Controlling Emissions Along North America’s Coasts

April 8, 2009
US and Canadian governmental environmental agencies have asked the International Maritime Organization to create an emissions control area (ECA) around their nation’s coastlines.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes a 230-mile ECA buffer zone it says would provide air quality benefits as far inland as Kansas. Joined by Canada, the EPA argues that such a zone would save 8,300 American and Canadian lives each year by 2020.

In the ECA, strict emissions standards would be imposed on large ships, such as oil tankers and cargo ships. The aim of the proposal is to cut sulfur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter emissions by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80% from current global requirements.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, says, “This is an important—and long overdue—step in our efforts to protect the air and water along our shores, and the health of the people in our coastal communities. We want to ensure the economic strength of our port cities at the same time that we take responsible steps to protect public health and the environment in the United States and across the globe.”

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) supports the EPA action. It notes that the proposed ECA area would include water adjacent to the Pacific coasts, the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and the eight main Hawaiian Islands.

In support of the proposal, AAPA president and CEO, Kurt Nagle, argues that, "Considering that emissions from ocean-going ships are significant contributors to our national mobile-source emission inventory, it's imperative that, going forward, tighter emission controls be put in place."

The International Maritime Organization is part of the United Nations. This specialized agency is responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships. It is expected that it will begin review of the proposal in July. The EPA feels that approval could come about as early as next year.

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