Friday, December 07, 2012

Ship Tracks 2

Little Hunting Creek asked, "What can we to change marine diesel use?" in a comment on Ship Tracks and our changing weather.

What an excellent question. Spoken like a true UC Berkeley alumna! ;-)

We enjoyed lovely and brisk post-storm weather today, except for the haze near the harbors, which is visible in today's NASA Aqua afternoon imagery.

South-facing coasts are generally clearer than west-facing beaches because of the extra sunshine they receive. However, the south-facing harbor area is decidedly hazier than Malibu to the north, which does not get heavy ship traffic.

In 2008, California passed a law regulating the amount of sulfur allowed in fuel for ocean going vehicles (OGV) within 24 nautical miles of the California coast, from Oregon to Mexico.  Environmental News Service wrote a summary at the time.
The new measure requires ocean-going vessels within 24 nautical miles of California's coastline to use lower-sulfur marine distillates in their main and auxiliary engines and auxiliary boilers, rather than the dirtier heavy-fuel oil called bunker fuel.

Both U.S.-flagged and foreign-flagged vessels are subject to the regulation, which the board says is the most stringent and comprehensive requirement for marine fuel-use in the world.

The regulation will be implemented in two steps, each requiring lower sulfur content in the fuel - first in 2009 and final in 2012.

In 2009, eliminating about 75 percent of the sooty diesel particulates, as well as 80 percent of the sulfur oxides and six percent of the nitrogen oxides is the target.

In 2012, when the very low sulfur fuel requirement takes effect, reductions of diesel particulate matter will be 15 tons daily, the board said.
As a result of the new regulation, the board estimates that sulfur oxides will be reduced by 140 tons daily, a 95 percent reduction, and nitrogen oxides will be reduced by 11 tons per day, a six percent reduction.
The first phase was not contested. The California 2009 standards are on par with those in other special SOx Emission Control Areas (SECA) such as the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  I found some excellent background information in Brian Shrader's U.S. Regulation of Large Marine Diesel Engines under MARPOL Annex VI in the Sea Grant Law and Policy Journal.

The second (2012) phase, that further restricts allowable levels of sulfur, is tied up in litigation.  I read about the litigation in the LA Times, but I cannot find the article on line right now.  If you find it, can you post the link in the comments?  I dimly recall that the shipping interests challenge California's standing to regulate ship fuel use off it's own coast.

Both the US Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the international body, MARPOL (see below), regulates ship fuel and pollution.

Assistant (Florida) State Attorney Shrader wrote:
Balancing valuable maritime shipping interests with environmental concerns is one of the biggest challenges facing policymakers charged with regulating air pollution from large marine diesel engines in the U.S. and around the world. A fragmented, country-by-country approach raises the specter of inconsistent regulatory regimes – a highly ineffective and burdensome state of affairs.

Achieving uniform regulation of shipping is difficult because of the global movement of people and goods through many sovereign jurisdictions. U.S. participation in the effort to globalize an international standard for air pollution from ships through Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) can serve commercial and environmental interests by increasing worldwide compliance and easing the burden on regulated entities.
What are the chances that the current US Congress will join an international body to legislate minimum standards given that 38 US senators voted against joining the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities on the grounds that it will undermine US sovereignty and destroy American families?  Or that presidential candidates for a major party ran on a platform that included abolishing the EPA?

If the California regulations had gone into effect on schedule, the CA Air Resources Board's epidemiological study estimates that:
Between 2009 and 2015, an estimated 3,600 premature deaths will be avoided, said the board, and the cancer risk associated with the emissions from these vessels will be reduced by over 80 percent.
A friend who had worked in pediatric oncology at UCLA medical school told me that epidemiologists call the area around the (Long Beach and Los Angeles) harbors and the roads used by the diesel trucks visiting the harbor "the cancer zone".

Who cares?  Most of the kids who live there are poor, often undocumented and lack access to health care anyway.  Let them eat cake so we can keep shipping those cheap goods cheaply.

Or we can hold the feet of our elected officials to the fire.

Do you have any other ideas on how we can get action on this?

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