A day after the US Senate voted to uphold the US Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, a coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit today challenging EPA’s failure to address such pollution from ocean-going ships, aircraft and nonroad vehicles and engines used in industrial operations. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in the District of Columbia by Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of Oceana, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the International Center for Technology Assessment.
Together, aircraft, ship and nonroad vehicles and engines are responsible for 24 percent of U.S. mobile source greenhouse gas emissions, and emit approximately 290,000 tons of soot every year. Pollution from these sources is projected to grow rapidly over coming decades.
“The shipping industry is a major contributor to global warming pollution. Annual U.S. shipping emissions are equivalent to from 130 million to 195 million cars. These emissions are on track to triple over the next 20 years. It is time for the EPA to issue common sense rules – like requiring fuel efficient cruising speeds – to control the pollution from this important sector,” said Eric Bilsky, Assistant General Counsel, Oceana.
The coalition petitioned EPA in late 2007 and early 2008, to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels, aircraft, and nonroad vehicles and engines respectively endanger public health and welfare, and if so, to issue regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from these sources. Despite having had more than two years to do so, EPA has not responded to the petitions.
“Yesterday Congress rejected an attempt to strip EPA of its authority to protect the public from global warming pollution,” said Sarah Burt of Earthjustice, who is representing the coalition. “EPA has a clear moral obligation and legal duty under the Clean Air Act to act decisively to protect public health and the environment on which all Americans depend.”
“The Clean Air Act works to reduce dangerous pollution like greenhouse gas emissions, and it must be implemented immediately,” said Vera Pardee, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe for 40 years, reaping economic benefits 42 times its cost. Cost effective solutions to achieve significant greenhouse gas pollution reductions from ships, airplanes, and nonroad engines exist today. The Obama administration needs to move forward far more quickly to implement them to avoid devastating climate disruption. Delaying common-sense pollution-reduction measures is the wrong policy and wrong on the law.”
“The evidence of climate change is becoming clearer each and every day,” said Danielle Fugere, Regional Program Director for Friends of the Earth. “We can no longer afford the EPA’s refusal to address important and growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”
“EPA needs to shift into high gear and limit the impact that industrial non-road vehicles and engines impose on our common airshed,” said Dan Galpern, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Even the Bush EPA admitted that climate pollution could be slashed from over-powered diesel engines used in industrial operations, if it chose to do so. Now EPA, at long last, is restricting climate pollution from cars and light trucks, and certain stationary sources. But the climate crisis will not be allayed without the maximum achievable reduction in GHG emissions. This requires reasonable restrictions on monster earth movers, heavy mining and logging equipment, agricultural pumps and other industrial machinery that presently spew climate pollution without end.”
Aviation and Global Warming
Aircraft emit 11 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. transportation sources and three percent of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions. The United States is responsible for nearly half of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft. Greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are anticipated to increase substantially in the coming decades due to the projected growth in air transport. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, greenhouse gas emissions from domestic aircraft are expected to increase 60 percent by 2025. While some countries, such as the European Union, have already begun to respond to these challenges, the United States has failed to address this enormous source of emissions.
Ships and Global Warming
In 2008, marine vessels entering U.S. ports accounted for four and a half percent of domestic mobile source greenhouse gas emissions. The global fleet of marine vessels releases almost three percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, an amount comparable to the total greenhouse gas emissions of Canada. Because of their huge numbers and inefficient operating practices, marine vessels release a large volume of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide—a precursor to ozone— and black carbon, or soot. If fuel use remains unchanged, shipping pollution will potentially double from 2002 levels by the year 2020 and triple by 2030. Despite their impact on the global climate, greenhouse gas emissions from ships are not currently regulated by the United States or internationally.
Nonroad Vehicles and Engines and Global Warming
Nonroad vehicles and engines are used in the agricultural, construction, commercial, industrial, mining and logging sectors. In 2008, such industrial nonroad vehicles and engines were responsible for approximately nine percent of U.S. mobile source carbon dioxide emissions, as well as significant emissions of black carbon, or soot. Nearly a third of these emissions are produced by the construction and mining sectors, while a fifth are from agriculture. EPA projects that carbon dioxide emissions from the nonroad sector will increase approximately 46 percent between 2006 and 2030.