Officials Prod Port Authority on ‘Shore Power’ at Cruise Terminal

March 30, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

RED HOOK — A year after an agreement to supply shore-based power from the electric grid to ships docked at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, a group of officials led by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan) yesterday urged the Port Authority to implement the plan as soon as possible.

The agreement would free cruise ships from running their diesel engines to generate electricity while in port, producing fumes and pollutants that have caused complaints from nearby communities such as Red Hook and Carroll Gardens.

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The letter, received yesterday by the Eagle, was also signed by Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Downtown Brooklyn/Lower Manhattan), Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Brooklyn Heights/Park Slope) Council members Brad Lander (D-Park Slope/Carroll Gardens) and Sara Gonzalez (D-Red Hook/Sunset Park), and several others.

“While Port Authority has approved $15 million for the project,” the letter reads, “the costs have increased by $4.3 million. According to the agency, this additional funding is required for the project’s advancement. It should go forward.

“As you are well aware, docked cruise ships run on high-sulfur diesel generators, which are highly polluting. The Bluewater Network has compared emissions from a cruise ship in port for one day to the environmental equivalent of 12,400 cars. These emissions can be eliminated by cruise vessels hooking up to landside electrical power.

“A Port Authority study shows that use of shore power at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal would eliminate nearly 100 tons of nitrous oxide, 100 tons of sulfur oxide, and over 6 tons of particulate matter annually.”

Later, Velazquez said in a separate statement, “With leadership changes at the Port Authority and reports of a higher price tag, it is critical this project not fall by the wayside. Today, we’re saying with one voice that we expect work to go forward and hope to refocus the Port Authority on this initiative in advance of [last night’s] board meeting.”

A spokesperson for the Port Authority said, “We support the environmental benefits this unique project will have for those who live and work around the terminal, but the project needs an additional $4.3 million to cover costs. We are evaluating options on how this gap can be filled, especially in light of the fact that the cruise ships that call on the facility are only committed for two years beyond projected completion of the construction.”

Adam Armstrong, proprietor of the Red Hook-based blog A View From the Hook, told the Eagle that the grade of diesel used by the cruise ships at the terminal is “the dirtiest, filthiest diesel on the planet. It’s the highest in sulfur.

“There is at least one ship at the Cruise Terminal a week. That terminal opened to take the biggest ships, like the Queen Mary II, that the Manhattan Cruise Terminal couldn’t handle,” said Armstrong. He added that using shore power is not a new idea — the ports on the West Coast have been using it for 10 years, and the Navy has been using it for 50 years.

“The ships are now using oil from multinational oil companies, while with shore power, they’ll be using low-cost power from the New York Power Authority,” he said.

The agreement, which involved the Port Authority, the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC), Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYPA, and others was widely heralded in the original press statement of April 11, 2011.

“Enabling cruise ships to draw energy from the city’s electrical grid instead of idling and burning diesel fuel is a terrific example of how economic and environmental goals can be achieved together,” said  Bloomberg. “By bringing the first cruise ship shore power operation on the East Coast to Red Hook, we’ll lower fossil fuel emissions and improve air quality for local residents — all while keeping our waterfront working and our tourism numbers growing.”

The $15 million needed in on-shore infrastructure was to have been funded by about $12 million from the Port Authority and a nearly $3 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Princess and Cunard cruise lines agreed to spend up to $4 million to retrofit ships that dock at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The city and NYPA agreed to provide NYPA electricity at a fixed and discounted rate for five years.

“Construction of the on-shore infrastructure will begin mid-2011 and is expected to be complete in 2012,” last year’s press release read.

The cruise terminal is operated by the EDC, which leases the land from the Port Authority, according to Kyle Sklerov, a spokesman for EDC. According to the agreement, the Port Authority would be responsible for the physical improvements that would make it possible for the ships to receive power from the electrical grid.

Diesel exhaust has been linked to asthma by the EPA, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine and others.

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