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States, Enviros Warn EPA Over Ship, Aircraft Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC, August 3, 2008 (ENS) – Formal letters warning of impending lawsuits over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to address greenhouse gas emissions from ocean-going ships and aircraft have been filed by four state attorneys general, three state agencies, New York City and a coalition of conservation groups.

The conservation groups’ notice of intent to sue was filed Thursday by the public interest law firm Earthjustice on behalf of Oceana, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The state and local jurisdictions filed similar notices on the same day, formally declaring their intent to sue the EPA for unreasonable delay.

The states California, Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey, and the California Air Resources Board, South Coast Air Quality Management District, New York City, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection also filed notices of intent to sue in 180 days.

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said, “Ships, aircraft and industrial equipment burn huge quantities of fossil fuel and cause massive greenhouse gas pollution yet President Bush stalls with one bureaucratic dodge after another.”

“Because Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency continues to wantonly ignore its duty to regulate pollution, California is forced to seek judicial action,” he said.

According to a report issued Thursday by Oceana, aircraft currently account for 12 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. transportation sources and three percent of the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions. The United States is responsible for nearly half of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft.


A loaded cargo ship sails out of San
Francisco Bay. (Photo by Silverdigger)

The global fleet of marine vessels releases almost three percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, an amount comparable to the emissions of the entire country of Canada. Because of their huge numbers and inefficient operating practices, marine vessels release a large volume of global warming pollutants, particularly carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and soot.

Despite their impact on the global climate, greenhouse gas emissions from ships are not regulated by the U.S. government, nor are these emissions limited under the Kyoto Protocol.

The coalition of environmental groups filed petitions to the EPA in October and December 2007, requesting that the agency determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels and aircraft endanger public health and welfare, and if so, to issue regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from these sources.

The coalition asked for a response within 180 days but did not receive one.

Instead, the coalition and the state and local jurisdictions contend that the EPA delayed its legal obligations by issuing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, ANPR, on July 11, 2008.

The ANPR does not make a finding as to whether EPA intends to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, as the Supreme Court determined it was required to do in a 2007 ruling in the case of Massachusetts vs EPA.

Nor does the ANPR draw any conclusions about how to protect public health and welfare from global warming pollutants.

Instead, the ANPR compiles comments from other government agencies on the subject of regulating greenhouse gas emissions, reviews provisions of the Clean Air Act, and raises numerous issues regarding potential regulations.

In hundreds of pages, the ANPR avoids answering key relevant questions – whether greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare, and if so, how and when it will take action.

“More than 15 months after the Supreme Court’s order, EPA, once again, has ignored its legal and moral obligation to act quickly to protect the health and welfare of Americans,” said Martin Wagner of Earthjustice, who is representing the coalition of environmental groups.

“The Bush administration is wasting precious time with continued foot-dragging – time that we don’t have. We have gone to court to force action by this or the next administration,” he said.

“Scientists are reporting that global climate change is damaging our oceans and our daily lives, even more rapidly than forecast,” said Dr. Michael Hirshfield, Oceana’s chief scientist and senior vice president for North America. “Does the EPA think climate change will go away by itself? ‘We’ll think about it tomorrow’ is an unconscionable conclusion for an agency whose mission is to protect the environment.”

“The latest Bush administration tactic on global warming seems to be ‘if you can’t beat them, delay them,’” said Danielle Fugere, Western Regional Program -irector for Friends of the Earth. “Instead of taking action on global warming pollution from shipping and aviation – two of the fastest growing sources of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide – EPA is yet again putting the brakes on developing innovative global warming solutions.”

The EPA has refused to regulate emissions from nonroad engines, aircraft and ocean-going vessels despite “unassailable evidence of global warming and dangerous foreign oil dependency,” says California Attorney General Brown.

Brown cites a report on global warming issued last week by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which predicts more frequent and intense hurricanes, heat waves, and flooding.

In California, where hydropower makes up roughly 15 percent of in-state energy production, Brown says diminishing snowmelt flowing through dams will decrease the potential for hydropower production by up to 30 percent by the end of the century.

“If we’re going to slow the melting of the Arctic and save not only the polar bear but thousands of species around the world, we need to implement highly effective existing environmental laws like the Clean Air Act,” said Kassie Siegel, Climate Program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Regulating greenhouse pollution from ships and aircraft under the Clean Air Act is a necessary first step towards solving the climate crisis.”

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