Maybe it won’t take an international conference after all to clean up the gross polluters of the sea. That’s been the excuse for many years. Nobody could do anything about oceangoing ships that belch the world’s foulest exhaust because this was a worldwide problem. Not the local ports’ problem. Not the shippers’ problem. Not the problem of anybody who could actually do something about it. Now somebody has. California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, last week filed a legal petition asking federal regulators to act against greenhouse gas emissions from cargo ships, cruise ships and other large vessels. What this amounts to is an invitation to do the right thing before the state takes the federal Environmental Protection Agency to court. Such a lawsuit could do some good. Ships cause horrendous pollution to regions adjacent to shipping centers – and those downwind. The real subject here, however, is money. Ships burn bunker because it is cheap. But it’s also the dirtiest of fuels. Switching to low-sulphur diesel fuel will cost the consumers of imported goods more. But first the EPA, target of Brown’s lawsuit, will have to stir itself. If it does, any new regulations would affect about 6,000 ships calling on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The port complex and its many diesel-powered parts are the single biggest source of diesel pollution in the L.A. Basin. Will the EPA have to wait until, say, Singapore agrees to a ban on bunker? Not necessarily. Nations can legally limit environmentally harmful activity within their territories, which can extend seaward for 200 miles. Bunker fuel has sulfur content of up to 27,000 parts per million, compared with 15 parts per million in diesel burned by cars and trucks in the United States. The ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, mandated last year, results in lower emissions of nitrous oxides, an ingredient of smog, and particulates, which are known to cause cancer. Californians now are looking forward to the favor of a reply from the EPA to our invitation. There is more than enough reason to accept. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!