Air Pollution from Ocean Vessels to Continue

Groups had sued for real controls on belching ships


Laura Robb or Martin Wagner, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700
Teri Shore, Bluewater Network, (415) 544-0790, ext. 20

This week, a federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge from environmental groups seeking to strengthen air pollution controls from large domestic and foreign ocean-going vessels.

The DC Court of Appeals ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency may delay coming up with a standard for U.S. marine vessels to meet existing international standards until 2007.

“We are very disappointed in this decision and worried about the long-term effects which will result as international shipping increases,” said Laura Robb, an attorney for Earthjustice who represented Bluewater. “Cargo ships emit far more deadly pollution than diesel trucks or cars. This decision grants ship emissions to pollute our seaside communities and will thwart attempts to protect local residents.” A single cargo ship produces as much pollution in one hour as 350,000 cars.

“This poor decision means ports will remain EPA-free zones for big polluters for years to come,” said Teri Shore of Bluewater Network. “It’s a travesty for anyone who must breathe the dirty air from these ship smokestacks.”

Earthjustice attorneys representing Bluewater Network had argued that the Clean Air Act requires EPA to force stringent emission control technologies as soon as possible for both domestic and foreign vessels operating in U.S. waters.

The agency had approved the long-overdue marine rule for large and mid-sized vessels in 2003, after settling a suit by the conservation groups for failing to regulate emissions from these vessels. The first phase of the EPA rule calls for an 11 percent cut in nitrogen oxide emissions from current levels, the same standard adopted by the United Nations International Marine Organization.

According to EPA’s own figures, both mid-size and large marine vessels are a significant source of ground-level ozone precursors, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter. For some large ports such as Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and Corpus Christi, Texas, ships are believed to be major contributors to air pollution problems.

Pollution from cargo ships and other commercial vessels will increase more than fourfold in the next two decades due to expansion of global trade according to a new report by Environmental Defense entitled Smog Alert: How Commercial Shipping is Polluting Our Air. (PDF file)

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