State Files Suit Against EPA Challenging New Fuel Standards; New Fuel Standards will increase shipping rates on goods being transported to the state
July 14, 2012
The EPA and the Coast Guard, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, plan to enforce the EPA’s new emission control regulations beginning Aug. 1.
The EPA is requiring marine ocean carriers, including cruise ships, in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska to use fuel that meets 1-percent sulfur limits starting on Aug. 1. The new requirements tighten even more to 0.1 percent sulfur beginning in 2015.
The regulations will require marine cargo carriers and cruise lines to use costly and difficult-to-obtain low-sulfur fuel. The regulations will mean greatly increased shipping costs to Alaskans and will also harm the state’s tourism sector. Freight carriers have said EPA’s new requirements will force them to raise their rates on goods being transported to the state.
The increased shipping costs from these regulations are expected to be passed on to Alaska consumers in the form of higher prices for goods, raising Alaskans’ already high cost of living even higher.
Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), one of Alaska’s largest shipping companies, estimates that moving to low sulfur fuel will result in an increase of about 8 percent in TOTE’s total costs.
“Alaska relies heavily on maritime traffic, both for goods shipped to and from the state, and for the cruise ship passengers who support thousands of Alaskan jobs,” Attorney General Michael Geraghty said. “There are reasonable and equally effective alternatives for the Secretary and the EPA to consider which would still protect the environment but dramatically reduce the severe impact these regulations will have on Alaskan jobs and families.”
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) applauded Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK) for challenging the Environmental Protection Agency in court over new low-sulfur fuel standards for marine ocean carriers being imposed on Alaska-going vessels.
“Given the immediacy of the threat that these requirements pose to Alaska, Gov. Parnell’s decision to file litigation against the EPA is the right one,” Murkowski said. “The only way to avoid the damage these requirements will cause is for a judge to issue a stay against them before they go into effect Aug. 1.”
The EPA is requiring marine ocean carriers, including cruise ships, in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska to use fuel that meets 1-percent sulfur limits starting on Aug. 1. The new requirements tighten even more to 0.1 percent sulfur beginning in 2015. Freight carriers have said EPA’s new requirements will force them to raise their rates on goods being transported to the state.
“The new marine engine emission standards are just the latest example of how the Washington-based EPA doesn’t get Alaska,” Murkowski said. “If this rule is allowed to go into effect in two weeks, fuel costs are going to go up, which means the costs of items on store shelves across Alaska is going to increase. Alaskans – like most Americans – can’t afford to see the price of food and other necessities go up.”
Murkowski has been urging EPA since 2009 to conduct Alaska-specific air analyses before proceeding with implementation of the rule in Alaska waters out of concern that its cost to Alaskans would greatly exceed the potential health benefits.
“EPA conducted no state-specific air sampling before proposing this rule. One of the EPA’s most absurd claims is that emissions from cruise ships in Southeast Alaska could impact lichen in the mountains above Juneau, and that could then cause a drop in Southern Alaska Peninsula caribou populations,” Murkowski said. “The problem is there are no caribou in Southeast Alaska, and EPA has specifically not extended the ECA to cover western Alaska where the southern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd actually lives.”
Senator Murkowski and her staff continue to meet with EPA officials over the low-sulfur fuel requirements and other regulations to try to find a solution without lowering the standard of living for Alaskans.
Filed in U.S. District Court, the suit maintains the decision to include Alaska in the enforcement zone was based on flawed or incomplete data. In the complaint, the State notes that the EPA has admitted it failed to perform the air quality modeling in Alaska that it performed in other areas included in the ECA. The EPA also admitted when it responded to comments on its rule that Alaska “enjoys air quality that is generally cleaner than our National Ambient Air Quality Standards.” For that reason and others, the State believes the EPA has neither the scientific basis, nor legal authority, to extend the ECA to Alaska.
In addition to filing suit, Friday the State gave the Secretary, the EPA, and other federal agencies notice that Alaska will amend its complaint to add claims under the Administrative Procedures Act. Those claims will reinforce the State’s case that the EPA cannot enforce the ECA in Alaska.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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