Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Russia with Love: Dirty Air along the U.S. Coast!?

While the political world has been abuzz about the U.S. official embarrassment about the alleged spy saga in Russia , there is potential longer-term trouble for breathers in the U.S. because of a less-publicized Russian action.

At the request of Russia, the International Maritime Organization has voted to delay for five full years emission control requirements for big new ships near coastlines, including those of the United States. The requirements were due to take effect in 2016 as explained in this release:

This is a terrible turn of events and could delay efforts to bring cleaner ships to U.S. ports by 2016. The U.S. government appears to have been blindsided by this Russian move. It needs to step up its game to protect breathers in the U.S.

Here is how our friend, David Marshall, with the Clean Air Task Force, described this action:

"The IMO today took a giant step backwards today by approving--in a hotly contested decision--a Russian proposal for a five year delay in implementing a 2008 agreement to clean up smog-producing emissions from newly built ocean going ships.  In doing so, the majority disregarded the recommendations of its expert group that found that the requirements could be met on schedule, by 2016."

Marshall noted that the U.S. and some other countries, including Canada, the U.K. and Germany, "reserved their position" on this ugly pollution rollback.

This decision does still need to be ratified by another international maritime group next year, but the threatened delay casts a pall over efforts by emission control makers to gear up to meet tougher requirements.  This sort of uncertainty can kill investments -- and jobs.

The U.S. government -- specifically the EPA and the Coast Guard -- needs to clarify that it will not just sit by and allow this to happen.  Establishment of the so-called Emission Control Areas was one of the most significant though least-heralded clean-air accomplishments of recent years. (Both the Bush and Obama Administrations supported the concept!) The U.S. needs to keep these areas intact.

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