By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

April 2017 Fidley Watch



March 15,2017

EPA to Reexamine Emission Standards

for Marine Vessels

WASHINGTON– Today. Department of Transportation Secretary (DOT) Elaine Chao and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt will revisit the previous administration’s 2008 rule that finalized standards to reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) by 90 percent and nitrogen oxides (NOX) by 80 percent from engines in marine vessels of under 30 liters per cylinder.

“Today’s decision by the EPA is a win for the American economy,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “The Department of Transportation will re-open the Mid-Term evaluation process and work with the EPA to complete the review in a transparent, data-driven manner.”

“These standards are costly for shipbuilders and the American people,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic. This thorough review will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment.”

Philips Publishing Group

April Fools!

The EPA isn’t really relaxing maritime emissions standards. Instead, it’s easing automotive Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. We simply substituted some maritime terms into the real EPA press release, to see how it would read.

We won’t hold our breath, but stranger things have happened this year.

On January 12, 2017, President Obama’s EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed a determination to maintain the current emissions standards for model year 2022-2025 motor vehicles, claiming “automakers are well positioned to meet the standards at lower costs than previously estimated.”

Last month, President Trump’s EPA Administrator Pruitt and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that EPA intends to reconsider that final determination, and will make a new final determination no later than April 1, 2018.

Good news for automakers and consumers, but a rollback of CAFE standards might not affect California, which has its own special provisions to set its own emissions standards. Would manufacturers go to increasingly difficult extremes to build cars that were only required in California? Or would California have to rely on vehicles manufactured before the rollback? After a few years, would the streets of California start to look like those of Cuba, filled with well-preserved pre-rollback “vintage” cars?

In this issue we report on the first Tier 4 tug on the west coast, the Earl W Redd, built to comply with the standards set forth in the Federal Register in 2008, 40 CFR. If the Trump EPA were to roll back emissions standards for marine vessels, such as the emissions tiers or emissions control areas, would California participate?

California has increased the fee, paid by vessels arriving at a California port, from $850 to $1,000 to fund the state’s invasive species program. This month, the California Board of Equalization will begin collecting that increased fee, for deposit into the Marine Invasive Species Control Fund, even though California’s Ballast Water standards are so stringent that the state can’t test for them.

If the other west coast ports had emissions and Ballast Water standards in keeping with those in the rest of the world, but lower than California’s, would carriers still call at California ports?

Commenting on the (real) press release, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt tweeted that CAFE standards should not be costly for automakers or the American people. We responded that neither should draconian emissions and discharge standards be costly for the commercial maritime industry. California’s governor Jerry Brown responded to Pruitt, “Once again, you’ve put the interests of big oil ahead of clean air, and politics ahead of science.”

Chris can be reached at


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