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US and Canada conclude season's ice breaking operations

  U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard crews concluded the nation’s largest domestic ice breaking operation, after more than four months of ice breaking operations in the Great Lakes. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, plans and runs Operation Taconite, an ice breaking operation facilitating the flow of commerce across Lakes Superior and Michigan, the northern half of Lake Huron, the St. Mary’s River and the Straits of Mackinac. During the 122 days of the operation, seven U.S. Coast Guard and three Canadian Coast Guard ice breakers spent more than 3,181 hours breaking ice for convoys and assisted in 677 commercial vessel transits to move an estimated 23.7 million tons of dry bulk and liquid cargoes with an estimated value of $829 million. These crucial commodities sustain industrial production and power generation for the Great Lakes region during the winter months. Ice breakers provided direct assistance for 353 of the transits. An additional 3,658 hours of ice breaking established and maintained tracks through the ice-choked waterways of Georgian Bay, Straits of Mackinac, Green Bay, southern Lake Michigan, St. Mary’s River, and across Lake Superior. Coast Guard Sector Detroit coordinates Operation Coal Shovel, an ice breaking operation facilitating the flow of ...

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EPA funds clean diesel projects at US ports

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  awarded $5 million in grant funding for clean diesel projects at U.S. ports. The selected projects in California, Oregon, New Jersey and Texas will improve the air quality for people who live and work near the ports, and significantly reduce emissions of the greenhouse gasses that lead to climate change. “EPA and ports have a shared interest in working together to find practical solutions to reduce pollution for the benefit of workers and communities,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said at a conference hosted by American Association of Ports Authorities, where she announced the grant recipients. “The key to our success, the key to healthier families and strong economic growth, is all of us working together.” Most of the country’s busiest ports are located near large metropolitan areas and, as a result, people in neighboring communities are exposed to high levels of diesel emissions, which contribute to smog and soot that can cause illness, hospitalization, or premature death. Since most ships and equipment at ports run on diesel engines, clean diesel projects at ports produce immediate emissions reductions and provide health benefits to those living and working in the area. Depending on the type of ...

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US releases Well Control Regulations

  In response to the findings of investigations into the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, and following a thorough evaluation of recommendations from industry groups, equipment manufacturers, federal agencies, academia and environmental organizations, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced proposed regulations to better protect human lives and the environment from oil spills. The measures include more stringent design requirements and operational procedures for critical well control equipment used in offshore oil and gas operations. “Both industry and government have taken important strides to better protect human lives and the environment from oil spills, and these proposed measures are designed to further build on critical lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and to ensure that offshore operations are safe,” said Secretary Jewell, who recently discussed the Administration’s energy reform agenda in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This rule builds on enhanced industry standards for blowout preventers to comprehensively address well design, well control and overall drilling safety.” The proposed rule, which will be open for public comments, addresses the range of systems and equipment related to well control operations. The measures are designed to improve equipment reliability, building upon enhanced industry standards for blowout preventers and blowout ...

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US progress on national plan for Arctic

The Obama administration released a report highlighting progress made by the federal government in the Arctic during 2014. In recognition of the Arctic’s importance to the nation, the President released The National Strategy for the Arctic Region in May 2013. This Strategy addressed a wide range of issues in the Arctic, including: national security, transportation, renewable and non-renewable energy development, increased maritime traffic, environmental stewardship, and research. The President followed the Strategy with an Implementation Plan in January 2014, which directs federal departments and agencies to complete specific milestones for the National Strategy over the next 10 years. To maintain transparency in Arctic activities, the Administration is releasing an annual report that demonstrates progress on the goals that were laid out in the Implementation. The Arctic has critical long-term strategic, ecological, cultural, and economic value. It is imperative that we continue to protect our national interests in the region. These interests include: national defense; sovereign rights and responsibilities; maritime safety; energy and economic benefits; environmental stewardship; promotion of science and research; and preservation of the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea as reflected in international law.  Highlights 1. Promote International Law and Freedom of the Seas The United States ...

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California issues Marine Invasive Species report

  The California State Lands Commission (SLC) has issued its 2015 Biennial Report on the California Marine Invasive Species Program referring to California’s ballast water management program and hull husbandry program. The report notes that no currently available ballast water management system meets California performance standards. Key issues Eighty-four percent (84%) of the 18,739 qualifying voyage arrivals to California ports between July 2012 and June 2014 retained all ballast water on board. These arrivals posed no risk for species introductions associated with ballast water discharges. Some vessels, however, must discharge ballast due to cargo operations, navigation, and/or safety concerns. As ships increase in size, so does the capacity of their ballast water tanks and the volume of ballast water discharged. Since 2004, the total volume of ballast water discharged in California has increased 96% from 3.5 million metric tons (MMT) (2004a) to 6.9 MMT (2014a). The increase in the volume of discharged ballast water in California is driven, in large part, by bulk vessels. Bulk vessels accounted for only 8% of vessel arrivals to California between July 2012 and June 2014, yet were responsible for 45% of total volume of ballast water discharged during that same time period. Moreover, the ...

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Senate Committee approves vessel discharge reform legislation

The bipartisan effort to establish a uniform national framework for the regulation of vessel discharges took another step forward as the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved S. 373, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, with strong bipartisan support. A broad-based coalition of nearly 60 organizations joined the American Waterways Operators in urging the committee to approve VIDA. This measure would replace a patchwork of overlapping and conflicting federal and state regulations with a uniform, science-based federal framework for vessel discharge regulation. AWO and the coalition will work with the Commerce Committee to bring S.373 to the Senate floor for passage this spring. "AWO thanks Chairman John Thune (R-SD) for his leadership in bringing VIDA before the Commerce Committee at its first markup session of the 114th Congress," said Tom Allegretti, AWO President & CEO. "AWO also commends Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) andBill Nelson (D-FL) for their bipartisan leadership in moving this important legislation forward." "The bill is good for the maritime transportation industry and the industries that rely upon it, good for the health of the nation's waterways, and good for the American taxpayer," said a letter the coalition sent to the Senate Commerce Committee in advance of ...

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Scientists question rush to build Nicaragua canal

A consortium of environmental scientists has expressed strong concern about the impact of a controversial Central American canal across Nicaragua. The path of the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans will cut through Lake Cocibolca (aka Lake Nicaragua), Central America's main freshwater reservoir and the largest tropical freshwater lake of the Americas; this plan will force the relocation of indigenous populations and impact a fragile ecosystem, including species at risk of extinction, according to Rice University environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez and other members of the consortium. Alvarez is co-corresponding author of an article that includes 21 co-authors from 18 institutions in the United States and Central and South America who gathered at a multidisciplinary international workshop in Managua, Nicaragua, last November to discuss the project. The paper, titled "Scientists Raise Alarms About Fast Tracking of Transoceanic Canal Through Nicaragua," was published this week by the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology. "The biggest environmental challenge is to build and operate the canal without catastrophic impacts to this sensitive ecosystem," Alvarez said. "Significant impacts to the lake could result from incidental or accidental spills from 5,100 ships passing through every year; invasive species brought ...

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