U.S. court upholds California vessel fuel law
A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday knocked back efforts by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association to stop the state of California from enforcing low-sulfur fuel requirements on cargo ships 24 miles from the state's coastline.
PMSA had in 2009 sought to invalidate a rule by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandating ships burn cleaner fuel near the state's coast to reduce sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions. The air regulatory agency estimates up to 40 percent of such emissions that Californians are subjected to come from oceangoing vessels.
PMSA, which represents the lion's share of container lines and terminal operators on the transpacific, has argued for national and continent-wide emission standards so California ports are not unfairly subjected to more stringent standards. The association argued California's law violated federal trade statutes on international commerce.
A U.S. District Judge ruled against PMSA in 2009 and the appeals court this week upheld that decision. The case will now proceed to trial in Sacramento.
'In their 45-page opinion, the judges acknowledged as unusual both California's Vessel Fuel Rules and the environmental problems they are intended to address,' the Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday. 'Neither the constitution nor federal maritime law 'should be used to bar a state from exercising its own police powers in order to combat these severe problems,' the judges said.'
Beginning in July 2009, vessels arriving at or leaving California ports have been required to use either marine gas oil or marine diesel oil with a sulfur limit of 0.5 percent or less. By January 2012, both fuels must not exceed 0.1 percent.
'The rules also require owners and operators to keep detailed records, and noncompliance could subject them to a wide range of sanctions, including civil fines, injunctions and criminal prosecution,' the newspaper reported.