Tougher Pollution Rules Issued for Ships, Locomotives

The new rules apply to ships traveling on inland waterways and between U.S. ports, not to big oceangoing vessels.
The new rules apply to ships traveling on inland waterways and between U.S. ports, not to big oceangoing vessels. (By Jeff Chiu -- Associated Press)
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 15, 2008

Diesel-powered locomotives, ships, ferries and tugboats will have to eliminate 90 percent of the soot and 80 percent of the nitrogen oxides in their exhaust by 2030 under tougher air-pollution standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday.

"Today EPA is fitting another important piece into the clean diesel puzzle by cleaning emissions from our trains and boats," EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said, adding that the nation's "diesel rule has reached its final stop on its journey to deliver cleaner air to all Americans."

Over the past decade, pollution from diesel-powered cars, SUVs, trucks and off-road vehicles has been cut by a series of rules that curb emissions of fine particles and smog-causing chemicals.

Environmental groups, which had criticized the EPA this week for setting new limits on smog-causing ozone at a level higher than recommended by the agency's independent scientific advisers, applauded yesterday's action.

"Our children, and our children's children, will grow up in an era where diesel engines are no longer associated with these noxious black plumes of smoke," said Janea Scott, a staff lawyer with the group Environmental Defense. She added that the reductions ordered by the EPA "are challenging but achievable."

The new standards will yield between $8.4 billion and $12 billion in health benefits and prevent 1,400 premature deaths annually by the time they are in full effect in 2030, Johnson said. He estimated that they will cost businesses $740 million to implement.

The EPA accelerated its original proposed deadline for cutting nitrogen oxides by two years; the rules will take effect in 2014 for vessels and in 2015 for locomotives.

Edward R. Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads, said he is confident his industry could comply.

"Our locomotive builders will be required to design diesel particulate filters and selective catalytic reduction systems that can fit within the narrow confines of a locomotive and withstand the harsh railroad operating environment," Hamberger said in a statement. "In meeting the emissions limits established by the previous standards, the railroad industry has achieved emissions and energy efficiencies beyond those contemplated at the time the previous standards were issued."

Some regional officials, however, said the new rules do not go far enough. The regulations apply to ships that travel on inland waterways and between U.S. ports, but exempt large oceangoing container ships. Barry R. Wallerstein, executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which oversees Los Angeles, called the omission "a huge hole in these regulations."

"The rules released today are inadequate for Southern California and are not protective of the public health in our region," said Wallerstein, whose district includes 16 million people. Oceangoing vessels are responsible for 800 preventable deaths each year in the Los Angeles region, he said. "These vessels are going to continue to use the dirtiest fuel around."

In a telephone news conference about the new rules, Johnson criticized the account in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post of how the EPA crafted one part of the ozone standard announced on Wednesday.

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