2018/07 – “80 by 50”

The cornerstone of the PA’s environmental policy is a goal to reduce GHG emissions from facilities, tenants, and customers by 80 percent by 2050.

The Port Authority was founded a hundred years ago to coordinate travel between New York and New Jersey.  If it is to continue for the next hundred years, it must accept the challenge of climate change, and to coordinate the states’ transition to sustainable modes of transportation.

In 2008, it tried – resolving to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from PA facilities, tenants and customers 80 percent by 2050.1  But then the Agency gave up.

It would soon declare emissions of tenants and customers – 95% of total – to be beyond its “boundary of influence.” The PA even declined to inventory their emissions for years,2or to quantify their impact beyond its own facilities.3  That’s like Willie Sutton filing a 1040 and omitting “miscellaneous income.”

By 2015 we find total Agency emissions were unchanged from 2006.4  Had it adhered to its “80 by 50” regimen it would have achieved a reduction of 28%.5

A correlation has been established between the rise of temperatures and CO2 levels since the 1950s6.  So too the expansion of Port facilities and the growth of air and automotive travel across the region – which speaks to the PA’s wherewithal to influence tenants and customers.

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 7.39.27 PMNOAA.

The PA’s current Capital Plancontinues to invest heavily in its biggest GHG emitters–airports, terminals, bridges and tunnels, while underinvesting in systems that reduce emissions.

Proposals to expand PATH station capacity go largely unfunded.8   And potential emission reductions resulting from PATH extension to Newark Airport would be offset by the increase in air travel.9

Cycling, the most cost-effective means to reduce emissions, is categorically excluded.10  

In December 2015, PA Chairman Degnan declared environmental concerns “incidental” to the Agency’s transportation mission.11  His timing was unfortunate.  In 2016, greenhouse emissions from the transportationsector surpassed power generation for the first time since the 1970’s.

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 10.03.31 PM (1)U.S. Energy Information Agency.

But that hasn’t stopped the states from forging ahead. Both New York and New Jersey are signatories to the Transportation and Climate Initiative.12  The NJ Board of Public Utilities announced it would start work on an Energy Master Plan, which willinclude transportation.13 As may future iterations of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”).14

Over the coming decades, the states have committed to significantly realign their transportation priorities to meet their 80 by 50 obligations. So must the Port Authority if it is to remain a relevant player.

Neile Weissman, 2018


[1]  “On March 27, 2008, the (PA) Board of Commissioners expanded its environmental policy to include a sustainability component that explicitly addresses the problem of climate change and ensures that the Agency maintains an aggressive posture in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The cornerstone of the policy is a goal to reduce GHG emissions stemming from Port Authority facilities, tenants, and customers by 80 percent by 2050.Air Quality and Emissions Reductions, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/ycefpve4

[2] “Scope 3 emissions (tenants and customers) will be reported every five years. Scope 1 and 2 inventories (PA facilities) will continue on an annual basis.” 2010 GHG and CAG Inventory, Executive Summary P.x, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/yddtsrjz

[3] “[Use of] airplanes, up to 3,000 feet. (Automotive) emissions based on vehicle volume, the roadway length of each facility, and the vehicle hours of delay in toll lane queues.”, Boundaries for each Department in the GHG Emissions Inventory, 2007 GHG and CAG Inventory, P. 4, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/yd8yrsu8

[4] Total PA GHG emissions were 5.9 million metric tons in 2015 as compared to 5.8 million tons in the base year 2006. Air Quality and Emissions Reductions, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/ycefpve4

[5] To put the PA on target to reach its 80% target by 2050 of 1.2 million tons, it would have to reduce emissions by 3.6% per year.  Or to 4.2 million tons in 2015.  MoneychimpDiscount Rate, https://tinyurl.com/4ghj6 and Compound interest Calculators, https://tinyurl.com/46syn

[6] “The Keeling Curve plots the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since the 1950s, based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii that began under the supervision of Charles David Keeling. The most recent publicized measurement on May, 26, 2018 is 411.89 parts per million.” Wikipedia, https://tinyurl.com/yalroak3

[7] 2017-2026 PA Capital Plan, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/yckjvmvc

[8] Out of $32.2 billion, the PATH allocation is $4.3 billion.  Of that, $1.0 billion is Sandy Recovery funds and $1.7 billion is to extend access to Newark Airport, 2017-2026 PA Capital Plan

[9] The Need To Increase Travel Options to Newark Liberty International Airport., Path Extension Scoping Document, Section 2.5.3, 2017, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/y85xlvrn

[10] “[The Bicycle Master Plan’s] recommendations are wholly independent of the funding and prioritization decisions outlined in the agency’s Capital Plan.”, Bicycle Master Plan, 2017, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/ycnaac8k

[11] “The [Sustainability Report] itself in my mind confuses that core mission by elevating other matters to the status of objectives. In my mind sustainability has got to be incidental to be consistent with and foster the core mission.”, Chairman Degnan, 12/10/15 PA Board meeting, PANYNJ Videos, https://tinyurl.com/znlnpjq

[12] Declaration of Intent, Transportation & Climate Initiative, https://tinyurl.com/y87pm5fy

[13] BPU Goes Giddyap as Murphy Wants NJ on Fast Track to Clean Energy, NJSpotlight, https://tinyurl.com/y8uhpdz4

[14] In 2017, New Jersey announced its intentions to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which may ultimately include transportation., New Regional Initiative, RGGI for the Transportation Sector, NJSpotlight, https://tinyurl.com/y7kntyu5