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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Office of Environment

The Office of Environment (OE) is one of three Offices that report to the Associate Administrator for Environment and Compliance. The OE serves three primary functions within the Maritime Administration:

  • Environmental support to the Agency, including Agency compliance with applicable environmental laws, standards and regulations, and Executive Orders; National Environmental Policy Act reviews and evaluations; and environmental support for Port and Inter-modal Infrastructure and America’s Marine Highway Program;
  • Marine transportation stakeholder support and assistance, including innovation related to emerging marine transportation environmental issues; and
  • Advice to the Maritime Administrator and the Department of Transportation related to domestic and international environmental and energy policies affecting marine transportation.

Environmental Support

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, was one of the first laws written that establishes a broad national framework for protecting our environment. NEPA’s basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that could significantly affect the environment.

At the Maritime Administration (MARAD), the Office of Environment is responsible for the oversight and coordination of the agency’s implementation of NEPA. Evolving missions and programs require a major renewal of the agency’s NEPA program for which guidance was last established in 1985. MARAD has embarked on a multi-year process to update these guidelines to reflect current agency activities and advances in NEPA. In the meantime, the agency continues to follow its current guidelines and those of the Department of Transportation.

MARAD performs NEPA analyses on Agency actions such as port and intermodal infrastructure improvement projects, Agency projects within headquarters and at fleet and regional locations, and for grant programs such as TIGER and the Small Shipyard program.

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Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a set of processes and practices that support an organization’s ability to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency. Environmental management systems are the main management framework for achieving the sustainable goals of Executive Order (EO) 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.

EMS is a tool used to pursue policies and goals established by an organization by properly managing its operations and activities. The management system model of “Plan, Do, Check, Act” provides a process to existing operations and programs to further ensure continual improvement. When properly implemented, a management system enables an organization to clearly identify and establish goals, develop and implement plans to meet the goals, determine measurable progress toward the goals, and make improvements to ensure continual improvement.

EMS assists the Agency in protecting and enhancing the Nation’s resource base and provides sustainability to operations and programs.

The Office of Environment also has a program to develop and implement EMS at each of its fleet sites and operational facilities.

Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP)

Under EO 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance,” the Department and the Agency are required to develop, implement, and annually update an integrated Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP).

Elements essential to using the SSPP include annual planning, budgeting and reporting for:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Energy Consumption
  • Water Consumption
  • Fuel Consumption
  • High Performance Sustainable Buildings
  • Green Procurement
  • Electronic Stewardship

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Carbon Emissions and Energy Conservation

MARAD has been working to reduce the Agency’s carbon footprint and energy use and move in the direction of renewable energy. This effort includes energy audits of ships and facilities, the purchase and installation of solar panels, installation of geothermal heating systems and consideration of power-purchase agreement.

In calculating MARAD’s carbon footprint, the Agency joined the Climate Registry through which a baseline was established in 2008. Since then, MARAD has undertaken annual updates to measure changes in the footprint and evaluate opportunities for emissions reductions.

MARAD has accomplished significant energy conservation measures within its Ready Reserve Force (RRF) Fleet. Several vessel specific energy conservation studies were completed in collaboration with the Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and local power providers. Based upon those studies, MARAD has implemented measures to reduce energy consumption.

In 2011, the Cape Orlando completed all energy conservation measures identified by its conservation study. This conservation effort resulted in a minimum 30% energy savings, significant rebates from the local power company and an annual savings of ten’s of thousands of dollars.

Similar studies on the vessels Algol and Capella were completed in 2012 and implementation of the results is ongoing. To date, these two vessels have been re-lamping to improving lighting and reduce energy consumption. It is anticipated that these conservation measures should have much the same results in energy efficiency improvements as the Cape Orlando, but with even larger rebates from the local power company and annual cost savings. Studies have also been initiated on the Cape Mohicanand Admiral Callaghan.

MARAD continues to embrace the use of alternative energy and renewable energy sources. We are investigating the use of Power Purchase Agreements for solar energy at several sites and are looking to join into long-term energy management agreements with both the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and private industry.

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International Environmental Standards and Regulations

The IMO is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution of ships. Staff members from the Office of Environment serve as technical experts on the U.S. Delegation to IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in five significant areas:

  • Ballast water management/hull biofouling
  • Vessel air emissions
  • Climate change
  • Ship recycling
  • Arctic transportation
  • Ship radiated noise

In each of these areas, Office staff provide the Department of State, the U.S. Coast Guard, and sister federal agencies with expert knowledge of commercial maritime transportation practices and practical and appropriate approaches to achieving economically sound measures to improve environmental stewardship.

The Office of Environment has also undertaken efforts within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop technical industry standards and guidelines to further the development and deployment of technologies and practices to reduce environmental impacts of marine transportation operations.

Specifically, staff members serve as subject matter experts (as well as Secretariat) to the ISO Technical Committee 8 (TC8) (Ships and marine technology) Subcommittee 2 (SC2) (Marine environment protection), which has an important role in establishing International Standards that can have a positive impact on the environment during all phases in the life of a ship.

One of TC8’s functions is to assist the marine community in implementing many of the regulations/conventions adopted by the IMO. Much of SC2’s work is directed toward implementing challenging aspects of environmental regulations.

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