OAKLAND, Calif. —
The California Air Resources Board adopted regulations last week that will force ocean-going vessels to use cleaner fuel within 24 nautical miles of the state's coast.
The rule -- deemed the world's strictest -- means the roughly 2,000 ships that sail into state ports each year must start using low-sulfur fuel in 2009 instead of cheap but dirty bunker fuel. The air board said it will significantly cut pollution and cancer risk for California's residents.
"This regulation will result in one of the largest emissions reductions we've ever done," said Dimitri Stanich, air board spokesman.
Switching to the new fuel will cost ships about $30,000, which accounts for as little as 1 percent of the $3 million it may cost a ship to travel from Asia to the West Coast, Stanich said. Individual cruise passengers would pay about $15 extra.
The air board estimates the rule will cut shipping-related diesel particulate matter by 75 percent in the first year, and more than 80 percent of sulfur oxides. In 2012, the sulfur content is scheduled to drop further, which will lead to greater emissions reductions.
The new rule is the air board's second attempt at regulating ship emissions. Another attempt was overruled in court because the air board didn't have the authority to regulate emissions without a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Pacific Merchants Shipping Association (PMSA) contends the air board still faces the same legal requirement. "The Air Resources Board can pursue these regulations if they get a waiver ... All we're saying is comply with the law," said PMSA VIce President T.L. Garrett.
The International shipping industry is expected to adopt similar emissions regulations but the rules won't take effect until 2015. The air board estimates between 2009 and 2015, its new regulations wold save an estimated 3,600 premature deaths.
Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, said those living near ports suffering from asthma and respiratory issues can't wait seven years for air quality to improve.
"These regulations are very important and we certainly need them in the short term," Williams said.
The air board has also taken steps to reduce diesel particulate matter emissions from the truck fleet that services the state's ports. It will vote on regulations in October that will mandate replacement of trucks made before 1994, and retrofits for those made after.
Ever Liberty Stern and Cranes -- CC licensed by Flickr user braimondi.