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Clean Up: California-Bound Cruise Ships Must Burn Cleaner Fuel

July 2, 2009 By: David Eisen

California is now requiring that ocean-going vessels, including passenger cruise ships, switch to cleaner-burning fuels, even as the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) challenges the ruling.    

The California coastline stands to become a little cleaner after new regulation requiring ships to burn cleaner fuel

The new regulation went into effect July 1 with a second deadline on January 1, 2012 to require that all ocean-going vessels entering California ports switch to progressively cleaner fuels when they are 24 miles from California’s coast.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says air pollution from ocean-going vessels exposes 80 percent of Californians to significant cancer risk and is responsible for thousands of Californian deaths annually and sickening hundreds of thousands across the state.

Melissa Lin Perrella, a staff attorney for the NRDC, said: "The Court's ruling is a victory for public health. Studies confirm offshore diesel particulate pollution from ships is carried for miles inland and we know from the billions we spend on healthcare-related costs attributed to air pollution that those emissions find permanent homes in our lungs.

"Requiring ships to use clean-burning fuel within 24 miles of our coast will save 3,500 lives during the next six years that would otherwise be cut short by particulate pollution. Complying with these regulations will cost less than one percent of a typical trans-Pacific voyage’s total cost and will reduce diesel particulate emissions by nearly 75 percent."

California becomes the first state to adopt clean fuel requirements for ocean-going vessels, requiring ships to switch to cleaner fuels within 24 miles of the coast. In its lawsuit, PMSA argued that the Submerged Lands Act of 1953 precluded California from regulating vessels beyond its territorial boundaries. The motion was denied, however, as Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. of the Eastern District of California concluded that the Submerged Lands Act didn't prevent coastal states like California from regulating offshore air pollution from ocean-going vessels.

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