California Environmental Regulations Outpacing U.S. Regulations

Tuesday, August 31, 1999
The State of California is proving to be an environmental minefield for ports and ship operators as various environment groups step up pressure for more legislation and regulation, and with a stranded woodchip carrier now leaking oil on an Oregon beach, other West Coast states are now studying Califronia's concerns. In January, the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic forwarded a notice of intent to sue the Port of Oakland and the USACE if a full review of the port's proposed 50 ft dredging project was not conducted under a set timetable. Written on behalf of the Center for Marine Conservation and San Francisco BayKeeper - two local environmental groups - the letter alleged the environmental impact statement filed for the deepening project "fails to address" the project's impact on endangered and threatened species from the introduction of "invasive, non indigenous species through the discharge of ballast," and therefore is in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The two environmental groups claim a deeper navigation channel in the Bay will result in increased traffic from foreign ports by ships traveling faster and carrying more ballast water. They therefore feel the original biological assessment prepared for the deepening project is incomplete and inaccurate because it fails to address the ballast water issue. But it is not that California authorities are not trying. Prior to the Law Clinic's notice of intent, the California State Water resources Board had been discussing the ballast water issue with several groups and had heard from the San Francisco Estuary Institute, which had suggested shoreside treatment of ballast water may turn out to be the most efficient means of handling the problem, and may be less expensive than onboard treatment. California's sudden activity on the ballast water issue is quickly out-pacing U.S. federal activity, and this has ship operators worried. John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, has complained regulatory agencies are doing a "poor job" of coordinating their activity on the subject. To date, the USCG has proposed a voluntary water ballast management program for vessels entering U.S. waters from outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In addition, it is asking for mandatory reporting requirements for all ballast water-equipped vessels entering U.S. waters from the EEZ if their voyage included a stop at a foreign port, including Alaska and Hawaii. On a second environmental front, the U.S. EPA has agreed to come up with a determination, by June 1 of this year as to what measures should be considered to reduce NOx emissions in the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area, and promulgate "final measures" no later than December 3, following settlement of a lawsuit brought about by several other environmental organizations. The organizations charged the research and study process has been going too slowly. The EPA has been looking at measures to reduce NOx levels, including the movement of commercial vessel traffic farther of the California coast, slowing vessels down in the region and mandating that ships go "cold iron" while in port. None of these options have been received enthusiastically by the shipping community at large. The U.S. Navy, which tests missiles off the California coast, does not want ships moving into its firing range, and vessel operators are in agreement that cold iron is not a feasible alternative. In addition, recent data from the local Marine Exchange suggests vessels in the Southern California area are moving more slowly than originally estimated, suggesting there may be less potential here for NOx cuts than had been previously projected. Research on the impact of emissions in the region has been delayed somewhat by the failure of the Brookhaven National Laboratory to complete its analysis of samples generated in a 1998 tracer study. However, these results are expected to be turned over shortly and will then have to be integrated into the EPA's existing models. The use of Selective Catalytic Reduction systems for vessels entering the area has also been suggested but research into such usage is still in a preliminary stage. Last year, an engine changeout was made to a small tug operating in and out of Los Angeles harbor to see what benefits might be achieved by new emission-efficient diesels. Initial testing indicated the engines emitted 69 percent fewer oxides of nitrogen and 94 percent less carbon monoxide than the power plants they replaced. This would mean an actual reduction of more than 80 tons of NOx per year for the boat. Although the Southern California Air Quality Management District has said it is hopeful tugboat operators in the area will convert to the new engines, there is no pending legislation mandating such a change. Tug operators have already stated they feel the price tag of approximately $500,000 is a little too steep for what would be a voluntary effort.-J.L. Shaw California Environmental Regulations Outpacing U.S. Regulations The State of California is proving to be an environmental minefield for ports and ship operators as various environment groups step up pressure for more legislation and regulation, and with a stranded woodchip carrier now leaking oil on an Oregon beach, other West Coast states are now studying Califronia's concerns. In January, the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic forwarded a notice of intent to sue the Port of Oakland and the USACE if a full review of the port's proposed 50 ft dredging project was not conducted under a set timetable. Written on behalf of the Center for Marine Conservation and San Francisco BayKeeper - two local environmental groups - the letter alleged the environmental impact statement filed for the deepening project "fails to address" the project's impact on endangered and threatened species from the introduction of "invasive, non indigenous species through the discharge of ballast," and therefore is in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The two environmental groups claim a deeper navigation channel in the Bay will result in increased traffic from foreign ports by ships traveling faster and carrying more ballast water. They therefore feel the original biological assessment prepared for the deepening project is incomplete and inaccurate because it fails to address the ballast water issue. But it is not that California authorities are not trying. Prior to the Law Clinic's notice of intent, the California State Water resources Board had been discussing the ballast water issue with several groups and had heard from the San Francisco Estuary Institute, which had suggested shoreside treatment of ballast water may turn out to be the most efficient means of handling the problem, and may be less expensive than onboard treatment. California's sudden activity on the ballast water issue is quickly out-pacing U.S. federal activity, and this has ship operators worried. John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, has complained regulatory agencies are doing a "poor job" of coordinating their activity on the subject. To date, the USCG has proposed a voluntary water ballast management program for vessels entering U.S. waters from outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In addition, it is asking for mandatory reporting requirements for all ballast water-equipped vessels entering U.S. waters from the EEZ if their voyage included a stop at a foreign port, including Alaska and Hawaii. On a second environmental front, the U.S. EPA has agreed to come up with a determination, by June 1 of this year as to what measures should be considered to reduce NOx emissions in the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area, and promulgate "final measures" no later than December 3, following settlement of a lawsuit brought about by several other environmental organizations. The organizations charged the research and study process has been going too slowly. The EPA has been looking at measures to reduce NOx levels, including the movement of commercial vessel traffic farther of the California coast, slowing vessels down in the region and mandating that ships go "cold iron" while in port. None of these options have been received enthusiastically by the shipping community at large. The U.S. Navy, which tests missiles off the California coast, does not want ships moving into its firing range, and vessel operators are in agreement that cold iron is not a feasible alternative. In addition, recent data from the local Marine Exchange suggests vessels in the Southern California area are moving more slowly than originally estimated, suggesting there may be less potential here for NOx cuts than had been previously projected. Research on the impact of emissions in the region has been delayed somewhat by the failure of the Brookhaven National Laboratory to complete its analysis of samples generated in a 1998 tracer study. However, these results are expected to be turned over shortly and will then have to be integrated into the EPA's existing models. The use of Selective Catalytic Reduction systems for vessels entering the area has also been suggested but research into such usage is still in a preliminary stage. Last year, an engine changeout was made to a small tug operating in and out of Los Angeles harbor to see what benefits might be achieved by new emission-efficient diesels. Initial testing indicated the engines emitted 69 percent fewer oxides of nitrogen and 94 percent less carbon monoxide than the power plants they replaced. This would mean an actual reduction of more than 80 tons of NOx per year for the boat. Although the Southern California Air Quality Management District has said it is hopeful tugboat operators in the area will convert to the new engines, there is no pending legislation mandating such a change. Tug operators have already stated they feel the price tag of approximately $500,000 is a little too steep for what would be a voluntary effort.-J.L. Shaw
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