406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

David Vitter


Thank you, Chairwoman Boxer and Ranking Member Inhofe, for holding this hearing on the Marine Vessel Emissions Reduction Act of 2007.  It is legislation that I think we need to further examine and I look forward to discussing today in Committee.
I would like to welcome all the witnesses, and also introduce several witnesses from Louisiana who are testifying today. We are joined by:
  • Ms. Jennifer Mouton, of the Louisiana Department on Environmental Quality, Administrator of the Air Quality Assessment Division of the Louisiana Office of Environmental Assessment;
  • Mr. Joe Accardo, Executive Director of the Ports Association of Louisiana;
  • Mr. Joel Chaisson, Executive Director of the Port of South Louisiana; and
  • Mr. Ken Wells, President, Offshore Marine Service Association.
I respect that California is struggling to meet their air quality standards, especially with regards to particulate matter and NOx. While this legislation appears straightforward, addressing sulfur in marine diesel fuel to lessen particulate matter, I believe that this bill may have unintended and severe economic consequences for other states like Louisiana, who are in attainment with particulate matter and NOx.
The maritime industry is essential to Louisiana’s economy. Louisiana’s ports contribute 33 billion dollars to our state economy, and support over a quarter million jobs.  Two of the nation’s top ports are located within Louisiana. In fact, the Port of South Louisiana, represented at this hearing by Mr. Joel Chaisson, is the nation’s #1 port in total tonnage.
This bill seeks to impress stringent regulations on both domestic and foreign flagged vessels. For Louisiana ports, this could negatively affect us in several ways.  First, we are concerned about the impacts this legislation would have on business at Louisiana ports. Foreign vessels could take their business elsewhere if they are not wishing to comply with the regulations proposed in S. 1499 and could simply dock in Mexico instead and truck their cargo across the U.S. border.
These same foreign vessels are part of the U.S. export trade, so this bill could lessen our export capability. Rate-sensitive Mississippi River exports, like grain, could be severely impacted. This would not affect just Louisiana, but all states that depend on the Mississippi River for transport of their goods.
A second concern is this legislation would place U.S. vessels in the Gulf of Mexico at a world-wide economic disadvantage. Engine upgrades and control technology required by this legislation are costly. Domestic vessels working overseas would have to absorb these costs, lessening their international competitiveness against foreign flagged vessels.
Marine vessel emissions are a global issue, and should be addressed from a global perspective. The U.S. has already submitted a proposal for stronger emissions standards to the International Maritime Organization, and they are currently examining it as an option. Supporting S.1499 would push the U.S. toward unilateral action, rather than global cooperation.
I understand that the international marine emissions agreement (MARPOL Annex VI) prohibits unilateral action on the part of a signatory state. As a signatory to this Treaty, the U.S. would be required to abide by the Treaty's various obligations, including aligning domestic legislation to conform to the Treaty. 
I am interested in hearing more about the progress made with the IMO negotiations.  Rather thank create a blanket, one-size fits all approach for both areas in attainment and non-attainment, I am interested to hear more about proposals that have come up through the IMO negotiations that create specific Sulfur Emission Control Areas (SECA) to address air quality problem areas such as California that really have an air quality problem and are in non-attainment for particulate matter and NOx.
We should also be cautious of unintended environmental impacts. According to the IMO Secretary General’s report on the outcome of the Informal Cross Government/Industry Scientific Group of Experts, “in countries that are subject to the Kyoto Protocol, the addition of major new refinery equipment resulting in an increase in CO2 emissions may be a concern”. Low sulfur marine diesel fuel requires additional refining, which may increase greenhouse gases like CO2. This legislation should not have the world exchange one set of air quality problems for another.
I would like to ask UC to include a letter in the record from the Engine Manufacturers Association opposing passage of S1499. The EMA is actively involved and working with the US EPA, other nations and international regulatory organizations to reduce exhaust emissions from ocean going vessels.
We all agree that improving air quality is important. However, I don’t think nationalizing California’s standard is a good precedent. Unlike California, Louisiana is in attainment for both particulate matter and NOx. This bill seeks to force a “one size fits all” ruling on all ports in all states, when the factors are certainly not the same across the board. 
We need to consider not just the benefits of this legislation, but how this impacts our economy, so that we can work towards the best interest of all states, and also in the best interest of the US compared to the rest of the world. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.