U.S. and Canada Seek International Approval of Air Pollution Reduction Zone for Ships

U.S. and Canada Seek International Approval of Air Pollution Reduction Zone for Ships


John Kaltenstein, (831) 334-2470, [email protected]
Howard Breen, (250) 508-5818, [email protected]

U.S. and Canada Seek International Approval of Air Pollution Reduction Zone for Ships

Coastal Emission Control Area Would Be Boon to Public Health and the Environment; However Canadian and Alaskan Arctic Waters Not Included

Port Newark, N.J.—U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced today during a noon conference at Port Newark, New Jersey, its submission of an Emission Control Area application to the International Maritime Organization. If the application is successful, it would require steep pollution reductions from large ships in U.S. and Canadian coastal waters.

Toxic air pollution from ships is a major public health concern for U.S. and Canadian residents, especially those living near ports and heavily trafficked coastal corridors. In North America, approximately 8,800 people die annually from these harmful emissions, and these deaths and additional adverse health impacts will continue to rise if strong regulations, such as those proposed today, are not put in place. Ship emissions are a major reason more than 40 major U.S. ports are out of compliance with federal Clean Air Act requirements.

“Ships have escaped stringent regulation, while landside emission sources such as trucks have faced increasingly strict controls,” said John Kaltenstein, Clean Vessels Campaign Manager at Friends of the Earth. “Large ships in the United States were responsible for over a million tons of pollutants in 2007 and, if no changes are made, will produce nearly four million tons of air pollution in 2030. The protections proposed today are absolutely crucial to protect millions of residents against debilitating illnesses and premature death.”

If established, this Emission Control Area will force large ships frequenting U.S. and Canadian ports to use progressively cleaner fuel. Presently most ships burn dirty bunker fuel to generate power. This viscous, asphalt-like substance is high in sulfur and heavy metals. The Emission Control Area would reduce sulfur oxides and particulate matter from large ships by 86 percent and 74 percent, respectively. A decrease in sulfur content would reduce harmful particulate matter pollution known to cause respiratory ailments, cancer, heart conditions, and premature mortality, as well as sulfur oxide emissions, which lead to haze and acid rain.

“This joint request is an important signal of cooperation between Canada and the United States in the interest of protecting public health and the environment from shipping emissions. However, it is a starting point—not an end point. Ships are currently burning fuel 1800 times dirtier than diesel trucks and the Emission Control Area would achieve a sulphur reduction to 0.1 percent—still 66 times dirtier than ultra low diesel,” said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada. “We want continuous reductions as well as details on enforcement plans by authorities.”

“Despite this laudable step by the United States and Canada, waters of the Aleutian Islands, Western Alaska, and the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic should have been included in this joint application for environmental and public health reasons. We continue to support their near-term inclusion and look forward to working with both governments on this important issue,” said Kaltenstein.

The application can be viewed at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/oceanvessels.htm#emissioncontrol.


Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org) is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

Friends of the Earth Canada (www.foecanada.org) is the Canadian voice for the world’s largest grassroots environmental network working nationally and internationally since 1978 to inspire the renewal of communities and the earth.