America’s Cup to put clean-air program on hold

America's CupBy 2014, cruise ships stopping in San Francisco will be required to plug in to cleaner shore-side power rather than running their diesel-burning/polluting engines. Several cruise lines have been preparing for the new requirement and are already up and running. But the $5 million clean-air program along the San Francisco waterfront will be temporarily halted to accommodate the prestigious America’s Cup regatta, prompting criticism from environmental advocates.

“With just one stroke of a pen, it’s gone,” said Teri Shore, program director at the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) reports the San Francisco Bay Guardian. While the shore-side power hookup is disabled, “The ships will be coming in and parking, and running their diesel engines” at other waterfront piers.

Smaller ships used in the regatta and operation of the regatta itself does not allow for use of plug-in technology, a sore spot with environmentalists. Fearing the impact of America’s Cup crowds and construction, several environmental organizations and a neighborhood group have joined together with a unified message.
“This is a real unusual team effort,”Deb Self, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper, a pollution watchdog told the San Francisco Business Times “At this point it’s kind of all hands on deck.”

Their concerns include the coordination and capacity of public transportation, keeping the bay free of pollutants when visiting boaters descend on the region, minimizing the effects of dredging on bay wildlife and protecting fragile habitats that line the waterfront.

The Port had already anticipated temporarily halting the shore-side power for a year during construction of a Pier 27 cruise terminal, Brad Benson of the Port of San Francisco told the Guardian. “Assuming there were no America’s Cup, it would already not be in operation … for approximately one year,” he explained. After a year of construction that will mark the first phase of the cruise terminal project, the 34th annual America’s Cup will move onto the site, he said. “As a result of the America’s Cup, shore-side power is not going to be available for one year.”

Benson said the port is starting to look at how it could offset the impacts, looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions that might make up for no shore-side power “I can’t tell you whether we could achieve the same level of emissions reductions that shore-side power would provide,” he said. “It’s very effective.”

It looks like this will be an issue to watch right along with the America’s Cup who this week announced Team Korea as a new entry to this prestigious event, with a press briefing at the spectacular Seoul Marina on the Han River in Seoul.

Only fifteen nations have ever entered the America’s Cup contest in its history, and Team Korea is the only new entry of the nine teams and eight countries involved this time. The 34th annual event brings the competition for the oldest trophy in international sport back to the United States for the first time in 18 years.

Flickr photo by Port of San Diego