Environmental groups petition EPA for rulemaking to limit greenhouse gas emissions from ships

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Earthjustice, the leading U.S. public interest environmental law firm, on behalf of a coalition of environmental advocacy groups, filed a first-ever petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on October 3, calling on EPA to exercise its regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act, which was clearly established by an April 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision, to make greenhouse-gas emissions-reduction rules for ocean-going marine vessels in U.S. territorial waters, including container ships, tankers, and cruise ships, or provide a required legal justification for its inaction. California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a similar petition.

Full text of the “Petition for Rulemaking Under the Clean Air Act to Reduce the Emission of Air Pollutants from Marine Shipping Vessels that Contribute to Global Climate Change”

From the New York Times coverage on October 4:

E.P.A. Is Petitioned to Limit Ship Emissions

By FELICITY BARRINGER

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 3 ­ The California attorney general and a coalition of environmental groups have called for federal regulation to curb heat-trapping emissions from the worldwide fleet of about 90,000 oceangoing ships, including container ships, tankers and cruise ships.

The regulations, sought in separate petitions to the Environmental Protection Agency, would apply to United States territorial waters.

Only six countries generate more emissions of greenhouse gases than the world’s oceangoing vessels, said Michael Hirshfield, a senior scientist with Oceana, an ocean-protection organization.

The group’s petition, whose participants included the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, argues that “the sheer number of these ships, coupled with operating practices that use fuel inefficiently and poor government oversight, results in carbon dioxide emissions” equal to the emissions of 130 million to 195 million cars….

From the Friends of the Earth press release:

EPA Urged to Reduce Global Warming Pollution from Ships

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Clears the Way for EPA to Regulate Greenhouse Gases Under Clean Air Act

WASHINGTON—A coalition of environmental advocates filed a petition today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking the agency to set pollution rules for large, ocean-going marine vessels. These vessels include cargo and cruise ships. Earthjustice, the leading U.S. public interest environmental law firm, filed this first ever petition on behalf of Oceana, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity.

California Attorney General Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr. also filed a petition to U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson on behalf of the state of California today, with a similar request.

The petitions would require the EPA to assess ships’ contributions to global warming, seek public comment and issue rules to reduce this pollution or explain why it will not act.

The April 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court clearly established that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to address global warming. The EPA must act immediately and issue regulations to limit pollution that contributes to global warming. The petitions filed today begin the process of imposing mandatory regulations on the marine transportation sector. The petitioners asked the EPA to respond within 180 days….

The global fleet of marine vessels releases almost three percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, an amount comparable to the emissions of Canada. Because of their huge number and inefficient operating practices, marine vessels release a large volume of global warming pollutants, particularly carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and black carbon (or soot).

Despite their impact on the global climate, greenhouse gas emissions from ships are not currently regulated by the United States government. In addition, these emissions are not limited under the Kyoto Protocol or other international treaties that address global warming.

Ships’ Contribution to the Climate Change Problem

Global shipping activity has increased by three percent per year for the last three decades and this rate of growth is projected to increase. If fuel use remains unchanged, shipping pollution will increase substantially, potentially doubling from 2002 levels by 2020 and tripling by 2030.

“Global warming pollution from ships is a substantial problem. But fortunately, it’s one that can be solved,” said Danielle Fugere of Friends of the Earth. “Slower speeds, cleaner fuels, better ships—the steps that the shipping industry must take are clear. It’s up to the EPA to ensure these steps are taken.”

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