Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act Congress Takes Shipping Emissions
In honor of World Oceans Day, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has reintroduced legislation aimed at tackling the impacts of climate change on the oceans and reforming the management Federal Oceans Committee to take better account of climate change mitigation. The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (OBCSA) is an updated version of Grijalva’s bill from the last Congress, which was amended to address concerns from the approximately 1,600 public comments received since the draft was introduced. previous law. As we reported last October, the bill proposed several consequential reforms affecting the shipping industry. Among its many goals, the OBCSA seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon storage in blue carbon ecosystems, promote coastal resilience and adaptation, support climate-friendly fisheries and to restore American leadership in international ocean governance.
From a shipping industry perspective, Grijalva’s bill is a first look at how the federal government might seek legislative solutions to improve global emissions from shipping. Specifically, the bill includes provisions requiring vessel speed restrictions in marine mammal habitats, distributing grants to ports that establish programs to reduce vessel traffic affecting marine mammals, requiring vessels to measure emissions greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging voluntary reductions in the speed of ships navigating in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
A full list of changes to the bill can be found here. The most significant changes to the updated project include:
remove the title that would have set a way forward to protect 30 percent of the oceans by 2030;
strengthen bans on activities on the outer continental shelf (OCS);
increase the targets for offshore wind power production on the OCS from 25 to 30 gigawatts by 2030;
modify the ship speed limitation program to make it less prescriptive and allow for science-based decision making;
create a grant program to support technology that reduces underwater noise from ships; and
offering a near real-time monitoring and mitigation program for large whales.
GHG reporting requirements
Notably, the re-edited bill retains the original greenhouse gas emissions monitoring, reporting and verification requirements for all vessels over 5,000 gross tonnes. This provision would require a vessel to measure and monitor per voyage and report annually:
total greenhouse gases emitted by the ship within the EEZ;
average greenhouse gas emissions by transport; and
average greenhouse gas emissions per distance.
The results would be included in an annual report on ship emissions, along with an explanation intended to facilitate public understanding of greenhouse gas emissions and the energy efficiency of the maritime transport sector.
Vessel restrictions in marine mammal areas
The original bill proposed that the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designate areas of importance to marine mammals where all vessels over 49 feet would be required to observe a speed of 10 knots or less. The new version removes the specific 10 knot speed restriction and asks NOAA and the US Coast Guard to develop a less prescriptive standard. The updated project also removes the requirements for large commercial vessels operating in United States navigable waters to be equipped and operate an automatic identification system.
Port mitigation grants
With respect to port activity, the bill directs NOAA to establish a subsidy program for up to 10 ports to develop and implement mitigation measures that would result in a quantifiable reduction in threats to marine mammals from shipping and port operations. Eligible uses for the program would include reduction of underwater noise associated with vessel traffic; reduce mortality from ship strikes and other physical disturbances; improvement of marine mammal habitat; and monitoring the interactions of submarine vessels with marine mammals. The new project would authorize the program at $ 5,000,000 for each fiscal year 2022 to 2026.
Underwater noise abatement grants
OBSA 2021 reintroduces the Quiet Seas and Clear Skies program, an effort to reduce air pollution, noise from underwater ships and the risk of fatal collisions with marine mammals. The program would encourage voluntary speed reduction of eligible vessels operating in the EEZ and distribute annual Quiet Seas and Clear Skies Excellence Awards for verified participation of eligible shipping companies. Maximum speeds would be determined in consultation with NOAA, the Coast Guard, and industry experts in shipping, air quality, and marine mammal conservation.
The bill would also establish a new grant program, administered jointly by NOAA and the Maritime Administration (MARAD), to provide assistance in the development and implementation of new or improved technologies that reduce threats and improve conditions. habitats of marine mammals and other marine species. by quantifiable reduction of underwater noise from ships. Additionally, the bill would require the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, in consultation with MARAD, to submit a report to the relevant committees of Congress identifying existing unclassified naval technologies that reduce underwater noise and assessing the feasibility of integrating these technologies into the design. , supply and construction of non-combatant ships.
LOOKING FORWARD TO
The reintroduction of this ambitious climate effort is further proof that mitigating the shipping industry’s impacts on global emissions will be a key part of the legislative agenda of the 117th Congress and the Biden administration. As discussions continue on the global stage, more action can be anticipated in 2021, including potential executive action by the White House, oversight hearings of congressional jurisdictional committees, as well as increased involvement of United States to the initiatives of international governing bodies.