April 10, 2009

EPA Proposes Emission Control Areas Along U.S. Coastlines

Holland & Knight Alert
Amy L. Edwards

On March 27, 2009, the United States became the first country to ask the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to create an emissions control area (ECA) around the U.S. coastline. The control program has the goal of dramatically reducing air pollution from ships, and delivering substantial benefits to large segments of the population as well as marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

The ECA proposal would designate specific portions of U.S. and Canadian coastal waters in which stringent international emission controls would apply to ocean-going ships, essentially creating a “buffer zone” around the U.S. coastline. The proposed area of the ECA includes waters adjacent to the Pacific coast, the Atlantic/Gulf coast, and the eight main Hawaiian Islands. The proposed ECA would extend 200 nautical miles from the coastal baseline, except that it would not extend into marine areas subject to the sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction of any country other than the United States or Canada.

Under the program, large ships such as oil tankers and cargo ships that operate in the ECA would face stricter emissions standards. These standards would cut sulfur in fuel by 98 percent, particulate matter emissions by 85 percent, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent from the current global requirements. To achieve these reductions, ships would be required to use fuel with no more than 1,000 parts per million sulfur beginning in 2015, and new ships would be required to use advanced emission control technologies beginning in 2016. The EPA estimates the total costs of improving ship emissions from current performance to ECA standards while operating in the proposed ECA would be approximately $3.2 billion in 2020.

The IMO, a United Nations agency, will begin reviewing the proposal in July 2009. Approval of the proposal could occur as soon as 2010.

The proposal is one part of a comprehensive EPA program to address harmful emissions from ocean-going vessels under the National Clean Diesel Campaign and the Clean Ports Program. Another element of this program includes adoption of a Clean Air Act (CAA) rulemaking process developing standards for Category 3 marine diesel engines that are expected to require the application of high efficiency aftertreatment emission controls similar in stringency to new NOx standards that would apply to all engines in the ECA. The agency plans to issue the CAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in spring 2009 and finalize it by December 2009.

For more information, please view the EPA’s account of the proposal.

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