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Local leaders want big share of federal funds to fight port pollution

$100 million. That’s what local lawmakers are hoping to get from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to reduce pollution at the Port of San Diego and surrounding communities. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has the details.

Local lawmakers are hoping to get a big chunk of funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to reduce pollution.

Soon, $16 billion of the trillion-dollar Infrastructure and Jobs Act will be up for grabs for ports and waterways across the country.

That’s why Congressmen Juan Vargas and Scott Peters stood in front of the docks at Pepper Park in National City Friday, to announce their plan to bring in as much of that money as they can to make improvements to the Port of San Diego.

"The Bipartisan Infrastructure law is going to make a big impact right here in this district," said Vargas.


"The surge of goods moving through our outdated infrastructure is causing a strain on our ports and slowing the global supply chain," Peters said.

They plan to focus that money on reducing pollution that comes from the port and affects residents in Barrio Logan and National City, where most of the cancer- and asthma-causing particulates come from diesel fuel, according to the county’s Air Pollution Control District.

"If you live in Barrio Logan, if you live in National City you really care because your health depends on this in other words we have to make these ports much cleaner and that’s what that money allows us to do," said Vargas, who described a barge system to transport goods that are being looked at as a way to take trucks out of local streets.

Peters said one project they will seek funds for will be shore power systems that ships can plug into.

"These plugs allow vessels including cruise ships to turn off their diesel generators. If you see ships in ports that aren’t plugged in, they’re running diesel motors all the time day and night to make sure that they have power," he said. "Shore power systems dramatically reduce pollution that hurts our portside communities."


"The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a game-changer," National City Mayor Alejandra Solelo-Solis said.

She said projects like these are important and there are more in the works, including tracking where diesel trucks drive and emit harmful pollutants in order to make precise investments.

"These dollars are great but this is exactly where it goes and who it will impact," she said.

The plan will help modernize and clean up the port that generates almost $10 billion and one out of every 30 jobs to the county’s economy. They expect to get at least $100 million.

"The port is a great financial feature for this county and this community it produces a lot of money," Vargas said. "We just want it to be fair in the sense of not creating so much harm also in the sense of pollution,"