The Biden administration is returning the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement, three years after former President Donald Trump first announced the nation would be pulling out.
But in that time, the Port Authority has remained true to the tenets of the accords as the first public transportation agency to embrace them in 2018. That commitment involves setting science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, including an interim goal of reducing GHG emissions 35 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. To achieve these targets, the agency has initiated a series of innovative and industry-leading measures, collectively known as the “Clean Dozen,” across critical areas like electrification, energy efficiency, and green building.
“With transportation and real estate assets as diverse as the Port Authority’s, we need to come up with creative solutions to tackle climate change,” said Christine Weydig, the agency’s Director of Environmental and Energy Programs. “Our air, land, rail, and sea facilities each have distinct characteristics that require tailored, best-in-class solutions, and we’re absolutely committed to doing our part.”
The agency’s airports present unique opportunities for implementing important emissions reduction initiatives, given their vast networks of roadways, campus electrical distribution systems, and parking facilities available for electric vehicle and solar energy projects.
Just a few months ago, the Port Authority completed its electric airport shuttle bus fleet, the largest of its kind on the east coast. It comprises 36 buses across LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International, and Newark Liberty International airports. The fleet will eliminate more than 1,600 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. In addition, in partnership with JetBlue and the New York Power Authority (NYPA), 188 electric charging ports were installed at JFK to support the airline’s transition to electric ground support equipment.
In December 2020, New York State’s largest solar power generation system entered into its next phase. The 13-megawatt project at JFK includes a parking lot canopy with solar panels, battery storage, and community solar component, expected to be complete in 2022. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 5,300 metric tons annually. Solar developments are also already underway at Newark and LaGuardia airports.
On the roads, customers are adopting electric vehicles (EVs) as they become more available. To accommodate this shift, the Port Authority has already installed more than 150 charging ports with its partners to help address “range anxiety,” a phenomenon where EV drivers fear they won’t have enough battery power to reach the next charger. By 2023, the agency is set to reach 600 electric light-duty vehicles, constituting 50 percent of the fleet.
To accelerate EV adoption, the Port Authority partnered with NYPA to deploy the largest public fast-charging hub for EVs at JFK. The 10 charging stations were activated in December 2020 and will be a valuable resource for New York City’s increasingly electric for-hire vehicles, to reduce the carbon footprint of trips to and from the airport.
New and updated green design standards developed by the agency’s environmental and engineering experts will also be thoroughly incorporated. That includes everything from an original Clean Construction Program to decrease carbon emissions and reduce waste during construction, to the newly launched Green Infrastructure Guidelines that helps design teams utilize widely accepted, best-in-class standards for resilient design and construction.
As climate change causes the frequency and intensity of natural hazards to increase, Port Authority engineers are paying special attention to incorporating custom flood protection measures at airports, tunnels and bridges, the PATH rail system, and around its seaports. In order to accomplish this, they use Climate Resilience Guidelines, which have been specifically developed for Port Authority projects using global best practices. Click here to see where those facilities are and what’s being done to protect them.
“Coming out of the warmest year on record, with extreme weather events hitting all parts of the globe, we have to sustain the progress we’ve made not just since joining the Paris Climate Agreement in 2018, but since we formally adopted an agency environmental policy in 1993,” Weydig said. “Climate change is an ever-present threat to our way of life and business operations, and we look forward to developing and implementing further solutions with all of our local and federal partners.”