California Court Rules Ships Must Use Cleaner Fuel

Brian Severin - Contributing Writer
Posted on Thursday 2nd July 2009

As of July 1, California will require ships to use cleaner fuels, following a ruling by U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, denying a legal challenge by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA). U.S. Judge Morrison C. England Jr. denied PMSA’s argument that the Submerged Lands Act of 1953 precluded California from regulating vessels beyond its territorial boundaries.

According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the ruling allows the state’s initiative to go forward to greatly reduce toxic emissions from ships coming into California’s ports. NRDC and Coalition for Clean Air were defendant-intervenors in the lawsuit, which was filed on April 27, 2009.

Melissa Lin Perrella, Staff Attorney for NRDC said, “The Court’s ruling is a victory for public health. Studies confirm offshore diesel particulate pollution from ships is carried for miles inland and we know from the billions we spend on healthcare-related costs attributed to air pollution that those emissions find permanent homes in our lungs. Our children, friends and families can no longer subsidize use of this cheaper, toxic fuel with their lives.”

The emissions regulations adopted by the California Air Resources Board are effective immediately; however, a second deadline on January 1, 2012, will require that all ocean-going vessels entering California ports switch to cleaner fuel within 24 miles of California’s coast.

According to NRDC, air pollution produced by container vessels, tankers, bulk carriers, and passenger cruise ships exposes 80 percent of Californians to significant cancer risk and sickens and kills thousands of Californians annually. Furthermore, without such regulations, NRDC says it would not be possible to meet the national ambient air quality standards for particulate matter, as set forth in the Clean Air Act, for the South Coast Air Basin.

EPA Regulations Forthcoming

At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on July 1 announced that it is drafting strict federal engine and fuel regulations for large ships to reduce air pollution.

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