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Clean Air Act: Clean Port Initiative

This guide supports Dr. Preston McLane's class on the Clean Air Act.


"Ports play a significant role in the goods movement supply chain. Many ports are located in areas that do not meet EPA air quality standards for criteria pollutants and/or border on environmental justice communities. Ships and harbor craft are the largest contributors of diesel pollution at ports. In addition to air quality, water quality may also be a concern for ports.
Reducing exposure to diesel exhaust in and around ports is important for public health and the environment. Diesel engines last 20 to 30 years, but EPA regulations apply only to new diesel engines. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies, including idle reduction for reducing emissions from older engines.

In addition, EPA offers funding for diesel emission reduction programs. In January 2011, President Obama signed legislation reauthorizing DERA funding to eligible entities for projects that reduce emissions from existing diesel engines. Appropriations are determined by Congress on an annual basis.

Port Authorities, Terminal Operators and Fleet Owners, Drayage Truckers, and Rail and Locomotive Operators all have a role in helping to reduce diesel emissions at the ports where they work and in nearby communities."

International Maritime Organization

In 1997, a new Annex VI (The Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) was added to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The Regulations seek to minimize airborne emissions from ships (SOx, NOx, ODS, VOC) and their contribution to local and global air pollution and environmental problems. Annex VI entered into force on 19 May 2005.  A revised Annex VI with significantly tightened emissions limits was adopted in October 2008 and entered into force on 1 July 2010.  See here for additional information.

Annex VI applies to certain "special (emission control) areas" located within 200 miles of certain coastlines, including those of the United States.  The new special area requirements entered into force on 1 January 2013 and were to have taken effect for the United States on January 1, 2014.  MARPOL Annex VI is enforced by the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard.  See here for additional information.

33 U.S.C. Ch. 33 (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) authorizes the Secretary of State to accept amendments to Marpol Annex VI.

U.S. Compliance with MARPOL Annex VI

In Section 305 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, Congress directed the Secretary of the Department in which the Coast Guard operates (Department of Homeland Security) to conduct a study, in conjunction with the EPA, on Ship Emission Reduction Technology for cargo and passenger vessels that operate in United States waters and ports. The study was to survey new technology and new applications of existing technology for reducing air emissions from cargo and passenger vessels regulated under the CAA and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, and identify the impediments, including any laws or regulations, to the implementation of this technology.  The docket includes comments that were received.

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