Clean Ports Program: Top 15 Takeaways

On February 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released two notices of funding opportunity (NOFOs) for the Clean Ports Program. This program awards funding to ports and other eligible applicants for climate and air quality planning and deployment of zero-emission technologies, including electric port equipment, vehicles, and charging infrastructure.  

Houston, United States - December 10, 2018:  A line of cargo container and tanker ships sailing across Trinity Bay from the Gulf of Mexico making way for the Port of Houston or the various refineries located north along the San Jacinto Bay or the Buffalo Bayou.  The image was shot from an altitude of about 2000 feet.

Complementary to other port funding opportunities including Marine Administration’s Port Infrastructure Development Program and the Federal Highway Administration’s Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities program and other programs, the Clean Ports Program investments aim to catalyze transformational change to create clean, efficient and resilient ports of the future. 

The Electrification Coalition’s (EC) key takeaways from the NOFOs include:  
    1. Funding disbursement: A total of $3 billion will be awarded in a single funding round through the Zero-Emission Technology Deployment Competition and the Climate and Air Quality Planning Competition NOFOs. Eligible entities are allowed and encouraged to apply to both competitions. Two percent of the total funding is set aside for administrative costs.  
    2. Key dates:  
      • NOFOs open: February 28, 2024 
      • Public webinar: March 13, 2024 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m ET
      • Notice of intent to apply deadline (optional): March 28, 2024 
      • Final date to submit questions: May 6, 2024 
      • Application deadline: May 28, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. ET 
      • Anticipated notification of selection: August to September 2024
      • Anticipated awards: December 2024
    3. Programmatic priorities: The EPA highlights three priorities applicants should address in their applications: environmental justice and disadvantaged communities, port transformation and pollution reduction, and nonattainment areas. As part of the Justice 40 Initiative, 40 percent of the overall benefits of the funding must flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.  
    4. Eligible applicants: Eligible entities include port authorities; state, regional, local, or tribal agencies with jurisdiction over a port authority or a port; air pollution control agency; and private entities. Note that a private entity must apply for a grant in partnership with one of the other eligible applicants listed and must own, operate, or use the facilities, cargo-handling equipment, transportation equipment, or related technology of a port. Eligible ports include both water ports, such as seaports and inland river ports, and dry ports, such as intermodal yards.  
    5. Community engagement: Applicants who describe how they have engaged with the community prior to application and the quality and extent of community during the application will be evaluated more favorably.  
Zero-Emission Technology Deployment Competition 
    1. Funding: The EPA anticipates awarding 32 to 90 grants or cooperative agreements, up to a total of $2.79 billion, through the Zero-Emission Technology Deployment Competition. These awards will fall into three tiers:
      • Tier A (water ports only): Projects between $150 million and $500 million 
      • Tier B (water or dry ports): Projects less than $150 million 
      • Tier C (water or dry ports): Tribal applicants
        The EPA anticipates awarding a maximum of $250 million total to projects at dry ports.  
    2. Eligible projects: Eligible port equipment under this program is limited to battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell technologies and their supporting infrastructure, as well as zero-emission technology deployment support activities. A full breakdown of eligible projects can be found on pages 6 and 7 of the NOFO. 
      • Eligible zero-emission equipment includes cargo handling equipment, drayage trucks, locomotives and railcar movers, and harbor craft and other vessels.  
      • Eligible zero-emission infrastructure includes the purchase and installation of charging and hydrogen-fueling infrastructure, as well as battery storage and shore power. Electric charging infrastructure must be located at or behind the meter.  
      • Eligible deployment support activities include project performance monitoring and workforce training, for example.  
    3. Ineligible activities: The EPA has included a list of ineligible costs or activities that, if included in an application, may result in an applicant’s entire Zero-Emission Technology Deployment Competition application being ineligible for funding. A full list of ineligible activities can be found on pages 22-25 of the NOFO. A few notable ineligible activities include cargo handling equipment where less than 90% of the annual usage takes place at the port, drayage trucks with fewer than 100 visits per year to the port, equipment or infrastructure that is not human-operated or human-maintained, infrastructure not located on-site or in close proximity to the port (excluding infrastructure for drayage trucks and locomotives), and feasibility assessments of zero-emission technologies. 
    4. Cost-share: Projects are subject to a mandatory cost-share requirement according to the application tier: 
        • Tier A: 20% of total project cost 
        • Tier B: 10% of total project cost 
        • Tier C: 0% of total project cost
          Applicants in the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will have up to $5 million of their mandatory cost share requirement waived. 
    5. Build America, Buy America requirements: All recipients must comply with Build America, Buy America requirements, as must all subawards and contracts at any tier. The EPA has identified certain products that may not be available from domestic manufacturers and will publish a draft waiver, seek public comment, and finalize the waiver prior to the application closing date. 
    6. Infrastructure costs: There is no cost cap on charging or hydrogen fueling infrastructure installed to serve equipment purchased as part of an applicant’s grant award. However, the EPA will evaluate proposals that limit zero-emission support activities, charging and fueling infrastructure (excluding shore power), and administrative activities to no more than 50% of program funds more favorably. 
Climate and Air Quality Planning Competition 
      1. Funding: The EPA anticipates awarding 50 to 70 grants or cooperative agreements, up to $150 million total, through the Climate and Air Quality Planning Competition. The amount of federal funding requested per application must be at least $200,000 and must not exceed $3,000,000. To ensure diversity of port types in the award pool, the EPA plans to grant the following: 
        • At least ten planning awards for projects at small water ports, defined as one from which the average annual tonnage of cargo is less than 8,000,000 short tons.  
        • At least one planning award per each of the EPA’s ten regions.  
        • At least two planning awards to Tribal applicants. 
      2. Eligible projects: The competition is designed to fund climate and air quality planning activities focused on one or more ports and within the following categories: 
        • Emissions inventory and accounting exercise 
        • Strategy analysis and goal-settling 
        • Stakeholder collaboration and communication 
        • Resilience planning
          Applicants are required to include one or more emission inventory and accounting exercises (Activity 1) and are encouraged, but not required, to include Activities 2-4 in their application.  
      3. Cost share: There are no cost share requirements included in the Climate and Air Quality Planning Competition.  
      4. Ineligible activities: The EPA has included a list of ineligible tasks or activities that, if included in an application, may result in an applicant’s entire Climate and Air Quality Planning Competition application being ineligible for funding. A full list of ineligible activities can be found on pages 17 and 18 of the NOFO. Example activities include those that are not focused on one or more ports, emission reduction planning exercises that do not include vehicles, vessels, and other mobile source port equipment, the development of an environmental justice (EJ) mapping tool, vulnerability assessments not related to impacts from extreme weather or other climate-related events, resiliency measure implementation, and emissions reduction strategy implementation.  


To learn more about the Electrification Coalition’s port initiative, opportunities for partnership, and the recently launched Port Electrification Network (PEN), contact 

Amy Malaki

Amy Malaki is the head of policy and sustainability at SkyNRG and SkyNRG Americas, pioneering global leaders in sustainable aviation fuel production and supply. Prior to SkyNRG, Amy was the associate director for the transportation portfolio at the ClimateWorks Foundation where she developed philanthropic investment strategies to advance a sustainable, equitable and low-carbon mobility system. She also pioneered the organization’s international aviation decarbonization strategy. Prior to that she focused on Asia business development at Better Place, a Silicon Valley electric vehicle network startup. She has a B.A. in Chinese and China studies from the University of Washington and an M.A. in international policy studies (energy and environment) from Stanford University.