Congress Members Move to Protect Climate, Oceans, Public Health with Landmark Legislation for Zero-Emissions Ocean Cargo Ships, Ports

Groups applaud first stand-alone U.S. legislation to hold global shipping industry accountable for climate and air pollution at sea and in U.S. ports
Date: July 12, 2022

WASHINGTON (July 12, 2022) – Following the significant decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in West Virginia v. EPA that curbs EPA’s ability to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), along with original co-sponsor Congresswoman Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), today introduced H.R. 8336, the Clean Shipping Act of 2022. This bill becomes the first stand-alone legislation to zero out pollution from all ocean shipping companies that do business with the United States. The bill aims to clean up the shipping industry, protect the health of port communities, address environmental injustice, and provide solutions to the climate crisis. If ocean shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of climate pollution globally.

“We no longer have the luxury of waiting to act,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “We must face the fact that we are at a tipping point in the climate crisis; we must move beyond fossil fuels, and that includes air, land and sea transportation sources. No emissions sources can go overlooked. This legislation will set clear standards, and drive the investment and innovation we need to transition to a zero carbon future. It will clean up our ports once and for all, with a straightforward nationwide policy. This bill is the right policy for the future of our planet, for the health of our communities, and ultimately for the resiliency of goods movement.”

“The Clean Shipping Act of 2022 is bold legislation that will make the United States a global climate leader in addressing pollution from the shipping industry and protect the health of port communities in Los Angeles and around the country,” Congresswoman Barragán said. “This is a big step forward for climate smart ports and a clean energy future for every community. Proud to support this legislation as an original co-sponsor. Thank you to Congressman Lowenthal for your leadership and partnership to clean up the maritime industry and advance the greening of our ports.”

Americans want solutions to the climate crisis – cleaning up shipping and developing more renewable energy are two bipartisan solutions that can help solve global climate pollution. In fact, according to a recent poll, 73% of people support Congress passing legislation to reduce emissions and pollution from cargo ships and ensure cleaner shipping practices

“We applaud Congress members Lowenthal and Barragán for leading the effort to transition ports and shipping to zero emissions. The Clean Shipping Act of 2022 would advance environmental justice, provide immediate solutions to the climate crisis, and significantly reduce port pollution here in the United States. Now we need Congress to act to pass this vital legislation to put us on a pathway to end dirty fossil-fueled shipping in our oceans and ports,” said Antonio Santos, Federal Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment. 

Nearly 40% of Americans live within three miles of a port. For decades, fossil-fueled ships, owned largely by international corporations, have brought significant levels of pollution into these port adjacent communities. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, port-adjacent communities experience up to eight years lower life expectancy than the Los Angeles County average, and the highest risk of cancer regionally. This pollution disproportionately and unjustly impacts primarily Black, brown and working-class communities.

“We’re proud to support the urgently needed Clean Shipping Act, which protects Latino/x and other vulnerable communities from further exposure to port pollution and takes important steps to reduce harm from toxic ship fuels. One in three Latino/xs live in the top 20% of most pollution-impacted communities, and during the current supply chain crisis, pollution burdened communities are facing even more exposure as idling ships wait days to enter port and offload their cargo. We urge Congress to act swiftly in passing this vital legislation and protect our coastal communities from the harms of port emissions,” said Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, Sustainable Communities Program Director, GreenLatinos.

“Communities living near ports breathe in a toxic blend of exhaust that burns some of the dirtiest fuels on the planet, an unacceptable reality of our transportation system that has gotten worse with the increase in delivery goods. Port communities should not be sacrifice zones. Congressman Lowenthal’s legislation is critical to protecting the health of millions of Americans and acting on a significant yet overlooked source of climate pollution,” said Katherine García, director of Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign.

Technology pathways now exist that can transition the shipping industry from its dependency on fossil fuels to zero-emission propulsion. What the industry now needs are regulatory parameters to guide its industry transition. The Clean Shipping Act of 2022 is modeled off of the European Union’s Fit for 55 regulatory framework for shipping. If both the U.S. and the EU act together to regulate ship pollution together and in alignment, over one-third of all global ships would be covered under a unified regulatory regime.

