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Monday, January 4, 2010

Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships

This report provides information regarding pollution from ships and port facilities; discusses some of the measures being implemented and considered by local, state, and federal regulatory agencies; discusses the efforts to strengthen Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); and describes legislation in Congress to control emissions from ships, as well as efforts in Congress to address the applicability of proposed EPA regulations to ships on the Great Lakes.

As pollution from cars, trucks, and land-based stationary sources has been more tightly controlled over the last 40 years, the contribution of ships and port operations to air pollution in port cities has become more important. In the same period, foreign trade has grown dramatically; thus, pollution from shipping and port operations is growing as a percentage of total emissions. In many cities, ships are now among the largest  sources of air pollution. As Congress and the Administration turn their attention to climate change, there is also a growing recognition that marine vessels are an important source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Controlling these sources of both conventional and greenhouse gas pollutants is complicated by the fact that most ocean-going ships are not registered in the United States and may not even purchase the fuel they are using here. Thus, controlling such pollution would seem to lend itself to an international approach. Such efforts have been slow to yield results: in 1997, the United States and most countries signed an international agreement known as MARPOL Annex VI, setting extremely modest controls on air pollution from ships, but the agreement did not enter into force until 2005, and the United States did not enact legislation to implement it until July 21, 2008 (P.L. 110-280). Negotiations to strengthen Annex VI accelerated in 2008, however, and amendments that will strengthen its provisions have received preliminary approval. Discussions regarding GHG emissions have also begun, although without results to date.

While awaiting congressional action and international agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), port cities, and states have begun to act on their own. This report discusses a number of these efforts, including EPA measures that will require cleaner fuels and will greatly strengthen emission standards, and measures being implemented in California to reduce pollution from ships and ports.

In the current Congress, greenhouse gas emissions from ships are addressed in H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. As passed by the House, the bill would direct EPA to establish emission standards for nonroad vehicles and engines (a category that includes ships), by December 31, 2012.

In other action, Congress added a provision to the FY2010 EPA appropriation (P.L. 111-88) that prohibits FY2010 funds being used to implement cleaner fuel requirements as they apply to Great Lakes ships. Accompanying report language directs EPA to develop provisions to establish waivers of the low sulfur fuel requirements for Great Lakes ships if the fuel is not available or in cases of serious economic hardship.

Date of Report: December 23, 2009
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL34548
Price: $29.95
Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
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