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U.S. Coast Guard, EPA sign agreement to enforce ECA

396983The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 27 to jointly enforce U.S. and IMO air pollution requirements for the North American Emissions Control Area (ECA).

The requirements establish limits on nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, forcing vessels operating within 200 nautical mile of the U.S. and Canada to burn ultra low sulfur fuel or use exhaust gas scrubbers to meet the standards.

The North American ECA will be implemented this August and come fully into force one year later.

“This agreement demonstrates the Coast Guard’s long-standing commitment to protecting our nation’s marine environment,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, director of Prevention Policy for the U.S. Coast Guard. “Aligning our capabilities with EPA enhances that commitment while minimizing the impact on shipping.”

“Today’s agreement forges a strong partnership between EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, advancing our shared commitment to enforce air emissions standards for ships operating in U.S. waters,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Reducing harmful air pollution is a priority for EPA and by working with the Coast Guard we will ensure that the ships moving through our waters meet their environmental obligations, protecting our nation’s air quality and the health of our coastal communities.”

Marine diesel engines for propulsion and auxiliary power emit NOx, SOx and particulate matter. These emissions are harmful to human health. Without regulation, the EPA estimates that by 2030, NOx emissions from ships will more than double, growing to 2.1 million tons per year. Under the MOU, the EPA and Coast Guard will jointly enforce federal and international laws that the EPA projects could prevent 12,000-31,000 premature deaths annually by 2030. Under the MOU, both the Coast Guard and EPA will perform shipboard and facility inspections and investigations, and will take appropriate enforcement actions if a violation is detected.  

A letter to industry was also signed on June 27 by the Coast Guard and EPA to provide the regulated community with notice that the Coast Guard and EPA will be taking measures to promote compliance with federal and international air pollution requirements and will be actively pursuing violations.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), developed through IMO, is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships. MARPOL Annex VI addresses air pollution from ships through the use of both engine-based and fuel-based standards. Additionally, MARPOL Annex VI requires ships operated in designated geographical areas, known as emission control areas or ECAs, to meet the most advanced standards for NOx emissions and fuel sulfur limits. The United States became a party to MARPOL Annex VI in 2008 and the treaty is implemented in the United States through the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).