The International Maritime Organization has officially designated waters off North American coasts as an area in which stringent international emission standards will apply for ships. These standards will dramatically reduce air pollution from ships and deliver substantial air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland. This fact sheet contains an overview of this new geographic emissions control program. (ref: EPA website)
Whether and what role these new ECA regulations will have in Environmental Impact Statements for proposed coal ports remains to be determined. They could be an topic to address in the EIS scoping process. Increased marine traffic from the proposed coal exports along with any increases in shipping of tar sands oil would inevitably expand the marine diesel emissions through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, along the coast, and miles inland. The new designation means that all cargo ships must use low sulfur diesel within the ECA, which will increase costs for the portion of any trip that occurs within the ECA rather than open ocean.
The cruise ship industry has been appealing to EPA to modify how the new rules would be applied to them. So far, however, the cargo ship industry has supported the more stringent standards according to a recent article in McClatchy Newspapers. The article also provides the following history on the North American ECA: “The International Maritime Organization plan requires fuel with less sulfur inside the zone, with reductions phased in through 2015. President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to the approach in 2006. The International Maritime Organization plan requires fuel with less sulfur inside the zone, with reductions phased in through 2015. President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to the approach in 2006.”