Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy

Through early 2021, The Northwest Seaport Alliance, Port of Seattle, Port of Tacoma, and Port of Vancouver, British Columbia, are renewing the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy (NWPCAS), setting the direction for their air quality and sustainability programs for the next 10 years and beyond.

The new 2020 NWPCAS is an opportunity for ports to align emission reduction strategies with current policy, including the ports’ response to the Paris climate accord, align with current technology trends, increase stakeholder involvement, increase visibility and clarity around how emission reduction projects are prioritized, and improve flexibility in achieving performance-based targets.

What is the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy?

The NWPCAS is a collaboration between The Northwest Seaport Alliance and the ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Vancouver, British Columbia, to voluntarily reduce seaport-related emissions that contribute to air pollution in the shared Puget Sound-Georgia Basin Airshed as well as climate change.

The NWPCAS was first developed in 2007 and updated in 2013 in partnership with U.S. and Canadian government agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Metro Vancouver, Province of British Columbia, Transport Canada, and Environment Canada.

The NWPCAS has provided a mechanism to ensure that through partnered action, environmental performance is not compromised, but driven forward over and above competing interests.

Scope of the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy

Map of emissions inventory boundary.

The NWPCAS seeks to reduce emissions from key operational sectors including:

  • Ocean-going vessels
  • Drayage trucks
  • Cargo-handling equipment
  • Rail
  • Harbor vessels
  • Port admin and facilities

Operations within the “airshed” boundary are considered, with the U.S. ports focused on activities south of the border. A map of the airshed boundary on the right, the green shaded area is the U.S.-ports area of influence.

To date, the NWPCAS has focused on diesel particulate matter (DPM), the key driver of air pollution related impacts in the Puget Sound region, and greenhouse gasses (GHGs). In the new NWPCAS, the ports plan to place increased focus on other air pollutants and other emissions that affect climate such as nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and black carbon, while maintaining focus on DPM and GHGs.

Past versions of the NWPCAS have set sector specific as well as overarching emission intensity targets (emissions per ton of cargo moved). The emission intensity targets are as follows:

  • Reduce diesel particulate matter emissions per ton of cargo moved by 80% by 2020 relative to 2005 levels.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions per ton of cargo moved by 15% by 2020 relative to 2005 levels.


Clean air chart

Since implementation of the NWPCAS began in 2008, substantial progress has been made toward the strategy goals. Progress has been documented in the Implementation Reports on the sidebar of this page.

As of the 2015-2016 emission inventories, the four port entities had collectively met the 2020 emission intensity targets, as shown in the graph below. The U.S. ports estimate their emissions every five years in an effort called the Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory.

NWPCAS renewal outcomes

The NWPCAS renewal is an opportunity to reflect on past successes and challenges and form a new and relevant strategy that accounts for changing technology, policies, and priorities.

  • Establish a long-term vision
  • Craft a common set of guiding principles
  • Explore the technology shifts necessary to achieve the long-term vision and maximizing emission reductions in the interim
  • Develop strategies and actions to achieve the vision
  • Create a reporting and communication framework for tracking and reporting progress

Timeline and stakeholder engagement

The NWPCAS renewal is scheduled to be completed in early 2021. There will be three rounds of stakeholder engagement throughout the process, as shown below, with the first occurring in July 2019.

The U.S. ports have assembled a robust group of industry, community, government, and environmental group stakeholders to form a “stakeholder committee”, who will review the strategy progress and content at each phase.

Round Time frame Focus
1 July 2019
  • Vision

  • Guiding principles

  • Preliminary sector technology shifts

2 Spring-Summer 2020
  • Detailed sector technology shifts

  • Draft strategies and actions ports will take to facilitate emission reductions

  • Progress reporting

3 Fall 2020
  • Full draft 2020 strategy