Landmark Clean Air Rules Set for Ships
Friends of the Earth calls new limits on air pollution from ships a major victory—the result of more than ten years of advocacy
Rules will effectively ban the use of dirty bunker fuel on most ships in U.S. waters
LONDON, U.K.—Today, the international body governing the shipping industry approved rules to limit air pollution from ships in most U.S. and Canadian waters. The rules are expected to prevent millions of illnesses and 14,000 premature deaths by 2020.
Friends of the Earth had spent ten years working to put these protections in place, beginning with a legal challenge initiated in 2000 to a U.S. EPA rule in that ultimately contributed to today’s action. The environmental group praised today’s move, calling it a major victory.
The rules adopted today will begin to take effect in 2012, and by 2015, they will require harmful air pollution from ships in a low-pollution zone known as an Emission Control Area to decline by 80 percent or more.Friends of the Earth precipitated this extraordinary action not only by its initial legal challenge in 2000, but also by successive lawsuits in 2003 and 2007 to force the EPA to dramatically reduce air pollution from ships.
Following action by the EPA, the U.S. and Canadian governments submitted a formal application to the International Maritime Organization (the body that acted today) in March of 2009 seeking the adoption of this special area. As one of only a handful of environmental groups with formal observer status at the IMO, Friends of the Earth also advocated for passage of this rulethere.
The EPA estimates that, by 2030, the implementation of these limits on ship air pollution and related regulations will prevent up to 31,000 premature deaths, 1.5 million work days lost, and more than 5 million cases of acute respiratory symptoms. Further, the health benefits could be worth $270 billion and outweigh costs by a factor of between 30:1 and 90:1, meaning the rules are likely to be among the most cost-effective regulatory endeavors ever undertaken by the EPA. The rules will also have the effect of preventing most ships from using dirty bunker fuel while traveling in protected U.S. waters.
“Large ships, including foreign-flagged ships, will no longer be allowed to wantonly pollute our air and harm our health,” said John Kaltenstein, Marine Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “Friends of the Earth has been working for more than a decade to end deadly and unregulated pollution from the shipping industry, one of the last industries to be brought under pollution control laws.”
This law will apply to large ships such as container ships, oil tankers, and large cruise ships.
“While much of the shipping industry—including the World Shipping Council—supported the rules adopted today, the cruise industry opposed it, showing once again that its claims of environmental stewardship and industry leadership are nothing more than hot air,” Kaltenstein said.
The rules created today regulate criteria pollution reduction and do not directly address greenhouse gas emissions or the severe problem of black carbon emissions. Friends of the Earth plans to fight for additional regulations to address these threats.
Friends of the Earth 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.