Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Groups Focus On Great Lakes Ship Emission Standards

Oct 28: The Ohio Environmental Council and Great Lakes United have issued a release drawing attention to an intervention by Congress that they say would weaken a new rule proposed by the U.S. EPA to regulate exhaust emissions from ships in the Great Lakes and ocean ports [See WIMS 7/2/09]. The groups have produced two factsheets to better explain the rule and clear up misconceptions.

The first factsheet provides an overview of the standard, while the second counters dire claims being made by the Great Lakes shipping industry in an effort to exempt them from the rule. The groups said the new standard is an effort to clean up the dirty exhaust emissions ships release. Most commercial vessels are equipped with engines that consume some of the dirtiest fuel on the planet- producing higher levels of sulfur oxides (SOx), and particulate matter when burned. The emissions affect the health of those living near ports and coastlines, and can travel far inland. Children, people with heart disease, and the elderly are most at risk when they breathe this polluted air.

EPA estimates that when the new standard is fully in place it will prevent up to 32,000 premature deaths each year, with over 500 of those in the Great Lakes region. The groups indicate that as the proposed rule approaches finalization, "Wisconsin Representative David Obey, with the support of Minnesota Representative James Oberstar, struck a deal with the EPA to exempt 13 steamships from meeting the new exhaust emission rules and allow 13 additional C3 Lakers to petition for a waiver if they demonstrate serious economic hardship. The exemption is in the form of an amendment attached to the Natural Resources spending bill that covers the EPA budget for the fiscal year that began on October 1st." They said, "This is a disappointing turn of events, and appears to be a lost opportunity to improve air quality, protect human health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Great Lakes region."

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) issued a statement on October 28, saying it is "deeply committed to protecting the Great Lakes environment and appreciates the opportunity to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that the final implementation of this rule is fair, balanced, and reasonable." GLMTF represents vessel owners, cargo shippers, shipboard and shoreside labor, port authorities, shipyards, marine construction companies, and others operating on the Great Lakes.

GLMTF said, "We believe that a full understanding of the commercial vessels operating on the Great Lakes, their small environmental footprint, their large environmental benefits, and tremendous economic impact can result in a balanced approach that meets the needs of all. The EPA’s proposed regulation would have eliminated 25% of the U.S.-Flag Great Lakes within a few years. Even the Government of Canada has taken the highly unusual step of asking the EPA to undertake further analysis before proceeding with the Great Lakes portion of this proposed regulation lest 50 Canadian-Flag ships be put at risk. By closely examining the impacts and unintended consequences of over-regulating air emissions from vessels, the Great Lakes region can be protected without impeding our regional and national economic recovery. The U.S.-Flag Great Lakes fleet already burns cleaner fuel than that used by many of the world’s oceangoing vessels.

"We appreciate the effort of the Great Lakes Congressional delegation and Administration officials who crafted a solution that extends the useful lives of the thirteen U.S.-Flag steamships to 2020, when the .5 % sulfur standard is implemented worldwide. Vessel owners now have more time to make informed business decisions regarding the future of those vessels and explore other options to meet emission requirements. In particular, we thank Congressmen Dave Obey (D-WI) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who worked tirelessly to ensure that this regulation can achieve its goals without decimating Great Lakes shipping.

"We still must determine the best way to deal with the thirteen U.S.-Flag lakers that employ Category 3 compression-ignition engines. The regulatory flexibility extended to other industries and other fuel standards is appropriate for the Lakes Heavy industry needs affordable transportation of raw materials and so does the American consumer, otherwise neither will prosper. The potential economic impact of the proposed rule, if enacted as proposed, would have been just one more blow for a region already suffering record unemployment. . ."

Access a joint release and link to the two fact sheets (
click here). Access EPA's Oceangoing Vessels website for extensive information on the proposed regulations (click here). Access the EPA docket for this rulemaking for background documents and reviewing comments (click here). Access the GLMTF statement (click here). Access the GLMTF website for more information (click here). Access a recent article by covering various sides on the issue (click here).