LOS ANGELES (October 24, 2007) – In a major victory for public health, the Ninth Circuit court granted yesterday a request by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other defendants in a lawsuit involving ships and cleaner marine fuels. The stay of an earlier injunction guarantees the enforcement of California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations while the lawsuit is heard. The regulations require ships to reduce their emissions as they approach the California coast. The majority of ships would comply with the rules by using cleaner fuels in their auxiliary engines.
“Emissions from the freight transport industry in California cause 2,400 premature deaths, 360,000 lost workdays, and more than 1,000,000 school absences annually,” said Melissa Lin Perrella, an attorney with NRDC’s Air Quality Program.
In the lawsuit, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) challenged CARB’s regulations adopted in 2005. CARB’s Auxiliary Engine Rules require vessel operators to limit the emissions from ship auxiliary engines within 24 nautical miles of the California coast. The rules also allow CARB to require use of even cleaner fuels by 2010. Auxiliary engines provide power for uses other than propulsion, such as electricity for lighting, refrigeration of cargo and navigation equipment.
CARB estimates that between 2007 and 2020 the new rule will reduce particulate emissions by more than 23,000 tons, nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 15,000 tons, and sulfur oxides (SOx) by 200,000 tons – preventing some 520 premature deaths.
Previously, the Eastern District court granted PMSA’s motion for summary judgment and prevented the enforcement of CARB’s rules asserting that they were preempted under the Clean Air Act. The decision by the Ninth Circuit grants a stay of the Eastern District court’s injunction of the CARB rules pending appeal, while also granting an expedited briefing schedule and hearing.
The other defendants in the lawsuit include CARB, the Coalition for Clean Air, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the City of Long Beach.
The Auxiliary Engine Rule is one of the first in a series of rules that CARB plans to adopt to reduce pollution from marine vessels, including rules that will reduce emissions from main engines and require ships to plug in to shore power rather than run their diesel engines while docked.