U.S. Wants Emissions Control Area to Halt Ship Air Pollution

The United States has asked the International Maritime Organization to create an emissions control area (ECA) around the nation's coastline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on March 30 at a joint news conference with the Coast Guard and New Jersey elected officials.

According to EPA data, 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 release harmful emissions into the air near coastal communities. 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.

"This is an important – and long overdue – step in our efforts to protect the air and water along our shores, and the health of the people in our coastal communities," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We want to ensure the economic strength of our port cities at the same time that we take responsible steps to protect public health and the environment in the United States and across the globe."

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, "We have known for a long time that our families that live around ports have a higher rate of respiratory illness, including cancer. EPA's announcement today is music to my ears because it means the United States is stepping forward to take a strong leadership role on clean air around ports."

Under this program, large ships such as oil tankers and cargo ships that operate in ECAs will face stricter emissions standards. These standards will cut sulfur in fuel by 98 percent, particulate matter emissions by 85 percent, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent from the current global requirements. To achieve these reductions, ships must use fuel with no more than 1,000 parts per million sulfur beginning in 2015, and new ships must used advanced emission control technologies beginning in 2016.

Ocean-going vessels, which are primarily foreign owned and operated, dock at more than 100 U.S. ports, more than 40 of which are in metropolitan areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards.

EPA led the U.S. effort to develop the proposal in coordination with federal partners such as the Coast Guard, State Department, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Canada joined the United States as a co-proposer on the ECA proposal, advancing a strategy for a coordinated geographic emissions control program.

The proposal, submitted to the IMO on March 27, is one part of a comprehensive EPA program to address harmful emissions from ocean-going vessels under the National Clean Diesel Campaign and the Clean Ports Program. Other elements include adoption of a Clean Air Act rulemaking process, which EPA plans to finalize this year.

The IMO, a United Nations agency, will begin reviewing the proposal in July. Approval of the proposal could occur as soon as next year.

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/otaq/oceanvessels.htm.

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