Larsen, Payne: Investment in green ferries steers U.S. toward cleaner transportation future

  • Tue May 25th, 2021 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by Rep. Rick Larsen’s office

The week of May 21, Reps. Rick Larsen (WA-02) and Donald Payne (NJ-10) introduced legislation to make it easier for ferry systems to invest in cleaner and greener ferries and combat climate change. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Environmental Enhancement through New Ferries Act (GREEN Ferries Act) amends the Federal Transit Administration’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program to encourage the use of federal funds for the purchase of low- and no-emission ferry vessels and construction of related infrastructure.

Switching to newer low- and no-emission passenger ferry vehicles will help state and local ferry systems save money, combat climate change and protect endangered marine wildlife. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector accounted for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide in 2019; ferries account for 73 percent of Washington state’s annual carbon emissions. Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry system in the U.S., estimates its transition to an all-electric ferry fleet will eliminate nearly 180,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually. Because modern ferries are quieter, the transition to low- and no-emission ferries benefits marine life, particularly endangered marine mammals like Southern Resident killer whales that rely on hearing for communicating and feeding.

“In the Pacific Northwest, ferries are a necessity, not a luxury,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “States like Washington and localities across the country are ready to make the commitment to cleaner and greener passenger ferry fleets, but still need robust federal investment to support their efforts. I will continue to champion a bold, FDR-like investment in low- and no-emission ferries and the overall transit system to create well-paying jobs, drive economic recovery and combat climate change.”

“This bill will help lower emissions in our passenger ferries and create a more sustainable way to travel,” said Payne, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I am proud to support actions that clean the air and protect our environment.”

Several local Washington state legislators voiced their support for the GREEN Ferries Act.

“As we continue to address the climate crisis that threatens Washington, we cannot move forward without making fundamental changes to our transportation sector,” said State Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes). “Ferry electrification is an important step towards protecting the Salish Sea and all of the species that live in and depend on it. On top of a reduction in harmful emissions, this legislation would also reduce noise in the seas – an important factor for our Southern Resident Orcas and other marine species health.”

“Ferries are vital to the economy and quality of life in the Puget Sound region,” said State Rep. Dave Paul (D-Oak Harbor). “Over the next 20 years, Washington will need to replace 13 ferries and build three new ones. These will need to be hybrid-electric ferries, which will help to significantly reduce carbon emissions and better protect the iconic and endangered Orca whales. Washington state is making significant investments in these ferries, but we need federal help to fully implement hybrid-electric ferries in our region. Thank you to Rep. Larsen and the Washington delegation for their work to improve transportation infrastructure in our state and nation.”

“In order to combat climate change and meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, we must support the electrification and decarbonization of our transportation sector, including investments in ferry systems,” said State Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow). “It has been an honor to work with my colleagues at the local, state, and federal levels to help meet the future needs of our transportation system and infrastructure. A huge thank you to Congressman Larsen and our entire Washington State Congressional delegation for taking the necessary steps to bring federal dollars home to modernize and electrify our fleet.”

“Investing in our marine transportation infrastructure – especially the steady electrification of our ferry system – will be a win for taxpayers thanks to reduced maintenance and operations costs, a win for the Southern Resident orcas thanks to quieter engines, a win for island and coastal communities as we improve the reliability of our system, and a win for our climate thanks to Washington’s increasingly clean electric grid. I applaud Congressman Larsen’s leadership in support of this important priority,” said State Rep. Alex Ramel (D-Bellingham).

For the text of the GREEN Ferries Act, visit