Shipping Industry Must Use Cleaner Fuel, Says Court

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jessica Lass at 310-434-2300 (main), 202-468-6718 (cell), jlass@nrdc.org

Shipping Industry Must Use Cleaner Fuel, Says Court

California Clean Air Regulations To Go Into Effect Today

SACRAMENTO - Starting today, California will require ocean-going vessels to
switch to progressively cleaner fuels despite a legal challenge mounted
by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA). Yesterday, the
Eastern District of California denied PMSA’s motion for summary
judgment, which if granted, would have derailed clean fuel rules
designed to significantly reduce toxic emissions from ships that visit
California’s ports. NRDC and Coalition for Clean Air are
defendant-intervenors in the lawsuit PMSA filed on April 27, 2009.

The
landmark low-sulfur fuel regulations adopted by the California Air
Resources Board begin implementation today with a second deadline on
January 1, 2012 to require that all ocean-going vessels entering
California ports switch to progressively cleaner fuels starting at 24
miles from California’s coast.

Air pollution produced by
ocean-going vessels exposes 80 percent of Californians to significant
cancer risk and is responsible for claiming the lives of thousands of
Californians annually and sickening hundreds of thousands across the
state, according to NRDC. In addition to health necessity, the fuel
rules are critical to meeting clean air requirements in California.
Without the regulations, it would be impossible for the South Coast Air
Basin to meet national ambient air quality standards for particulate
matter, as required under the Clean Air Act.

Following is a statement from Melissa Lin Perrella, Staff Attorney for NRDC:

“The
Court’s ruling is a victory for public health. Studies confirm offshore
diesel particulate pollution from ships is carried for miles inland and
we know from the billions we spend on healthcare-related costs
attributed to air pollution that those emissions find permanent homes
in our lungs. Our children, friends and families can no longer
subsidize use of this cheaper, toxic fuel with their lives. 

“Requiring
ships to use clean-burning fuel within 24 miles of our coast will save
3,500 lives during the next six years that would otherwise be cut short
by particulate pollution. Complying with these regulations will cost
less than one percent of a typical trans-Pacific voyage’s total cost
and will reduce diesel particulate emissions by nearly 75 percent.”

Background:

In
its lawsuit, PMSA argued that the Submerged Lands Act of 1953 precluded
California from regulating vessels beyond its territorial
boundaries. In denying PMSA’s motion, however, Judge Morrison C.
England, Jr. of the Eastern District of California concluded “There is
no indication in either the [Submerged Lands Act] itself, or within its
legislative history, to suggest that Congress intended the [Submerged
Lands Act] to prevent coastal states like California herein from
regulating offshore air pollution from ocean-going vessels . . . the
effects on California from ocean-going vessels pollution are both
substantial and beyond any reasonable doubt.” 

California
is the first state to adopt clean fuel requirements for ocean-going
vessels, requiring ships to switch to cleaner fuels within 24 miles of
the coast.  CARB adopted the rules at issue in July 2008.  This is the
second time PMSA challenged fuel requirements proposed by the
California Air Resources Board.

Ocean-going vessels are
very large and include large cargo vessels such as container vessels,
tankers, bulk carriers, and car carriers, as well as passenger cruise
vessels. The main engines on these vessels are as tall as a five story
building and weigh 1,500 tons; they produce enough energy to power
30,000 houses. Ocean-going vessels typically use low-grade “bunker
fuel.”  Such fuel contains an average of about 25,000 parts per million
(ppm) sulfur, as opposed to diesel fuel for trucks and other motor
vehicles, which is limited to 15 ppm sulfur.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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