EPA Proposes to Slash Harmful Ship Emissions, Leaves Out Arctic Protections

Earthjustice statement


Sarah Burt, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6755

At a joint news conference with the Coast Guard and New Jersey elected official, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced today that the USA has became the first country to ask the International Maritime Organization to create an emissions control area (ECA) around the nation’s coastline.

According to the EPA’s press release:

“The creation of an ECA would save up to 8,300 American and Canadian lives every year by 2020 by imposing stricter standards on oil tankers and other large ships that spew harmful emissions into the air near coastal communities where tens of millions of Americans live, work, play and learn. The United States is proposing a 230-mile buffer zone around the nation’s coastline in order to provide air quality benefits as far inland as Kansas.”

However, EPA has not extended the protection of the buffer zone to Alaska’s Arctic waters. Earthjustice, on behalf of a coalition of environmental and indigenous organizations has asked EPA to amend the application to include this fragile marine ecosystem.

Sarah Burt, an attorney with Earthjustice’s international law program, said:

By initiating this process, EPA has taken an important step forward in protecting the health of port communities and the coastal environment from harmful ship pollution. However, by failing to include most of the waters off the coast of Alaska, EPA has left a gaping hole in the nation’s environmental and human health protections.

In addition to the impacts of ship pollution on human health and the environment, emissions from ocean-going vessels are important contributors to the accelerated global warming that is occurring in Alaska and throughout the Arctic.

Ship traffic and the resulting emissions of air pollutants in Alaskan waters are anticipated to rise dramatically in the near future as the melting of sea ice opens new shipping lanes from Asia to Europe and North America. It is essential that standards to limit the emissions of harmful pollutants from ocean-going vessels be in place to protect Alaskan communities and the environment before this increase in ship traffic occurs. It is unfathomable that EPA would take this strong action to protect US waters and omit the Alaskan Arctic from these protections.

Read the letter submitted on March 27 to EPA by Earthjustice on behalf of Alaska Wilderness League, Audubon Alaska, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), and with the support of Oceana and the Ocean Conservancy.

Facts about ship emissions.

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.