Court stops California from regulating shipping fuel standards

| 9/5/2007

A federal court has stopped California from enforcing a new fuel standard designed to cut use of bunker fuel from cargo ships as they reach ports in the Golden State.

In November 2006, the California Air Resources Board enacted a new regulation requiring ships to use low-sulfur fuel in auxiliary engines that come within 24 miles of the state’s coast.

The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association – representing the shipping industry – asked the court for an injunction against the CARB reg because shippers believe any new reg should be federal.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb issued a ruling that California can’t implement new fuel standards without approval from the EPA because the new standard sets specific numerical emissions requirements.

“Should defendants receive authorization from the EPA,” Shubb wrote, “they may move this court to dissolve this injunction.”

The federal government has had control over emissions standards since 1967, though Congress granted California an exemption from the Clean Air Act due to its position as the “leader in the establishment of standards for regulation of automotive pollutant emissions,” according to court documents.

California must, however, obtain EPA approval, Shubb’s decision states.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that bunker fuel contains sulfur content as high as 27,000 parts per million, compared with U.S. diesel limits on cars and trucks of sulfur no higher than 15 parts per million.

CARB Spokeswoman told the Press-Telegram that the agency was reviewing the court decision before deciding whether to appeal.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer