Ahoy, Matey, It's the Feds: EPA and Coast Guard Target Air Pollution From Ships

By Susan Jones | June 28, 2011 | 9:55 AM EDT

ype="node" title="EPA logo

(CNSNews.com) - The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard announced Thursday they will jointly enforce U.S. and international air pollution limits for vessels operating in U.S. waters.

Both the Coast Guard and the EPA "will perform inspections and investigations, and will take appropriate enforcement actions if a violation is detected," the news release said.

The rules establish limits on nitrogen oxide emissions and require the use of fuel with lower sulfur content. The goal is to protect people's health and the environment by reducing ozone-producing pollution, which can cause smog and aggravate asthma, EPA said.

The most stringent requirements apply to U.S.-flagged and non-U.S.-flagged ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coast of North America. U.S. warships are excluded.

“Reducing harmful air pollution is a priority for EPA, and by working with the Coast Guard we will ensure that the ships moving through our waters meet their environmental obligations, protecting our nation’s air quality and the health of our coastal communities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Large marine diesel engines on many ocean-going vessels emit significant amounts of pollution, EPA said. Without further action, EPA estimates that nitrogen oxide emissions from ships will more than double, growing to 2.1 million tons per year by 2030. EPA says limiting that pollution could prevent an estimated 12,000 to 31,000 premature deaths annually by 2030.

The rules -- spelled out in a letter to ship owners and diesel engine manufacturers -- also require diesel engines in U.S.-flagged vessels to have an Engine International Air Pollution Prevention (EIAPP) certificate, issued by EPA, showing that the engine meets international nitrogen oxide standards. Certain vessels also are required to have an International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate (IAPP), which is issued by the Coast Guard.

Ship operators must also maintain records on board regarding their compliance with the emission standards, fuels requirements and other provisions of Annex VI.

Annex VI is part of a U.N. Treaty that seeks to reduce pollution from ships. The United States became a party to Annex VI in 2008, and the rules were implemented in the United States through a law called the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.