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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 3:12 am | Fair 46º


International Action on Marine Shipping Good News for Local Air Quality

Waters 200 miles off the coast are designated an Emission Control Area, requiring large ships to use cleaner fuel and technology

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District announced Monday that action taken on Friday by the International Maritime Organization will provide significant long-term emission reductions from marine shipping and improve air quality in the county.

The IMO designated the waters 200 miles off the North American coasts an Emission Control Area, and required large ships traveling in those areas to use cleaner fuel and control technology. According to the district’s emissions projections, this action will result in a 37 percent reduction in emissions of nitrogen oxides pollution from ships affecting Santa Barbara County by 2020.

“We have been working to raise awareness of this issue for many years. It is so gratifying to see this action at the international level, since this huge source of pollution off our coast is not under our local control,” said district board member and First District county Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

In 2009, Carbajal sponsored a National Association of Counties resolution to urge the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency to pursue strategies to control pollution from marine shipping.

The district’s emission inventories and Clean Air Plans since 1994 have shown that the air pollution produced by large ships traveling through the Santa Barbara Channel has the potential to overwhelm onshore efforts to reduce pollution. The ships have been largely unregulated until recently, and their engines burn a particularly dirty fuel known as bunker oil.

The district has filed lawsuits calling on the EPA to take action, and has pursued multiple strategies to try to achieve emission reductions from these ships — the majority of which are foreign-flagged.

In 2009, the EPA proposed the creation of an Emission Control Area to the IMO for consideration, and established standards for new marine engines for U.S.-flagged ships. Also in 2009, a new California Air Resources Board rule went into effect, requiring large ships to use cleaner fuel when traveling 24 nautical miles off the California coast. That action resulted in many ships traveling outside the Santa Barbara Channel — which has produced some air quality benefits for the county.

Click here for more information.

— Mary Byrd is a public information officer and education specialist for the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.


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