Can Utah’s inland port magically clean our air?

There was a great op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune last week by one of UPHE’s members. Malin Moench calls out blatant lies propagated by the Port Authority that the Inland Port will benefit our air quality. The op-ed calls out three major misnomers:

“First, port boosters say the port would not bring more diesel traffic into Salt Lake, it would merely shift existing diesel traffic from truck to rail. Yet they also say the port would drive ‘economies of scale,’ make us the West’s ‘leading trade and logistics hub,’ and add $1.2 billion annually to Utah’s GDP. Clearly, the port intends to attract more freight [and that means more pollution] not just change how that freight arrives.

“Second, boosters explain that the port will ‘transload’ (meaning merge) every three international containers arriving in Salt Lake by rail into two larger domestic containers before they are trucked to their destination. This, they say, will cut truck trips and their associated pollution by a third. Salt Lake’s existing intermodal yard can do this now, but it rarely does, because it provides no net benefit to the shipper.

“Third, port boosters brag that shifting freight from truck to rail reduces CO2 emissions by 75%. This, however, does nothing to cut emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and fine soot. These emissions, not CO2, cause the familiar brown pall over our valley and reduce the lifespans of its residents by an average of two years.

It’s been estimated that at only half of it’s proposed capacity, the Inland Port will bring in 11,600 new truck trips and 23,000 additional car trips. This doesn’t account for satellite ports that will pop up around our state, further increasing traffic and emissions. Aside from the increased vehicle trips, new rail lines are already being proposed for a satellite port. We also know that railroads like Union Pacific use the dirtiest available locomotives in Utah. The Inland Port’s claims that they won’t worsen Utah’s air quality are completely fabricated. Utah needs, and deserves clean air, and not polluting projects that completely deteriorate not only our air, but our quality of life. 

Read the whole article to better understand why the claim that the port will clean up our air is false.