In order to cut harmful emissions from maritime vessels, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the next steps of its coordinated effort on Wednesday. The steps include creating a rule under the Clean Air Act that would establish tough engine and fuel standards for U.S. flagged ships. The proposed rule would harmonize with international standards and lead to improved air quality throughout the country.
The new proposal follows a proposal made between the United States and Canada in March that would set aside thousands of miles of coast between the two countries as an Emission Control Area (ECA). The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, will begin review of the ECA plan this month. The passage of the ECA plan would result in the enforcement of stringent standards placed on large ships that operate within 200 nautical miles of U.S. or Canadian coasts.
“These emissions are contributing to health, environmental and economic challenges for port communities and others that are miles inland. Building on our work to form an international agreement earlier this year, we’re taking the next steps to reduce significant amounts of harmful pollution from getting into the air we breathe,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
“Lowering emissions from American ships will help safeguard our port communities, and demonstrate American leadership in protecting our health and the environment around the globe.”
With a push for freer trade comes an increase in maritime traffic. Air pollution from large ships, such as cargo ships, is expected to increase with traffic. It is the anticipation of such increases that has spurred the current proposals.
By 2030, the domestic and international strategy is expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from large marine diesel engines by about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter (PM) emissions by about 143,000 tons. And with coordinated international efforts, it is hoped that NOx emissions would be reduced by 80 percent and PM emissions by 85 percent compared to current emissions. The new standards would also reduce the amount of sulfur in ships’ fuels by 96 percent.
To achieve these reductions, ships must use fuel with no more than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) sulfur beginning in 2015, and new ships will have to use advanced emission control technologies beginning in 2016.
With such a rate of reduction, the EPA estimates that the impacts would stretch far beyond the U.S. ports and coastlines. Benefits, including health and overall welfare, are estimated to come in a multitude of ways, including the prevention of between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths, 1.5 million work days lost, and 10 million minor restricted-activity days by the year 2030. These health benefits are valued between $110 and $280 billion at an annual projected cost of approximately $3.1 billion – as high as a 90-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio.
This proposition is part of the EPA’s decade-long effort to reduce pollution in both new and existing diesel engines.
The proposal comes at a time when the WTO and the UN are attempting to create a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing global trade. And the estimated reductions in emissions are definitely a part of the solution.
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