Thursday, July 02, 2009

EPA Proposes Stringent Standards for Ocean-Going Ships

Subscribers & Readers Note: WIMS will not be publishing tomorrow, Friday, July 3, 2009, which is the official Federal observance for the Fourth of July holiday. We will resume publishing on Monday, July 6, 2009.

Jul 1: U.S. EPA announced the its next steps in a coordinated strategy to "slash" harmful emissions from ocean-going vessels. EPA is proposing a rule under the Clean Air Act that sets tough engine and fuel standards for U.S. flagged ships that would harmonize with international standards and lead to significant air quality improvements throughout the country.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “These emissions are contributing to health, environmental and economic challenges for port communities and others that are miles inland. Building on our work to form an international agreement earlier this year, we’re taking the next steps to reduce significant amounts of harmful pollution from getting into the air we breathe. Lowering emissions from American ships will help safeguard our port communities, and demonstrate American leadership in protecting our health and the environment around the globe.”

The rule comes on the heels of a key part of EPA’s strategy, a proposal last March [
See WIMS 3/30/09] by the United States and Canada to designate thousands of miles of the two countries’ coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA). The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, begins consideration of the ECA plan this month, which would result in stringent standards for large ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coasts of Canada and the United States.

According to EPA, air pollution from large ships, such as oil tankers and cargo ships, is expected to grow rapidly in line with port traffic increases. By 2030, the domestic and international strategy is expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from large marine diesel engines by about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter (PM) emissions by about 143,000 tons. When fully implemented, the coordinated effort would reduce NOx emissions by 80 percent and PM emissions by 85 percent compared to current emissions.

The emission reductions from the proposed strategy would yield significant health and welfare benefits that would span beyond U.S. ports and coastlines, reaching inland areas. EPA estimates that in 2030, this effort would prevent between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths, 1.5 million work days lost, and 10 million minor restricted-activity days. The estimated annual health benefits in 2030 as a result of reduced air pollution are valued between $110 and $280 billion at an annual projected cost of approximately $3.1 billion -- as high as a 90-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio.

The proposed rulemaking is designed to reflect the IMO’s stringent ECA standards and broader worldwide program. The rule adds two new tiers of NOx standards and strengthens EPA’s existing diesel fuel program for these ships. It represents another milestone in EPA’s decade-long effort to reduce pollution from both new and existing diesel engines under the National Clean Diesel Campaign.

Environmental groups praised the action. Elena Craft, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Air Quality Specialist said, "Ships are floating smokestacks that deliver soot and smog straight to the heart of our most crowded coastal cities, home to 87 million Americans, so we are very pleased with this most recent action. Here in Houston for example, we urgently need improved clean air standards to protect the kids and families hard hit by pollution delivered by more than 8,000 vessels visiting our port every year."

In a related matter, beginning July 1, 2009, California will require ocean-going vessels to switch to progressively cleaner fuels despite a legal challenge mounted by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA). On Jun 30, the Eastern District of California denied PMSA’s motion for summary judgment, which if granted, would have derailed clean fuel rules designed to significantly reduce toxic emissions from ships that visit California’s ports. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Coalition for Clean Air are defendant-intervenors in the lawsuit PMSA filed on April 27, 2009.

The landmark low-sulfur fuel regulations adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) begin implementation with a second deadline on January 1, 2012 to require that all ocean-going vessels entering California ports switch to progressively cleaner fuels starting at 24 miles from California’s coast. Air pollution produced by ocean-going vessels exposes 80 percent of Californians to significant cancer risk and is responsible for claiming the lives of thousands of Californians annually and sickening hundreds of thousands across the state, according to NRDC.

NRDC explains that ocean-going vessels are very large and include large cargo vessels such as container vessels, tankers, bulk carriers, and car carriers, as well as passenger cruise vessels. The main engines on these vessels are as tall as a five story building and weigh 1,500 tons; they produce enough energy to power 30,000 houses. Ocean-going vessels typically use low-grade “bunker fuel.” Such fuel contains an average of about 25,000 parts per million (ppm) sulfur, as opposed to diesel fuel for trucks and other motor vehicles, which is limited to 15 ppm sulfur.

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access EPA's Ocean-Going Vessels website for extensive information on the proposed regulations (click here). Access the IMO website for additional information (click here). Access the EPA docket for this rulemaking for background documents and reviewing and submitting comments (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release on the CARB case from NRDC (click here).

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