EDF Joins EPA in Announcement of Historic U.S. Action to Protect Americans from Deadly Global Shipping Pollution

March 30, 2009

Fuel from Sea-Going Vessels Is Major Source of Air Pollution at 100+ U.S. Port Cities, New EDF Report Shows

PORT NEWARK, N.J., March 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) applauds the historic request by the U.S. government to protect millions of Americans from deadly global shipping pollution generated by large ocean-going ships. During a noon news conference today at Port Newark, New Jersey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced that the U.S. government applied to designate U.S. coastal waters as “Emission Control Areas” under international law.

An Emission Control Area, or ECA, would provide the strongest clean air standards available under international law. It would dramatically improve fuel quality and reduce smog-forming oxides of nitrogen for all ocean-going ships in the exclusive economic zone of the United States, an area that typically extends about 200 nautical miles from the coast. In 2002, ocean-going ships were responsible for about 7,300 tons of smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (NOx) pollution at the New York/New Jersey ports, comparable to the NOx emissions from 7.8 million of today’s cars.

“Ships are floating smokestacks that deliver soot and smog straight to the heart of our most crowded coastal cities, home to 87 million Americans,” said Andy Darrell, vice president of Living Cities at EDF, who attended today’s announcement. “With emissions control areas, these tens of millions of Americans will see ship pollution drop by as much as 96 percent by 2015.”

Earlier today, EDF released a new report showing that the container ships, tankers and other large sea-going vessels that dock at more than 100 U.S. port cities burn low grade “residual fuel” or “bunker fuel” that is a major source of air pollution. More than 87 million Americans live in ports and coastal communities that fail to meet basic federal health standards for ground-level ozone and particulate pollution, according to EDF’s report, “Protecting American Health from Global Shipping Pollution: Establishing An Emission Control Area in U.S. Waters” (The full report is at: www.edf.org/article.cfm?contentID=8611.) The residual fuel contains sulfur levels 1,800 times greater than U.S. law allows for other diesel engines.

A recent study by two leading researchers on shipping pollution, Corbett and Winebrake, shows shipping-related particulate matter emissions contribute to approximately 60,000 global deaths annually, with impacts concentrated in coastal regions on major trade routes.

The United States submitted its application — asking for the most rigorous clean air standards authorized under international law to apply to ocean-going ships calling on U.S. ports — to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and will make its case at the July 2009 meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee. Government officials estimate that foreign-flagged vessels make up 90 percent of the ship calls on U.S. ports.

In October 2008, the IMO adopted new baseline global emission standards for ocean-going ships and their fuel with more rigorous, heightened protections in designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs). The fuel used to power these ships currently contains about 27,000 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur. In an ECA, the sulfur in fuel will be limited to 10,000 ppm in August 2012 and to 1,000 ppm in January 2015.

Most ship engines that are designed to run on bunker fuel also are capable of burning this cleaner fuel, so no significant ship changes or upgrades will be necessary. Additionally, the EPA has affirmed that the lower sulfur fuel required by an ECA will be available when the U.S. ECA goes into effect.

Within an ECA, ships must also achieve an 80 percent reduction in smog-forming oxides of nitrogen starting in 2016. EPA air quality analyses shows the pollution reductions required in an ECA will reduce exposure to lethal particulate pollution for millions of Americans.

“We urge the International Maritime Organization to promptly approve the United States’ request and protect Americans from deadly air pollution,” concluded Darrell.

Ocean-going ships contribute to unhealthy air quality across the United States. According to EPA, in 2001, these large ships emitted approximately:

  • 745,000 tons of smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a precursor to ground-level ozone. Ozone can aggravate asthma and decrease lung function in addition to other health effects;
  • 450,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a key contributor to acid rain that can also be transformed into lethal particulate matter; and
  • 54,000 tons of fine particulates (PM2.5), microscopic sized particles, which can be breathed deep into the lungs, bypassing the body’s defense systems. They are implicated in thousands of premature deaths each year. Other harmful health effects also result from breathing fine particulates.

Ocean-going ships are responsible for about 3 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution, according to EDF’s report.

Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit http://www.edf.org/.


Sean Crowley, Marketing-Communications Director, EDF, 202-572-3331, scrowley@edf.org

Vickie Patton, Deputy General Counsel, EDF, 720-837-6239, vpatton@edf.org

Andy Darrell, Vice President of Living Cities Program and New York Regional Director, EDF, 917-912-3605, adarrell@edf.org

SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund

Source: newswire

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