Photo of blue whale in the Santa Barbara Channel by John Calambokidis, Cascadia Research

Addressing Impacts to Santa Barbara County

picture-this-whaleLarge ships are responsible for substantial amounts of worldwide emissions of black carbon, nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter, sulfur, air toxics, greenhouse gases, and substances that deplete ozone in the upper atmosphere. Shipping emissions have been included in District emission inventories since 1994, and the District has been working to raise awareness of the problem and calling for voluntary and regulatory measures to control these emissions. In Santa Barbara County, NOx emissions from ships traveling off our coast are a concern, as NOx emissions are involved in the formation of ozone, and the County does not attain the state ozone standard. A continued focus on marine shipping emissions is also important to ensure the County remains in attainment of the federal ozone standard.

Reducing ship speeds cuts emissions of NOx and other pollutants, and also reduces the risk of fatal ship strikes on whales. The District and partners in 2014 launched a Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) Trial incentive program, modeled after successful programs at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  See 2014 VSR Trial Factsheet and Report. The 2014 Trial was followed by a yearlong effort in 2015 by the Marine Shipping Working Group under the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) Advisory Council to develop strategies to further reduce air pollution and protect whales in the region. The 2014-15 efforts of the Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies partnership were recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 with a national Clean Air Excellence Award.  See June 23, 2016 news release from partners, and news releases from EPA Headquarters, EPA Region 9, and Congresswoman Lois Capps.

In its final report to the CINMS Advisory Council, the Working Group expressed unanimous support for a second VSR incentive program, and partners (the District, CINMS, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Environmental Defense Center and Volgenau Foundation), are currently implementing a 2016 VSR Program running July 1, 2016 – November 15, 2016.

Also in 2015 and 2016, the District was a client for a Group Project by Masters Students at the University of California at Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. The group presented findings of its study, titled “The Value of Non-Market Goods: Whale Conservation and Human Health Benefits from Vessel Speed Reduction in the Santa Barbara Channel,” in April 2016.  For more information see the project website.

Additional Links

Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Forum September 2014

Speakers and participants in the Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Forum

Speakers and participants in the forum:  (Left to right)   Brad Winney, Conserve.IO (Whale Alert developer), Linda Parks, Ventura County 2nd District Supervisor, Mike Villegas, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, Dave Van Mullem, Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (SBCAPCD), Brian Shafritz, SBCAPCD, Sean Herron, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), Kristi Birney, Environmental Defense Center, Wayne Miller, UC Riverside, Sean Hastings, CINMS, TL Garrett, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Steve Gaines, UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, Elgin Pallay, Maersk Line, Sharyn Main, Santa Barbara Foundation, Mary Byrd, SBCAPCD, Mike Murray, CINMS

This free forum was sponsored by Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Environmental Defense Center, and the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

See below for more background information.

  • Whale Advisories calling for ships to voluntarily reduce speeds in the Santa Barbara Channel when whales are present are issued periodically by NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
  • The District’s Board was updated on initiatives at a March 2016 meeting, see presentation.
  • The Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization will leave intact the original 2016 target date for new ship engines to achieve lower NOx limits in the North American Emission Control Area. The District Board submitted a letter calling for the retention of this deadline. See Board memo  and letter.

A September 2013 court decision will leave in place international rules to reduce shipping emissions. See this page for more information.

The District has suggested using AB 32 Cap-and-Trade auction funds to achieve voluntary ship speed reduction off the coast of California. This could reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and a range of other pollutants; it could also reduce the fatality of ship strikes on whales. On March 7, 2013, the District submitted a proposal for a vessel speed reduction incentive initiative to the California Air Resources Board, and on April 23, the District submitted a letter calling for inclusion of the initiative in the final Investment Plan. See April 23, 2013 letter, plus letters supporting the idea of a vessel speed reduction initiative from other agencies, businesses, and organizations. Also see original March 7 submittal with Implementation Plan The state FY 2013-2014 budget established that these funds would be loaned to the budget, and not expended in this fiscal year; the District is continuing to explore ways to implement this project.

The District has held a series of  Marine Shipping Solutions Group meetings. A November 8, 2012 meeting featured Bruce Anderson of Starcrest Consulting Group and Carter Atkins of the Port of Los Angeles. See presentation (PDF). See descriptions of previous meetings in the District newsletter featuring whale researcher John Calambokidis in the summer 2012 issue, and Lee Kindberg of Maersk in the winter 2012 issue. To be added to an email list for information about upcoming presentations, email Mary Byrd.

picture-this-whaleThese web pages provide information on emissions from marine shipping and on the District’s activities in this area. Follow the links below, and continue on this page for general information on shipping emissions in Santa Barbara County.

See “Past Activities” link above to see previous District activities calling for regulations in this area. Recently, several regulations have been issued that will reduce these emissions (see “Initiatives” link above). These regulations will bring about significant reductions in several pollutants in the near term; however, NOx reductions will only be achieved in a long-term timeframe. The District’s current focus is to explore ways to achieve more near-term NOx reductions and additional reductions in other pollutants. See “Local Studies & Actions” and “Technologies and Research” links above for more information.

District Contacts

For more information, contact Community Programs Supervisor Mary Byrd.