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Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Alaska Lawsuit Challenges ‘Illegal’ Emissions Standards for Coastal Ships
By Selected News Articles @ 3:42 PM :: 6626 Views :: National News, Ethics

Alaska Sues EPA Over Clean Fuels Rules

by Purna Nemani, Courthouse News
ANCHORAGE (CN) - Alaska claims the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal Cabinet departments set new, illegal emissions standards for ships in coastal Alaskan waters without a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

Alaska claims the limits of sulfur content will make ship fuel more expensive, and hurt the state's tourism industry.
Alaska sued the U.S. EPA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Federal Court.
Alaska "seeks relief from the enforcement of a North American emission control area ('ECA') in the waters off the coast of Alaska." It claims that the ECA constitutes a treaty, and therefore needs two-thirds majority approval in the Senate.
The state claims Uncle Sam will start enforcing the emission control area on Aug. 1.
"As of that date, vessels operating within 200 miles of the Southeast and Southcentral Alaska coastlines will be required to use fuel with a sulfur content that does not exceed 1,000 parts per million ('low-sulfur fuel'). Low-sulfur fuel is more expensive, and more difficult to obtain, than the fuel currently used by many marine vessels operating in the waters off the coast of Alaska. Requiring the use of low-sulfur fuel in the ECA will greatly increase operating costs for vessels that supply Alaska's residents with basic necessities, and for cruise ships that facilitate Alaska's tourism industry. Enforcement of the ECA will therefore have an immediate and adverse effect on Alaska's citizens and economy," the complaint states.
Alaska claims Secretary Clinton exceeded her authority to act without involvement of the Senate. It claims that the SEC effectively amended the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), but did so without the two-thirds vote required by the Senate.
"To demonstrate that the ECA was needed to protect human health and the environment ... the U.S. used a 'state-of-the-art modeling technique' called the Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) model. The model 'simulated the multiple physical and chemical processes involved in the formation, transport and deposition' of pollutants. However, the CMAQ model did not include Alaska," the complaint states.
"The only other 'evidence' cited by the U.S. for extending the ECA to Alaska was the false connection drawn by the DEC employee between evidence of sulfur emissions impacting lichen communities near Juneau and the state of the Southern Alaska Peninsula Caribou Herd."
Alaska claims that because extending the ECA to Alaska was unlawful, the EPA does not have the authority to enforce it here.
The "supermajority requirement" of the Constitution "is an important check on executive power, and also protects less populous states like Alaska from the whims of more populated areas," Alaska says in the complaint.
The state claims that Gov. Sean Parnell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other officials expressed concerns with the lack of scientific and environmental data needed to justify including Alaskan waters in the ECA.
The Port of Anchorage serves 85 percent of Alaskans with 90 percent of the state's commodities, such as food, fuel, cars, construction and military supplies. The state claims the low-sulfur fuel requirement will increase shipping costs by 8 percent and be passed onto consumers.
It claims the cruise ship industry could decline by 15 percent, reducing workers' income by $150 million and tourist spending by $180 million.
American Fast Freight, an ocean freight and logistics company serving Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico, said in a statement: "Lower, but similar fuel cost increases will likely be the case in our other shipping markets of Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico," upon enforcement come Aug. 1. It said shippers and businesses are lobbying for delayed enforcement of the ECA until fuel alternatives can be researched.
Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty said in a statement, "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."
Alaska seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging of the Treaty Clause and the Separation of Powers Doctrine.

 

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