California’s New Initiative to Reduce Air Pollution Produced by State’s “Freight Industry” has Potentially Significant Ramifications for the Maritime Industry

On July 17, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown issued Executive Order B-32-15 (the “Executive Order”).  The Executive Order instructed several of California’s regulatory agencies to develop an integrated approach to reduce air pollution generated by the state’s multi-billion dollar freight industry to 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030.  Last week, these agencies – including the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”), publicly unveiled a draft of the Sustainable Freight Action Plan (the “Plan”), in response to the Executive Order.

Among the wide array of far-reaching initiatives proposed by the agencies in the Plan are three CARB proposals that specifically target the maritime industry:

  • Stricter Marine Diesel Engine & Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (SEEMPs) Standards.  CARB does not believe the Tier 3 marine diesel engine standards required under MARPOL Annex VI as of January 1, 2016 achieve sufficient reductions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.  CARB proposes working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Coast Guard, and “international partners” to urge the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) to adopt more stringent “Tier 4” marine diesel engine standards.  CARB also plans to lobby the IMO to adopt regulations requiring the approval of SEEMPs and that SEEMPs track the actual progress and improvement of marine diesel engine energy efficiency.   CARB aims to achieve these objectives by no later than 2025.
  • Incentivizing Super Low Emission Efficient Ships.  CARB proposes collaborating with regional seaports and other stakeholders to identify incentive programs designed to achieve early implementation of clean vessel technologies that exceed current regulatory requirements by 2018.  Specifically, CARB proposes development of criteria for a “Super-Low Emission Efficient Ship,” targeting nitrogen oxides, diesel particulate matter, greenhouse gases, and sulfur oxide emissions, as well as the creation of a “green lane” along the Pacific shipping corridor.
  • Expanding Scope of At-Berth Regulations.  CARB proposes to evaluate how its current At-Berth Regulations can be amended over the next decade to achieve further emissions reductions from vessel auxiliary engines.  CARB states it will evaluate making these regulations applicable to additional vessel fleets and types such as roll-on/roll-off vehicle carriers, bulk cargo carriers, and tankers.  CARB believes that expanding the scope of these regulations may be possible in light of the proven success of portable emissions capture and control systems.  These systems may now be used for compliance on container vessels. CARB will evaluate whether using these systems is feasible with these other types of vessels.

Although the Plan offers few details as to how CARB intends to achieve these goals, it is clear the agency foresees an on-going role in regulating maritime industry-generated air pollution.  Indeed, the announcement of Plan’s sweeping and ambitious goals follows on the heels of CARB’s announcement last month that it would delay for at least two more years the phasing-out of it Ocean-Going Vessel low sulfur fuel regulations.

The Plan, which is available here, will be open for public comment through July 6, 2016.

Keesal, Young & Logan Maritime Law Group

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