California agency presses EPA on ship exhaust
By Bernie Woodall
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles-area air quality agency on Thursday petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately set tougher standards on global-warming pollutants for ocean vessels calling on U.S. ports.
If the EPA doesn't curb global warming pollutants within six months, the South Coast Air Quality Management District may sue the federal agency, said Barbara Baird, an attorney with the air quality district.
Last week, California and 15 other states filed suit against the EPA to overturn a decision in December to deny California's effort to set stringent auto emission standards.
Baird said the air quality district can't protect 16 million Southern Californians in its jurisdiction unless the EPA changes federal standards on ships. The air district does not have jurisdiction over ships arriving at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which process more than 40 percent of consumer goods imported to the United States.
Air district board Chairman William Burke's letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said local and state efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions are hindered by a lack of tough national standards on ship-generated emissions.
The lack of regulation means ships are the only major pollution source in Southern California for which emissions are projected to increase, the air district said.
Baird said Thursday's petition is a prerequisite to any suit against the EPA. The air district, based in suburban Los Angeles, is believed to be the first to take on the EPA over shipping emissions related to greenhouse gases, Baird said.
Globally, ships emit 3 percent of greenhouse gases, which is more than all but six individual countries, Baird said.
The EPA in 1994 declared ships a significant contributor to air pollution, but the federal agency has not adopted any significant controls, Baird said. The EPA said last May it would delay until December 2009 adopting new ship regulations.
Last year, the air district sued the EPA to get the agency to regulate smog-forming emissions such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides from ships.
The effort to cut greenhouse gases from ships is related to the efforts of the air district and other California agencies to cut all pollution at the ports.
In 2006, the two ports adopted a plan striving to give all ships the ability to use shore-side electricity within five to 10 years, cutting the use of polluting ship fuel while docked.
The Port of Long Beach will develop shore-side electricity for ships at 10 to 16 Long Beach berths within five years; the Port of Los Angeles will facilitate shore-side electricity for ships at 15 berths within five years, according to the plan.
(Editing by Braden Reddall and Todd Eastham)