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Great Lakes Article:

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. [1]

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 rules. [2]


[1] "Bush cut some diesel pollution but let big ships keep spewing," Seattle Times, Sept. 28, 2004.
[2] "OMB Guts Marine Diesel Rule," OMBwatch, Nov. 11, 2002.

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