Congressman Lowenthal’s legislation will accelerate the transition to zero emission shipping by setting clean shipping standards that will tackle the devastating human and economic impact of pollution at ports and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Katherine Tsantiris, Associate Director of Government Relations at Ocean Conservancy. “Setting clean shipping standards that will ratchet up over time will align the industry with global climate goals and unleash private and public innovation in a way that incentivizes industry to shift to zero emission technologies. The climate crisis demands immediate attention. Congress must pass this legislation.”

“Reducing shipping-related emissions would propel the U.S. toward our climate goals after years of sub-par standards. A steady improvement of pollution standards for trucks has given the market a number of zero-emissions options, yet the disproportionate impact from shipping has long been neglected. Congressman Lowenthal’s bill will at last address the destructive impacts on the health of nearby vulnerable communities and the planet. We expect this growing industry to keep up with emerging clean technologies to tackle the climate crisis head-on,” said John Kaltenstein, Deputy Director, Oceans & Vessels, Friends of the Earth.

Recent reports from the scientific community have raised red flags that urgent action to address climate change is required saying that it is “now or never.” Congress must act on Congressman Lowenthal’s legislation and hold the shipping industry and ports accountable to lowering emissions across the nation.

Congressman Lowenthall’s bill is a much needed step to addressing the air quality impacts marginalized residents who live near the ports experience because of a lack of regulation and prioritization of profits over people. We are excited to see Congressman Lowenthal champion legislation that prioritizes clean air and a healthy environment while we take steps toward a just green transition,” said Aaron McCall, Federal Advocacy Coordinator at California Environmental Voters. 

“We’re running out of time to do right by climate before we surpass irreversible tipping points beyond which our climate will have no repair. The shipping industry has historically been the source of some of the most harmful climate pollutants contributing to global warming, but also affecting air quality for fence line communities near port areas. Black carbon emissions from shipping get into the air streams, and end up settling on glaciers, increasing their heat capture, and accelerating glacier melt in regions like the arctic, which is now warming up to four times faster than other parts of the planet. Through measures that reduce the most critical air contaminants deriving from ships, we can effectively and concurrently tackle climate change while also helping revert historical climate injustice for those that suffer from the industry’s air quality impacts. The bill submitted by Congressman Lowenthal is a fundamental step in the right direction,” said Jorge Daniel Taillant, Director of the Center for Human Rights and Environment. 

“We cannot achieve our climate goals without significantly reducing emissions from ocean going ships. This bill will catalyze the development and adoption of new, cleaner ships, and enable ports across the U.S. to transition to zero-emission.  We thank Congress members Lowenthal, Barragán, Huffman, and Blunt Rochester for their leadership on this vital bill which will help address the global climate crisis and protect the health and wellbeing of port-side communities,” said Fern Uennatornwaranggoon, Senior Air Quality Manager, Environmental Defense Fund.


At almost 1 billion tons of climate pollution per year, the shipping industry emits roughly the same as all the coal plants in the U.S. combined. The sector could account for 17-18% of all global emissions by 2050 if corrective policies are not put in place. The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency that regulates shipping, has set a goal of cutting shipping emissions at least 50% below 2008 levels by 2050; however, the IMO’s strategy is not aligned with achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5-degrees C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Worryingly, international shipping’s fossil fuel pollution is rising. Global shipping’s climate pollution posted an increase of 4.9% in 2021 and was higher than 2019, according to Simpson Spence & Young. Around 90% of traded goods are carried over the waves. On its current trajectory, ocean trade is projected to grow by as much as 130% by 2050 over today’s trade volume. In total, about $14 trillion of the world’s goods are moved in containers at some point in the supply chain. 


Keith Higginbotham, Office of Congressman Alan Lowenthal, CA-47; [email protected], (202) 225-7924  

Gwen Dobbs, Pacific Environment, [email protected], 202-329-9295

Cody Sullivan, Ocean Conservancy, [email protected], 202-280-6273