California Protects Citizens From Toxic Ship Fumes

Yesterday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state of California can regulate the shipping and cruise industries and require vessels that call on the state's ports to use cleaner fuel. One of the problems with the cruise industry is that cruise ship use diesel and nasty bunker fuels which spew toxic particulate matter into the air. Unlike most states, California requires that ships use cleaner fuel starting 24 nautical miles from California's shore. According to Melissa Lin Perrella, an attorney with Southern California Air Project in Santa Monica: "Over the course of six years, between 2009 and 2015, these rules will prevent 3,500 premature deaths. Eighty percent of Californians are exposed to air pollution from large ocean-going vessels as their exhaust drifts inland. Every day, these vessels spew toxic diesel particulate matter (PM) in an amount equivalent to 150,000 big rig trucks driving 125 miles daily. While people living close to ports are particularly affected, wind patterns, geography, and meteorology transport vessel-generated air pollution well beyond our coastline and into too many of our lungs." The shipping and cruise industries, led by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (which lists cruise industry giant Carnival as a member), fought against the California legislation. Essentially, the shipping and cruise interests argued that California does have not have authority to regulate vessels more than 3 miles from its coastline (the regulations reach 24 nautical miles from shore). It is not unusual for the cruise industry to tell the public that it stands for the highest environmental standards, but behind the scenes spend millions of dollars to lobbyists and lawyers to fight for lower standards which harm the public. Ms. Perrella writes: "The message is clear. It is time for the shipping industry to get on board or get out the way. California is moving forward to protect its citizens, and now has the Ninth Circuit firmly behind it." California and Alaska are ahead of the curve in protecting U.S. citizens from the harmful effects of poisonous cruise fuels. Will states like Florida ever protect their citizens? A copy of the 45 page decision can be read here. Credit: Photograph Gerardo Dominguez, UC San Diego (via UCSD Division of Physical Science)

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