Air quality in and around the Port of Baltimore is poor. The Baltimore area is designated a “nonattainment” area for ozone and leads the nation in asthma mortality; the American Lung Association gave Baltimore mostly failing grades in its latest “State of the Air” report card.
Mobile source emissions from ships, cars and especially trucks, are one of the major sources of pollution surrounding the Port of Baltimore. The residential neighborhoods of Curtis Bay and Brooklyn in South Baltimore suffer from unusually high mortality rates for heart disease, lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease (including asthma) – all conditions that have been linked to exposure to air pollution from both mobile and stationary sources. They also suffer higher poverty rates than other Baltimore communities, with 20 percent of families living below the poverty line, as compared to 12 percent for the rest of Baltimore City.
Port-related sources of air emissions are expected to increase in the coming years. An expanded Panama Canal is expected to open in 2015, and Baltimore is one of only two eastern U.S. ports with a main shipping channel that is more than 50 feet deep and thus able to accommodate the newest, largest ships that will travel through the Canal. While this anticipated growth is of course positive for the Maryland economy, without proper planning and appropriate adherence to existing environmental laws, it could significantly worsen already poor air quality in Baltimore City, particularly in the predominantly low-income communities that surround the port.
The Abell Foundation is supporting the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to work with the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) and neighboring port communities to help them improve port-related air quality in Baltimore. EDF is working with the MPA to identify and prioritize opportunities to reduce emissions and to develop the strategies necessary to implement them. EDF’s work is informed by its extensive experience working with ports around the country on environmental best management practices, and the expectation is that EDF’s partnership with the MPA will ultimately lead to reductions in port-related emissions in south Baltimore.