The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that marine and locomotive engines must meet tougher pollution controls, hoping for dramatic cuts in the amount of smog-causing chemicals and soot coming from trains, cargo ships, tugboats and passenger ferries.
The EPA regulation would require that new diesel engines used on ships and locomotives produce 90 percent less soot and 80 percent less smog-causing nitrogen oxide beginning within six or seven years. All the ships and locomotives would be expected to meet the new standards by 2030 as older engines are replaced or overhauled with cleaner technology.
“As more and more goods flow through our ports and railways, EPA is cutting diesel emissions at their source,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson told reporters in a teleconference from the bustling Port of Houston in Texas.
The pollution reductions will result in annual health benefits of $8.4 billion to $11 billion by 2030, prevent 1,400 premature deaths, fewer hospital visits and avoid 120,000 lost works days a year due to illnesses, the EPA estimated.
The action brought praise from environmentalists, who have recently criticized the EPA sharply for issuing smog regulations that many health experts view as inadequate and for not moving to regulate greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
“This is a good news story,” Richard Kassel, director of the clean fuels and vehicles project for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said of the ship and locomotive requirements. “Thousands of asthma attacks and other health emergencies will be avoided as the nation’s 40,000 ships and 21,000 diesel locomotives are cleaned up in years to come.”
“This is definitely person bites dog,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an advocacy group that has been highly critical of the EPA. “This is a rare case of the Bush administration doing something positive on air pollution.”
Johnson said the new requirements will be phased in two years earlier than proposed a year ago because of advancements in engine technology. The more protective requirements for locomotive engines go into effect in 2014, and for the marine engines in 2015, the EPA said. It also will require that old engines be retrofitted to meet the more stringent emission standards when overhauled.
“It will allow Americans to breathe cleaner air sooner,” said Johnson.
The more advanced engines are needed to get the full benefits of the nearly sulfur-free diesel fuel that refiners must produce under separate EPA regulations. The new clean air requirements for ships and locomotives have been in the works for more than three years. It follows a similar tightening of tailpipe pollution requirements for large tractor-trailer rigs.
The rule will cover cargo ships that travel between U.S. ports, vessels on inland waterways including the Great Lakes, as well as tugboats and passenger ferries in such places as Seattle and New York City. The requirements do not cover ocean going vessels including foreign freighters that use American ports, which fall under international standards.
Environmentalists and health advocates for years has pushed the EPA to lower pollution requirements on diesel-powered locomotives and marine vessels.
A study by Environmental Defense two years ago found that ships at three of the nation’s largest ports — Los Angeles, Houston and New York-New Jersey — together produced as much smog causing chemicals as 1 million cars. The group also found the nation’s locomotives produced fine soot, or particulate, equal to 70 coal burning power plants and as much smog causing nitrogen oxide as 120 coal plants.
“Emissions from ships and trains are a significant portion of the pollution in our air today,” said Janea Scott, a co-author of the two reports.