Ship Shape: Cleaner Ships Save Lives!

Ship Shape: Cleaner Ships Save Lives!

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Smoking ShipNine years and two court battles after Friends of the Earth first demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) craft more protective air pollution limits for large ships, the agency announced proposed cleaner air pollution standards for ocean-going vessels last week. The rules would reduce harmful pollutants by 80 percent or more by 2030, preventing between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths.

In 2000, Bluewater Network (at that time a project within the Earth Island Institute, and now part of Friends of the Earth) filed a lawsuit stating that the EPA had failed to regulate harmful air pollutants from large ships with diesel engines in violation of the Clean Air Act.

In response, the EPA agreed to publish a rule proposing improved air pollution controls by 2003. Unfortunately, the EPA’s 2003 rule was only a partial measure, stating that it would wait four years to set comprehensive standards. As a result, Friends of the Earth twice filed suit to require action from the EPA — most recently in 2007, when EPA again failed to meet its own delayed deadline.

Thankfully, the EPA under the Obama Administration has finally proposed a rule that will protect the health of thousands of people suffering from exposure to harmful ship emissions. The EPA’s rule, when finalized, will result in significant benefits to public health and the environment and prevent thousands of premature deaths.

Friends of the Earth urges the EPA to take an even stronger step towards improved public health and regulate both the harmful particulate matter from ships as well as foreign-flagged vessels (90 percent of ships calling on U.S. ports are foreign-flagged) rather than rely solely on international law.

Read our media release. Read about the EPA’s proposal.