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U.S. Risks Losing Vote in International Negotiations

The U.S.may lose its right to vote on international ship pollution standards because Congress has failed to implement a treaty setting limits on ship pollution. At risk is a vote in upcoming negotiations on stricter standards proposed by the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization.

House and Senate lawmakers are trying to resolve differences on legislation to implement the treaty, known as Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. The full Senate has not yet acted on it.

Margo Oge, director of EPA's Office of Transportation, says the treaty legislation is crucial because it would allow the EPA to implement new pollution standards for the largest and dirtiest of ocean-going ships. However, the EPA already has such authority under the Clean Air Act.

In fact, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to implement meaningful emissions standards for Category 3 vessels. Oge's statement is troubling in light of EPA's history of delay in complying with the Clean Air Act.

The original deadline under the Clean Air Act for setting emissions standards for ships was 1992. However EPA is currently fighting the latest in a series of lawsuits brought by Earthjustice to compel promulgation of these standards. Not wanting to go out ahead of the international community, the agency has invoked the ongoing international negotiations to justify its unjustifiable delay.

Now that they risk losing their voice in support of stricter international standards, is EPA teeing up its next argument for why it can't act domestically to clean up the air in coastal areas and port communities?

Tags:  Air

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