The heavy transportation industry is a critical component to the United States growing economy, and enhances our standard of living; however, this critical component comes with noticeable contributions to air pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), large ships, such as container ships, tankers, bulk carriers, cruise ships, and Lakers are significant contributors to air pollution in many of our nation’s cities and ports. There are two types of engines: propulsion and auxiliary. The main propulsion engines on most large ships are referred to as “Category 3″ marine diesel engines. These engines are big, and according to the EPA, they can stand over three stories tall and run the length of two school buses. Auxiliary engines on large ships can range from small portable generators to larger locomotive-size engines. In 2010, the EPA adopted standards applicable to Category 3 (C3) engines installed on U.S. vessels and to marine diesel fuels produced and distributed in the United States. That rule added two new tiers of engine standards for C3 engines: Tier 2 standards that begin in 2011 and Tier 3 standards that begin in 2016. Currently, the cheapest fuel to meet these EPA standards is natural gas, however the use of natural gas would require converting a ship’s engine to use natural gas instead of diesel or gasoline. This is often seen as cost-prohibitive without a government incentive.
The Florida legislature is providing an incentive for converting engines to use natural gas and meet or exceed EPA standard in year 2016. Florida House Bill 1141 of 2015, and its companion, Senate Bill 1538, have unanimously passed through their legislative committees to date and poised to do the same on their chamber floors. The bills will provide a rebate to cover a significant portion of the conversion costs associated with retrofitting diesel or gasoline power locomotives and/or shipping vessels to use natural gas. For purposes of the bill, natural gas can mean a variety of different gases, including but not limited to, liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, butane, propane, or a combination of the gases. The rebate is capped at $500,000 per locomotive or ship up to $1 million per fiscal year, and the rebate may not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the conversion cost. If the bills become law, the rebate will be administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (“Department”), and the Department must adopt rules by January 1, 2016 to implement the program, and Florida ports will need to house liquefied or compressed natural gas facilities to enable the transaction.