EPA Makes $3B National Announcement At Port Of Wilmington

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Feb 28, 2024
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan came to the Port of Wilmington on Wednesday to announce a nationwide $3 billion Clean Ports Program.

The program will help fund a shift to zero emissions equipment and infrastructure for the nation’s ports. Regan, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo spoke at the Wednesday morning press conference at the Port of Wilmington along with the chair of the N.C. State Ports Authority, Susan Rabon.

The initiative also funds air quality planning at U.S. ports, so those who live near the nation’s ports can breathe clean air, Regan said.

The $3 billion will be split between two initiatives. The first, the Zero-Emission Technology Deployment Competition, is a $2.8 million investment which aims to facilitate the transition to zero-emission equipment while reducing mobile sources emissions, Regan said.

The second piece of the investment, entitled the Climate and Air Quality Planning Competition, is $150 million available for climate and air quality planning activities to help build capacity for the ongoing transition to zero-emission port operations, he said.

There was no mention of how the nation’s ports would compete for the money, how it would be distributed or what the Port of Wilmington would do with its share of the $3 billion.

"The NC Ports team has been looking forward to the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) announcement for the Clean Ports Program with much anticipation," said Elly Cosgrove, N.C. Ports communications director. "Our team looks forward to reviewing these opportunities in the coming days. The NC Ports team was incredibly grateful to host EPA Administrator Michael Regan as he made this impactful announcement to fund zero-emission port equipment and infrastructure, along with climate and air quality planning, at U.S. ports. The application window is open now and will close in late May."

"Whenever we make these national announcements," Regan said, "we make them from a place where you have strong leadership, both at the state and local level. But also, it's evident here at this port that there is strong leadership and management and a great care in the type of workforce that's being developed here."

"We look for that magic recipe that we know will put forth very creative grant applications," he added. "Three billion dollars is a lot of money, so there is enough to go around. We're going to see strong applications from all across the country. And there is absolutely no better place to make an announcement like this than the state of North Carolina."

He also pointed to the work of Cooper and the rank North Carolina received as a No. 1 state for business. 

N.C. Ports had a record year in 2023, Cooper said, despite challenges from pandemic-era supply chain kinks. Cooper lauded the investments from the Biden Administration. Biden’s Investing in America agenda was front and center at the event, both figuratively and literally, as it hung on a large banner behind the speakers. The Clean Ports Project is a component of that agenda.

“We’ve become a clean energy epicenter in North Carolina,” Cooper said. “[We’re] going where the private markets are already going.”

One goal of the Clean Ports Program is to reduce the nation’s ports' dependency on diesel pollution in near-port communities, according to the EPA’s release.

“It looks like a good forecast to me,” Cooper said. “It’s exciting to have this announcement made in North Carolina.”
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