Oceans & Forests Blog

Nine-Year Legal Fight Culminates in EPA Proposal to Reduce Air Pollution from Ships

Posted Jul. 2, 2009 / Posted by: NBerning

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 2, 2009 CONTACT: Danielle Fugere, 415-544-0790 ext. 215 Nick Berning, 202-222-0748

Friends of the Earth and Earthjustice welcome the rule, which resulted from a petition filed in 2000

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nine years after Friends of the Earth filed a petition requesting more protective air pollution limits on large ships, and after two court battles in which Earthjustice represented Friends of the Earth, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed air pollution standards yesterday for ships. The rules would reduce harmful pollutants by 80 percent or more by 2030, preventing between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths. “The EPA under the Obama administration has finally taken long-overdue action to reduce deadly air pollution from ships,” said Danielle Fugere of Friends of the Earth. “We welcome this action by EPA, and will remain vigilant to ensure that all ships operating in all US waters, including the American Arctic, are held to this new standard to protect the health of coastal communities and reduce emissions of global warming pollutants,” added Martin Wagner of Earthjustice. This rule, when finalized, will provide public health and environmental benefits. Significantly, the rule applies only to smog-forming emissions from U.S. flagged ships, which make up just 10 percent of the vessels plying our waters. The proposed rule relies on a separate internationally sanctioned procedure, called an Emission Control Area, to regulate foreign-flagged ships. The ECA, which was proposed by the U.S. to protect air quality from all ships using U.S. waters, is moving through the International Maritime Organization’s regulatory approval process, but has not yet been adopted. Under the proposed rule, particulate emissions from ships are also supposed to be addressed solely through this international mechanism. “If the international protections are not approved quickly, we will look to EPA for immediate action to regulate foreign-flagged ships, which create the bulk of air pollution impacting U.S. citizens,” said Fugere. The proposed standards are in response to a petition filed in 2000 by Bluewater Network (at that time a project within the Earth Island Institute, and now part of Friends of the Earth). The petition alleged that EPA failed to regulate harmful air pollutants from large ships with diesel engines, including foreign-flagged vessels, in violation of the Clean Air Act. In response, the EPA agreed to publish a rule proposing improved air pollution controls by 2003. Unfortunately, in 2003 EPA issued a partial rule, stating that in 2007 it would set comprehensive standards. Friends of the Earth twice filed suit to require action from EPA, most recently in 2007 when EPA again failed to meet its own deadline. Earthjustice represented Friends of the Earth in the legal proceedings.

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