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North American zone established to limit air pollution from ships

Posted Mar. 26, 2010 / Posted by: John Kaltenstein

On March 26, 2010, an international body governing the shipping industry approved rules to limit harmful air pollution from ships in most U.S. and Canadian waters. The rules are expected to prevent millions of illnesses and 14,000 premature deaths by 2020. The rules will begin to take effect in 2012. By 2015, ships traveling within 200 miles of U.S. shores will be required to cut their air pollution by 80 percent or more.

Friends of the Earth spent ten years working to achieve these protections, beginning with a legal petition to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2000 to compel EPA to reduce health-harming air pollution from large ships. After years of legal battles, in 2009, EPA issued a rule requiring large ships registered in the U.S. to dramatically reduce air pollution. In 2009, EPA also submitted an application to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in conjunction with Canada, seeking an Emission Control Area for large ships along the North American coastline. As one of only a handful of environmental groups with formal observer status at the IMO, Friends of the Earth supported the application and successfully advocated for passage of the protective Emission Control Area.

The EPA estimates that by 2030, implementation of these limits on ship air pollution will prevent up to 31,000 premature deaths, 1.5 million work days lost, and more than 5 million cases of acute respiratory symptoms. Further, the health benefits could be worth $270 billion and outweigh costs by a factor of between 30:1 and 90:1, making it one of the most cost-effective regulatory endeavors ever undertaken by the EPA. The rules will also have the effect of preventing most ships from using dirty bunker fuel while traveling in protected U.S. waters.

While the rules will apply to heavy polluters such as container ships, oil tankers, and cruise ships, and force massive pollution reductions, they will not address greenhouse gas emissions or the severe problem of black carbon emissions. Friends of the Earth will continue to fight for additional regulations to address these threats.

News release

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