On World Oceans Day, Whitehouse and Padilla Introduce Pair of Bills to Reduce Ocean Shipping Emissions

Date: June 8, 2023

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) today introduced a pair of bills aimed at reducing air pollution created by the global shipping industry.  Whitehouse introduced the International Maritime Pollution Accountability Act, new legislation aiming to decarbonize the emissions-heavy maritime shipping industry, prevent the release of criteria air pollutants in port communities, and curb climate change.  Senators Padilla and Peter Welch (D-VT) are cosponsoring the legislation.

Whitehouse and Padilla also introduced the Clean Shipping Act today.  The Clean Shipping Act would set a path to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from all ocean shipping companies that do business with the United States.

“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to prevent the worst effects of climate change, so we’re introducing new legislation to encourage clean shipping, reduce the dirty fossil fuels polluting our oceans, and protect neighbors from the air pollutants plaguing port communities,” said Whitehouse.  “I’m glad to introduce this pair of bills with Senator Padilla to steer the global shipping industry away from emissions-heavy fuels and toward sustainable shipping technologies that are being developed here in America.”

“This World Ocean Day, I am proud to introduce legislation that improves our shipping industry by reducing emissions in maritime transportation and simultaneously protecting coastal communities,” said Padilla.  “California’s port communities have been forced to shoulder the brunt of shipping pollution for too long. The health of our communities and the health of our planet requires us forward thinking and ambitious—we owe it to future generations.”

Maritime shipping is the largest source of traded goods—both for the U.S. and globally.  Greenhouse gas emissions from maritime shipping account for three percent of total global emissions and are projected to increase rapidly over the coming years.  Unlike other modes of transportation (e.g., trucks, planes, etc.), marine shipping vessels rarely pay fuel taxes.  A global carbon price on maritime emissions has been proposed by the industry as a solution, but to date the International Marine Organization (IMO) has failed to implement a solution consistent with global decarbonization targets.

The International Maritime Pollution Accountability Act would impose a pollution fee on large marine vessels offloading cargo at U.S. ports, driving industry-wide decarbonization efforts and incentivizing the use and development of cleaner maritime fuels.  The bill would levy a $150 per ton fee on the carbon emissions of the fuel burned on the inbound trip, as well as fees for the nitrogen oxides ($6.30/lb.), sulfur dioxide ($18/lb.), and particle pollution (PM2.5) ($38.90/lb.) that the ships emit.  Only vessels that have 10,000 gross tonnage or more would be required to pay the fee, which would exclude most domestic shipping.  The fee on carbon emissions would sunset if the IMO implements and enforces a fee on the greenhouse gas emissions of marine shipping that is equal to or greater than the $150 per ton fee levied in the bill.

These pollution fees are estimated to raise approximately $250 billion over 10 years, providing critical funding for decarbonization efforts in the maritime economy.  The revenues collected from the fees would go toward modernizing the Jones Act fleet with low-carbon vessels, revitalizing and electrifying U.S. shipbuilding, and addressing and reducing pollutants in America’s port communities, along our coasts, and in our oceans.

The International Maritime Pollution Accountability Act has been endorsed by the Environmental Defense Fund, Ocean Conservancy, and Pacific Environment.

“We’ve taken real steps to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in transportation, but, so far, we haven’t made as much progress in maritime shipping.  Action is badly needed and long overdue,” said Welch, a cosponsor of the International Maritime Pollution Accountability Act.  “I’m glad to join Sen. Whitehouse to introduce this bill to reduce maritime greenhouse gas emissions and help modernize America’s shipping fleet and port infrastructure.”

“Senator Whitehouse’s bill presents a real opportunity to sharply reduce harmful pollution from international shipping and promote healthy, thriving communities alongside ports.  International shipping is a significant source of climate pollution and puts the nearly 40 million Americans living within three miles of a port in harm’s way with a toxic soup of pollutants.  For too long, they have paid the price of commerce with their health.  This legislation will help clean up the air they breathe, while keeping the U.S. on the path to meet its climate goals.  It also will send a strong message for future maritime negotiations that if the international community does not act, the U.S. will step up to protect the health of its people and the climate,” said Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President, Political Affairs at Environmental Defense Fund.

“The shipping industry exacts huge tolls on our ocean, climate and port communities by emitting around 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.  To curb emissions and fund the clean shipping transition, it only makes sense that we should charge a comparable fee to the shipping industry for polluting our ocean and contributing to climate change,” said Delaine McCullough, Campaign Manager for Shipping Emissions at Ocean Conservancy.  “The billions of dollars these pollution fees are going to generate will bolster existing decarbonization priorities such as electrifying ports, developing alternative shipping fuels and eliminating air pollution.  We need Congress to pass the International Maritime Pollution Accountability Act so that our ocean and the climate can get what they’re owed.”

“We commend Senator Whitehouse for introducing the International Maritime Pollution Accountability Act of 2023.  This legislation will hold the maritime industry financially responsible for their harmful emissions, raising billions of dollars over the next decade to help combat air pollution in working-class communities and communities of color near U.S. ports.  It will drive decarbonization efforts, prevent the release of massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, incentivize the use of cleaner fuels and technologies by the shipping sector, and support a just transition through funding for workforce development.  With the climate emergency at hand, we urge Congress to immediately take up and pass this bill,” said Antonio Santos, Federal Climate Policy Director at Pacific Environment.

“There is an urgent need for shipping to decarbonize and we know for a fact that regulation has to be part of that equation.  This new piece of legislation cements the U.S. as a pioneer in the green transition and should help spur the much-needed production of green maritime fuels.  Maersk particularly welcomes the immediate inclusion of a lifecycle perspective for all fuels that takes all relevant greenhouse gases into consideration.  The IMO sunset clause will also send a strong signal,” said Rabab Raafat Boulos, Chief Infrastructure Officer at A.P. Moller-Maersk.

Padilla’s Clean Shipping Act of 2023 would set a path to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from all ocean shipping companies that do business with the United States.  The legislation would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set progressively tighter carbon intensity standards for shipping fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Full text of the International Maritime Pollution Accountability Act is available here.  Full text of the Clean Shipping Act is available here.

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