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California’s At-Berth Regulation granted US EPA authorization

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) received authorization from the US EPA under the Clean Air Act for its 2020 At-Berth Regulation, which further reduces pollution from ocean-going vessels while docked at California’s busiest ports. (Earlier post.)

The new regulation was passed by the CARB Board in 2020 and adds new vessel categories—auto carriers and tankers—as well as additional ports and marine terminals. Under the new regulation, vessels are required to control pollution when they run auxiliary engines or auxiliary boilers (for most tanker vessels) while docked.

The two vessel categories added to the new regulation produce 56% of all fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) from ocean-going vessels at berth in California ports, which when inhaled can embed in people’s lungs and bloodstreams, causing health impacts such as premature mortality, increased hospitalizations for heart and lung illness and asthma attacks.

The new regulation builds on progress achieved by the At-Berth Regulation adopted in 2007. As of 2020, the 2007 rule had achieved an 80% reduction in harmful emissions from more than 13,000 vessel visits since 2014.

Vessels covered under the original regulation include container ships, reefers (carrying refrigerated cargo), and cruise ships. Once the new regulation is fully implemented, it will deliver a 90% reduction in pollution from vessels at berth. This includes an expected additional 2,300 vessel visits per year and will result in a 55% reduction in potential cancer risk for communities near the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Richmond.

The regulation requires that vessels coming into a regulated California port either use shore power (e.g., plug in to the local electrical grid) or a CARB-approved control technology to reduce harmful emissions like a capture-and-control technology (e.g., a duct that connects to a vessel’s exhaust and captures emissions).

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