EPA is proposing a rule under the Clean Air Act that sets engine and fuel standards for U.S.-flagged ships that aim to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions 80 percent below the current levels. NOx is a precursor of ozone, a significant air pollutant as well as a strong climate warming agent.
"EPA is finally recognizing that it's time to regulate the massive amounts of air pollution ships produce," said Jacqueline Savitz, Senior Campaign Director for Oceana. "Next they need to deal with carbon dioxide and other global warming pollution from ships because climate change is happening now, and we simply have no time to waste," she added.
While this proposed rule is an important first step, it addresses only some of many pollutants from ocean-going vessels that harm human health and contribute to global warming. The rule fails to address emissions of global warming pollutants such as CO2 and black carbon from Category 3 engines. Nor does it apply to the existing polluting shipping fleet.
Later this month the International Maritime Organization will begin consideration of an EPA-proposed North American Emissions Control Area (ECA), which would apply the same NOx and fuel standards to the foreign-flagged vessels operating in all U.S. waters except those of the American Arctic. The groups urge EPA to include the Arctic in its proposed Emissions Control Area, so that the proposed NOx standards will also protect the health of vulnerable Alaskan populations and reduce emissions of a critical global warming pollutant, tropospheric ozone.
Reducing emissions of short-lived climate forcing agents like tropospheric ozone and black carbon is widely considered to be among the most effective strategies for slowing Arctic and global warming in the near term and for averting the worst projected consequences of Arctic warming, such as the melting of sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet, sea level rise, and permafrost melt resulting in release of carbon dioxide and methane.
EPA's strategy highlights the importance of the ECA as part of an integrated approach to protecting air quality from ship emissions. If the International Maritime Organization does not approve the North American ECA, EPA will need to move forward quickly to limit pollution from foreign ships under the Clean Air Act.
"We will remain vigilant to ensure that foreign flagged ships operating in US waters, including the American Arctic, are held to this new standard to protect the health of coastal communities and reduce emissions of global warming pollutants," added Martin Wagner of Earthjustice.
Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Friends of the Earth in 2007 asking the agency to address PM as well as NOx from large marine vessels. EPA had initially agreed to propose such standards in 2007, but subsequently moved that deadline to December 2009. Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity have also petitioned EPA to enact rules under the Clean Air Act to address the emissions of global warming pollutants from ships including CO2 and black carbon, and urge EPA to do so expeditiously.