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Coast Guard will not enforce new California rule, citing ‘safety concerns’

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(The Center Square) – The U.S. Coast Guard says it “will not enforce” a new California Air Resources Board regulation, citing “safety concerns.”

The Coast Guard and business organizations oppose CARB’s requirement that commercial harbor craft install diesel particulate filters linked to a number of fires. Seventeen states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for giving an exemption to California alone to enact its own air standards that, by power of its market size, govern much of the rest of the country.

Before enforcing the DTF rule, CARB is required to receive authorization for a waiver from the EPA under the Clean Air Act, which it is yet to secure. DPFs capture nearly all the soot and other particulate matter leaving a diesel engine. This highly flammable material is cleared out by DPF “regeneration” — bringing the engine up to high speeds and heat to make the built-up material catch on fire to clear itself out. This regeneration process is a much higher temperature than combustion and produces carbon dioxide, water vapor, and much smaller levels of soot. While DPF filters reduce immediate particulate pollution, they are linked to many fires, including a 3,600-acre fire in Washington state, that weigh against this benefit.

Rear Admiral Andrew M. Sugimoto, who commands the U.S. Coast Guard’s Eleventh District that stretches from the California-Oregon border all the way to Peru, wrote a letter to CARB detailing his issues with the pending DTF requirement, citing “potential fire safety issues associated with DPFs,” “feasibility and potential stability issues,” and “potential safety issues over DPF operating temperatures and the fire load of the vessel due to varied hull materials.”

“DPS verified by CARB may not necessarily be accepted by the Coast Guard for installation on inspected commercial vessels,” continued Sugimoto. “Coast Guard inspectors will not perform emissions tests on vessels operating in U.S. waters to evaluate DPF system performance. Therefore, please note that the Coast Guard will not enforce California’s CHC regulation.”

The American Waterways Operators also oppose the rule.

“Our industry safely and efficiently moves over 665 million tons of cargo each year while emitting 43 percent less greenhouse gasses than rail and 832 percent less than trucks,” wrote AWO president and CEO Jennifer Carpenter to California Governor Gavin Newsom. “CARB has made it clear that it intends to continue to enforce the CHC rule deadlines without EPA authorization. This ill-advised position should be reconsidered not only for legal reasons, but also to protect mariner safety, the environment, and the California supply chain.”

AWO also said retrofitting each tugboat or other commercial harbor craft by the state’s deadline ten months from now would cost $5 million per boat — cash many operators simply don’t have, and due to the lack of available drydocks, physically impossible to complete on time.

CARB is increasingly under pressure from businesses and other states who say the state’s unique, federal government-granted sway in environmental standards is unfair. A 17-state coalition suing the EPA claims California’s exceptional status violates the doctrine of equal sovereignty among states and effectively allows the state to dictate national environmental policy. California was allowed to start creating its own air standards under the 1970 Clean Air Act due to the tremendous smog and pollution in the state at the time.

Notably, while Southern California’s smog levels must still be cut by 100 tons per day to reach the EPA’s 1997 ozone standards, the South Coast Air Quality Management District says ⅔ of the required cuts must be done at the federal level for trains, ships, and aircraft because it lacks the power to regulate them itself.