California Vote to Regulate Ship Pollution at Its Ports

California's new vessel air pollution regulations are the first in the nation to regulate emissions from oceangoing ships. The California Air Resources Board also passed rules to reduce emissions from the cranes, fork lifts, tractors and trucks at the ports as well. Both sets of regulations are scheduled to take effect in 2007.

The new regulations were unanimously approved by a six-member board in Sacramento, and targets cutting emissions at ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Stockton where air pollution is deemed to pose a health risk to workers and nearby residents.

The regulations will restrict emissions of particulates and gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from oceangoing vessels. Ships will be required to switch from large diesel engines to smaller auxiliary engines, which run on cleaner-burning fuel, within 24 miles off the California coast. The regulations were projected to reduce particulates by 75 percent and sulfur dioxides by more than 80 percent in 2007.

Environmental groups applauded the board's decision to regulate ship engine emissions at a time when state officials anticipate a dramatic increase in port traffic from ships carrying imports from China and other Asian nations.

The shipping association planned to voice its opposition during the 15-day public comment period.

The Air Resources Board earlier this month released a report that found that California's cargo industry produces enough pollution to cause 750 premature deaths each year and result in thousands of asthma attacks, lost work days and school absences.