US EPA ISSUES REGULATION ON LIMITING AIR POLLUTION FROM LARGE MARINE DIESEL ENGINES

Last week the US Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) issued its long-awaited proposed domestic regulation on limiting vessel-source air pollution from large (Category 3) marine diesel engines. The proposal had been expected, given commitments undertaken by the EPA in settlement litigation with environmental advocacy groups in the United States. While INTERTANKO has not questioned EPA’s authority to regulate domestic US vessels, we have suggested to all maritime nations that vessel emissions must be addressed through the structure of the IMO, and particularly within the framework provided by Annex VI to the MARPOL 73/78 Convention.

Annex VI was finalized in late 1997, but the accession process has been disappointingly slow. To take effect, the Annex must receive formal ratification from the governments of at least 15 countries accounting for at least 50 per cent of the world fleet tonnage. To date, only 6 countries representing approximately 15 per cent of the global fleet have communicated their ratification to the IMO. INTERTANKO has actively encouraged acceleration of the pace of accession in order to forestall a lapse into disparate national standards that ultimately would fail to address marine-source air emissions in an effective manner.

With this background in mind, the EPA proposal contains hopeful news. Buried within a large and complex technical proposal (139 pages) is a statement that EPA ‘is preparing the appropriate documents for the President to submit Annex VI to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification’. This statement of support for Annex VI from the United States represents a break-through in efforts by the maritime industry, including INTERTANKO, to overcome apparent paralysis within the US administration on the subject of Annex VI ratification. It has been the impression of INTERTANKO’s representatives in the United States that, despite having taken a lead role in negotiating the contents of Annex VI, the EPA had come to regard the Annex as politically inconvenient and had buried the treaty internally to avoid obtaining formal US ratification. Over the past year, INTERTANKO has engaged in strenuous efforts to explain the benefits of an international approach to controlling mobile source air emissions through international cooperation.

Regarding the content of the EPA proposal, the main points can be viewed here.

The rule reflects continuing tensions between EPA’s awareness that meaningful reductions of air emissions from vessels must address non-US sources and the legal constraint that the authority of domestic US agencies to regulate non-US assets is limited.

INTERTANKO’s US legal advisors inform us that this issue will be an important element of the discussion as the proposed rule moves through the public comment process.

In the meantime, INTERTANKO will continue to advocate ratification of Annex VI as the optimal means of ensuring international uniformity of standards addressing marine-source air emissions. There are strong bodies of opinion in the United States and elsewhere that current Annex VI standards are inadequate to address the scope of air emissions from vessels. However, without an international structure within which to address possible improvements, unilateral national actions appear doomed to futility. Along with the recent expression of support from the United States, indications are strong that the European Union, Liberia and several other important players in the maritime community are moving rapidly toward Annex VI ratification.

INTERTANKO will actively participate in the public comment process. The comment deadline is 16 July 2002. We encourage members to communicate their views to us well before that date.

Copies of the proposal can be obtained on-line from either http://www.epa.gov/docs/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR or http://www.epa.gov/otaq