority Presents Green Policies by Lee Landor - Queens Chronicle

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Zero net carbon emissions by 2010: it seems an insurmountable feat for any large organization, but the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is confident that it can reach the short-term goal it set in its new environmental agenda.

During a Jamaica Bay Task Force meeting earlier this month, the agency presented its Sustainable Policies and Strategies program, which is designed to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions from PA operations and PA-related facilities.

According to the 2006 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, emissions from PA operations are 290,000 tons per year and those from its tenants are 5 million tons annually.

In the areas of climate change where no state or federal regulation exists, the agency is taking action voluntarily, according to Christopher Zeppie, director of the Office of Environmental Policy & Compliance.

It developed a sustainability program because “as a public agency, it is important to show leadership in addressing the environmental issues that affect the people of the region,” Zeppie said. The PA operates a number of facilities throughout the state, including the three metropolitan-area airports and various tunnels, bridges and bus terminals.

The long-term goal of the environmentally friendly initiative is an 80 percent reduction in all CO2 emissions related to the PA’s facilities by 2050. To do this, the agency will boost its energy efficiency through operational changes and capital investments that will reduce emissions by 5 percent annually.

Additionally, Zeppie said, the PA will seek to develop renewable energy both on- and off-site.

Several such investments and developments are already completed or underway. Last year the PA spent $11 million in lighting upgrades and on infrared heating. It had also shut down under-used buildings.

Projects underway in 2008 — the cost of which totalled $12 million — include the installation of LEDs (efficient light bulbs) at the George Washington Bridge and Holland Tunnel, and the creation of a geothermal-powered building at Kennedy International Airport, the world’s first such facility at an airport.

One venture on which the PA has already embarked is that of turning Stewart International Airport, located in Newburgh, NY, into a carbon-negative facility. According to Zeppie, the agency is “demonstrating leadership in the area of climate change” in doing this project, which turns the airport into a facility that avoids more carbon dioxide than it emits.

While few incentives have been developed for the PA’s customers and tenants — those who must begin reducing emissions by 5 percent each year — the agency is working to engage them in climate change measures, according to Zeppie.

One engagement attempt is the PA Commerce Department’s Clean Air Strategy. At Stewart International Airport, the PA will provide electrical infrastructure that airplanes can use at the gate to run on electrical power instead of using their engines.

The agency has also embarked on an effort to measure the electricity consumption of all tenants, providing them an accurate assessment of their energy use. That, Zeppie said, will assist them in reducing their usage in order to save money.

Sustainable transportation is a key investment the PA is prepared to make: it plans to invest $9 billion on modernization of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, better known as PATH, the ExpressRail system and the ARC commuter rail tunnel.

Another major investment the PA plans to make will be in the regional green economy — the sector of the economy that develops and markets environmentally beneficial technologies. The agency will purchase carbon offsets generated from regional projects that employ such technology, Zeppie said.

That investment can spur the growth of the sector, which will then have a ripple effect: demand for green technologies will abound, causing green companies to expand and the creation of more jobs, sometimes referred to as “green-collar” jobs.

Meanwhile, the PA will raise public awareness about climate change by providing online access to carbon offsets. An offset is a financial instrument that represents the avoidance of one metric ton of carbon dioxide.

The agency will offset greenhouse gas emissions it cannot reduce through its various energy efficiency projects by purchasing carbon offsets, which are sold in the U.S. voluntary market.

By offering quality carbon offsets to users, the PA will offer them the opportunity to learn about climate change and sustainability initiatives. As the first tolling agency to offer carbon offsets, the PA will take on a leadership role that could set a standard for other agencies throughout the country.