Court rejects enviromental challenge of EPA marine vessel emissions rule – significant victory for the maritime industry

On 22 June 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld regulations affecting large marine diesel engines issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

The victory is a significant one for the maritime industry.  INTERTANKO and allied organizations have devoted considerable energy in Washington to promoting a regulatory approach that aligns the United States with IMO generally and in particular with MARPOL Annex VI on the specific issue of regulating marine diesel air emissions. 

The EPA rule upheld by the Court of Appeals had deferred in several significant elements to MARPOL Annex VI and had declined to impose US regulatory authority over foreign vessels.  The Court found that the EPA's approach was reasonable and rejected arguments advanced by environmental organisations that the EPA was required by domestic law to peg air emission standards to best available technologies.  The Court sidestepped the issue of the EPA's authority over foreign vessels, noting that the EPA intends to review marine diesel emissions standards in 2007 and could address that issue further at that time.

The Court of Appeals decision removes a possible impediment to the US ratification of MARPOL Annex VI, now pending before the United States Senate. A loss for EPA would have raised the question of whether the United States law (the Clean Air Act) permitted US deference to international standards that were arguably less stringent than those that could be applied nationally.  It is now clear that the EPA's approach, an approach generally supported by INTERTANKO, is consistent with existing US law and that US ratification of Annex VI will do no violence to EPA's administration of the Clean Air Act.

INTERTANKO joined the American Petroleum Institute, the World Shipping Council, and the Chamber of Shipping of America in submitting an amicus curiae brief in the Court of Appeals.  The brief was drafted by Janice Raburn of API and Jonathan Benner representing INTERTANKO and CSA.

A copy of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit can be seen here

Contact: Dragos Rauta