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Air pollution protections under threat

Posted Oct. 16, 2009 / Posted by: RConnors

Great Lakes exemption could derail limits for ship pollution

For several years, Friends of the Earth and various other environmental groups, air regulators, and public health organizations have worked with the EPA to create an “Emission Control Area” that would dramatically reduce air pollution from large ships – pollution that is responsible for serious health impacts including premature death, lung cancer, heart attacks, and respiratory illness.

The EPA estimates that, by 2030, the establishment of this limit on ship pollution and related regulations will prevent up to 33,000 premature deaths, 1,500,000 work days lost, and 10,000,000 minor restricted activity days per year.

In March of 2009, the U.S. and Canadian governments, seeking the adoption of this special area, submitted a formal application to the International Maritime Organization.  The U.S./Canada proposal would cap the sulfur content in fuel for large ships in U.S. waters.  The EPA estimates that, by 2030, the establishment of this limit on ship pollution and related regulations will prevent up to 33,000 premature deaths, 1,500,000 work days lost, and 10,000,000 minor restricted activity days per year.  Further, the monetized benefits of the proposal could rise to $280 billion and outweigh costs by a factor of 30-90:1, making it one of the most cost-effective rules the EPA has ever released.  

However, the Lake Carriers’ Association wants to be exempted from EPA regulation so ships on the Great Lakes can continue burning bunker fuel, which is at least 1,000 times dirtier than on-road diesel.  An exemption would effectively turn the Great Lakes into a dirty fuel zone, pumping deadly ship pollution into the heart of the Midwest. Moreover, a Great Lakes exemption could potentially jeopardize adoption of the Emission Control Area – which includes air pollution standards for ships traveling along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts – since many countries within the International Maritime Organization would likely object to differing sets of standards for coastal and inland shipping.    

Friends of the Earth and over 70 other environmental and public health organizations from throughout the country recently sent letters to Congressman Dicks (D-WA) (pdf) and Senator Feinstein (D-CA) (pdf), who chair the relevant appropriation subcommittees, asking that they oppose any rider that will weaken, delay or limit the ability of the EPA to set regulations to reduce pollution from large ships. 

 

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