EPA agrees to regulate air pollution from ocean ships

The Environmental Protection Agency has pledged to establish emission standards for large ocean going vessels ending a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, concerned about the extent of ship pollution.

The EPA agreed to provide regular reports on its progress in establishing standards for the largest type of ship engines, called ‘Category 3’ engines, which cover oil tankers, cruise ships and cargo vessels, on 12 January, after being pressurised by a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the US non-profit law firm for the environment.

The suit had been filed on behalf of the Bluewater Network, a US NGO campaigning to protect public waters, lands, and ecosystems, which had reported that the world’s biggest ships account for 14% of total nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 16% of all sulphur oxide emissions from petroleum sources around the world (see related story). The EPA says that large ships emit 273,000 tonnes per year of NOx into US air.

In the settlement, EPA agreed to provide Bluewater with the first of the reports in February and will issue a proposed rule in April 2002, with the standards to be finalised in January 2003.

“Oil tankers and cargo ships are huge contributors to global warming, smog, and airborne toxics both in port and at sea,” said Dr. Russell Long, Director of Bluewater Network. “It’s absurd that the EPA has lowered the boom on virtually every type of vehicle and factory but the world’s biggest polluters almost got off scot free.”

“This settlement is a victory for clean air in US cities and around the world,” said Martin Wagner, attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. “EPA has conceded that it must follow the law, and this agreement will ensure that the agency sets standards that promote human health and a clean environment, instead of blindly adopting the lowest common denominator standards advocated by the shipping industry.”

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