Resource Development Council

RDC Action Alert:
Support Efforts for an Emission Control Area Pilot Project

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Congress is currently considering the Coast Guard reauthorization bill. Passage of this legislation presents an opportunity to achieve a short to mid-term solution to Alaska’s concern with the Emission Control Area (ECA). Your help is needed immediately, as there is a small window of opportunity.

The U.S. House of Representatives will likely pass a Coast Guard authorization bill soon. At this point, the best hope is to get language inserted into the Senate version.

Senator Mark Begich is currently the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Coast Guard. Senator Begich understands the ECA’s potential negative impact to Alaska’s economy and is supportive of a congressional solution. To be successful, please ask Senator Begich to obtain the support of the committee members and include the ECA Pilot Project language in the Senate version. Please contact Senator Begich and express the critical nature of achieving a solution now, and request his help in convincing his Democrat colleagues to support the ECA Pilot Project. It may be the only chance to find a solution prior to critical cruise ship deployment decisions being made for 2014 and 2015.

Given the short time frame, phone calls and emails will be most effective. To assist your communication, Senator Begich’s email and phone number is listed below.

Senator Mark Begich Phone: (202) 224-3004

Send email via:

Background on ECA Pilot Project:
Language has been drafted and submitted to both House and Senate members establishing an ECA Pilot Project. The pilot allows marine vessels to comply with the ECA fuel requirements through the use of populated weighted averaging. Under this approach, vessels would burn even cleaner fuel (.001% sulfur) than required by the ECA while in port communities and other populated areas. This approach will provide even better health benefits than those projected by the EPA. This approach will also allow vessels to burn more traditional fuel while traveling in remote areas.

For Alaska, where 100% of cruise ship voyages are within the ECA, a populated weighted averaging approach would provide significant reduction to the increased cost of fuel. The Pilot Project language would also require the EPA to perform air monitoring in Alaska in order to verify the effectiveness of the pilot.

Points to consider in your comments:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed an Emissions Control Area (ECA) within a 200-mile limit around North America.
  • Within the ECA, marine vessels, including freight ships, cruise ships and oil tankers, are restricted to use fuel with 1% sulfur content, as of August 1st, 2012. Beginning January 1st, 2015, the limit will be further reduced to .1%.
  • Low sulfur fuel is much more costly than projected. On August 1, 2012, ECA compliant fuel prices increased from $656 per metric ton to $930 per metric ton, representing a 46% increase in fuel costs. Today’s prices for .1% sulfur fuel (required on January 1, 2015) is $1,130 per metric ton, or 72% fuel increase from pre-ECA prices.
  • By the EPA’s own admission, they have not conducted air quality monitoring in Alaska to justify the ECA. The rationalization they used to include Alaska cited potential impacts on lichen in Juneau and how it serves as a food source to caribou 1,000 miles away. The only air quality concerns they could cite were winter time air quality issues in Fairbanks, completely unrelated to marine vessels. The State of Alaska and members of Alaska's Congressional Delegation have criticized the EPA for including Alaska in the ECA without any credible science.
  • Alaska is very dependent upon marine transportation: 85% of goods used in Alaska, from groceries to automobiles to construction materials, all arrive by marine transportation. Raising fuel costs will increase the cost of living, increase the costs of operating a business, and increase the cost of military presence in Alaska.
  • Alaska will feel a disproportionate impact compared to other jurisdictions, not only due to its heavy reliance on ocean bound cargo, but also because 100% of marine traffic from Puget Sound to Southcentral Alaska is within the ECA.
  • Increasing fuel prices will also impact the visitor industry. Nearly one million visitors arrive via cruise ship. Complying with the ECA at today’s prices will cost over $6 million per vessel per season starting in 2015.
  • Alaska’s cruise industry will become less competitive than other destinations such as Mexico and the Eastern Caribbean, as these itineraries only travel within the ECA for a small percentage of their voyage.
  • Alaska lost 14% of its cruise volume following the implementation of a $50 head tax. By 2015 the ECA will cost $151 per passenger or three times the head tax amount.
  • Deployment decisions for 2014 and 2015 are currently being considered in light of these new costs.

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