Wednesday, October 7, 2009

EPA seeks emission control status for US waters

In March 2010, the International Maritime Organization is scheduled to vote on whether to designate US coastal waters as an Emission Control Area (ECA) under international law.

The designation would regulate the fuel type burned by oil tankers and other ocean vessels. Container ships, tankers, and other large vessels that dock at US port cities burn low-grade residual fuel.

The US Environmental Protection Agency applied for an ECA in an effort to reduce air pollution from ships. The application was a joint US-Canadian proposal that the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Commission favorably received at a London meeting.

The Environmental Defense Fund supports the EPA’s request, saying the ECA designation will help ensure federal air-quality standards around US ports.

“Ships are floating smokestacks that deliver soot and smog straight to the heart of our most crowded coastal cities, home to 87 million Americans,” said Elena Craft, air quality specialist with the EDF in Houston. An ECA could help reduce air pollution from ships, she said.

Ocean vessels account for about 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution, EDF said in a report it released earlier this year. The EPA applied for a designation under international law because government officials estimate foreign-flagged vessels account for the majority of the ship calls on US ports.

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