Office of Management and Budget Blocked
EPA Clean-Up of Air Pollution from Ships
Published October 12th, 2004
In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drafted
new policies to reduce air pollution resulting from diesel
fuel burned by large, oceangoing ships. EPA was preparing
to crack down on U.S. ships, some of the least regulated
sources of air pollution, and lead the way on regulating
emissions from foreign ships.
But when EPA took its proposals to the White House Office
of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, the new rules
were gutted. Regulation of diesel exhaust from domestic
ships has remained virtually unchanged--and attempts to
regulate foreign ships was tabled until 2007.
While the Bush administration has made much of its rules
to curb diesel pollution from "nonroad" engines--ranging
from lawnmowers to forklifts--diesel exhaust from large
marine vessels, such as container, tanker and cruise ships,
is increasing at a greater rate than the clean-up of emissions
from land sources.
Foreign-flagged ships make up 95 percent of the traffic
in U.S. ports. International ocean shipping is likely
to double or triple in the next 15 years. These ships
emit significant levels of nitrous oxide, increasing the
levels of climate-changing ozone worldwide, as well as
huge quantities of sulfur, which contributes to acid rain.
A recent article in the Seattle Times noted that ships
coming to ports in Los Angeles/Long Beach already produce
as much smog as southern California's 350 largest industrial
polluters combined. Emissions from ships on the Pacific
Northwest's Columbia and Snake river system were found
to be 2.6 times worse than expected, adding significantly
to haze in the Columbia River Gorge.
Diesel exhaust contains known carcinogens. Small particles
of residue in diesel exhaust, called fine particulate
matter, can be breathed in and embedded in the lungs.
They are linked to health problems including lung, kidney
and bladder cancer, heart disease and asthma. In Washington's
Puget Sound area, the levels of these particulates in
the air is already so high that 500 people per every 1
million exposed to them over a lifetime are likely to
get cancer. 
EPA's stricter regulations for domestic ships would have
taken advantage of already available and proven cleanup
technologies. The cost to industry would have been about
$1.6 million annually. OMB was lobbied by the tanker industry
to remove tighter pollution standards from EPA's draft
 "Bush cut some diesel pollution but let big ships
keep spewing," Seattle Times, Sept. 28, 2004.
 "OMB Guts Marine Diesel Rule," OMBwatch,
Nov. 11, 2002.