EPA approves California’s regulation to curb ship pollution at ports

The new policy will require container, reefer and cruise vessels to plug into electric shore-power when idling at California ports.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the California Air Resources Board’s policy and first step to end fossil-fueled shipping in California. The At-berth ocean going vessel policy is a waiver request that will help reduce air pollution and protect the health of millions of Californians who are most impacted by emissions from diesel-powered ships, according to a press release.

California Air Resources Board (CARB) said the At-Berth policy will save 237 lives, yield $2.31 billion in public health benefits, and reduce NOx emissions by 17,5000 tons and carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 356,000 metric tons between 2021 and 2032. 

“Today’s long-awaited decision by EPA means that California’s rule reducing pollution from ships docked at our ports will be enforced in 30 days, bringing some relief to communities breathing the toxic exhaust from ocean-going vessels,” Bill Magavern, policy director at the Coalition for Clean Air, said.

At California’s port communities, ship emissions are the top cancer causing emissions. The At Berth policy will reduce the cancer risk for millions of people living near the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Richmond by 55 percent, according to a press release.

“It’s always good to see California in the driver’s seat on air pollution issues, and it’s especially good to see EPA back the Golden State as it’s done today,” Regina Hsu, senior attorney on Earthjustice’s Right To Zero campaign, said. “California’s At-Berth Rule is a lifesaving regulation that will help protect people living in the shadow of ports from forms of air pollution that are incredibly harmful to human health. California has been hard at work shaping zero emissions regulations from our lungs and our future, so EPA still has more authorizations to release in the coming months—namely, California’s In-Use Locomotive and Advanced Clean Fleets Regulations.”

The new policy will require container, reefer and cruise vessels to plug into electric shore-power when idling at California ports. It also added new vessel types, such as auto carriers and tankers, and visits, such as new ports and terminals, to either “plug into shore power while at-berth or use an alternative CARB-approved emissions control technology to reduce emissions of NOx and diesel particulate matter at berth,” according to a press release.

“Today, with EPA’s authorization of the At-Berth Rule, Californians are now one step closer to cleaner air,” Carrie Bonfield, shipping emissions analyst at Ocean Conservancy, said. “We applaud the EPA for its decision and California for its continued leadership on what should be a national model to eliminate emissions from the shipping industry. We urge other states to follow California’s lead and for Congress to pass the Clean Shipping Act. Everyone should be able to breathe clean air and the Clean Shipping Act will eliminate emissions from all ships at-berth or at-anchor in all U.S. ports by 2030.”

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