Stimulus funds to help Charleston breathe easier - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Stimulus funds to help Charleston breathe easier

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By Nicole Johnson  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Stimulus money is helping South Carolina breathe easier. Two of the state's largest diesel emission generators will get millions of dollars to reduce the dirty discharge.

It is the first of its kind hybrid bus to be rolled out in Charleston County. The State Ports Authority's old cargo handling equipment will be replaced with units burning 25 percent less fuel. There will be a new efficient engine installed in a dredging machine. Each of these projects are investments that can help clear the air of diesel emissions.

"When we reduce particulate matter, when we take diesel out of the equation, we are saving human lives. In particular we are saving the lives of our children," said EPA Assistant Administrator of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy.

The US Environmental Protection Agency praised Charleston for its work lowering dirty air emissions. $3.6 million total is being invested into equipment at the State Education Department and the SPA, a combination of federal stimulus funds and donation from the port.

Even semi-trucks will be cleaner. The port has plans to retrofit them with new exhaust filters and power units that reduce dirty air emissions.

This announcement comes more than a month after the Coastal Conservation League released a study saying fumes and particles from cargo ships trucks are strongly linked to health problems such as: asthma, stroke, cancer, heart disease, or premature death. The study found Port emissions could cost the county $54 million in healthcare costs.

Port President and CEO Jim Newsome says they are committed to reducing emissions, and people at the Port work daily on environmental matters.

"You're seeing an example of the type of proactive things that we do to make that work in Charleston. This terminal is very near to residential areas and things like that, so we need to be good partners with the community," said Newsome.

The EPA says the Port's Pledge for Growth initiative will reduce diesel emissions by more than 176 tons per year, and the Education Department says school bus changes will reduce emissions by nearly five tons.

These projects will also create or save jobs, putting 37 people to work at the Ports Authority and 17 jobs updating the school busses.

In response to the SPA's efforts, the Coastal Conservation League released this statement:

"The Port has reduced its overall air pollution by maybe 2-4% and it is planning to double the cargo moving through Charleston with the new port terminal, which would mean a huge increase in harmful diesel emissions." 

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