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EPA Scrutinizes Cargo Ships’ Emissions

cargo-ship2Importers and exporters may face extra costs and regulations as the Environmental Protection Agency steps up its oversight of cargo ship emissions.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a new proposal to regulate maritime emissions March 30 at a press conference.

In a proposal to the United Nation’s International Maritime Organization, the EPA is seeking stricter emissions standards on oil tankers and other large ships within a 230-mile buffer zone around U.S. coasts. The EPA wants to cut sulfur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter emissions by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80% from current global requirements, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The EPA is proposing that ships use fuel with less than 1,000 parts per million of sulfur beginning in 2015, and that by 2016 newly constructed ships use advanced emission-control technologies. EPA expects the UN to review the proposal in July and perhaps approve it early next year.

Pressure has been mounting for the EPA to regulate emissions from cargo ships that troll in and out of the nation’s many ports of call. A new report from the EPA’s Inspector General criticizes the agency for not regulating foreign-flagged cargo vessels. These ships make up about 90 percent of the traffic coming into U.S. ports, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Greenspace blog.

Because marine vessels have traditionally fallen under international jurisdiction, the U.S. has shown reluctance to regulate their emissions. Ships that burn bunker fuel are known to emit toxins and smog-forming particulates.

The U.S. has about 360 commercial sea and river ports.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, large ships account for three percent of global emissions.

The UK shipping industry is advocating an emissions trading system for ships that would put a price on maritime carbon emissions, thus speeding up the drive for cleaner shipping technology.

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