Citizen lawsuits and uncertain state requirements loom
ALEXANDRIA , VA , July 1, 2008 – In response to a federal court order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a draft permit for millions of recreational vessels for “normal operational discharges” that could open a Pandora’s box of compliance problems and unfairly subject recreational boaters – including those who own canoes and kayaks – to potential nuisance lawsuits.
The EPA draft puts boaters and anglers squarely under new Clean Water Act regulations that go into effect September 30, 2008. The permit requires boaters to comply with a set of worrisome national requirements as well as additional state requirements “to be determined.” Penalties carry up to a $32,500 daily fine for each violation.
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) is urging all boaters and anglers to contact their federal lawmakers to bring corrective legislation to the Senate and House floor for a full vote as soon as possible. The Clean Boating Act of 2008 – S. 2766 in the Senate and H.R. 5949 in the House of Representatives – would restore the federal exemption for recreational vessels for “normal operational discharges” that has been in existence for the past 35 years until the federal courts recently determined otherwise.
“Boaters want clean waters and want to do their fair share, but the draft EPA permit unfairly burdens them with needless regulation,” said BoatU.S. Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. “The federal courts required EPA to draft a permitting regime that puts individual boaters under the same penalty system as corporate industries even though discharges from a rowing dinghy or motor boat are quite different than those from a large commercial ship with ballast water,” said Podlich.
The draft permit would allow the EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard, a state authority or some private contractor to inspect a boat and take discharge samples. If requested, a boater would be required to provide such government officials with information to determine permit compliance.
“What may appear quite simple on the surface will be anything but in reality,” said Podlich. “What happens if a neighbor – who perhaps may not appreciate boats – decides that you use too much biodegradable soap to wash your boat, witnesses an accidentally spilled orange juice draining out of the scuppers, or sees you wipe algae off the scum line? Under the present draft permit guidelines, all of these instances may be deemed a violation of the Clean Water Act,” added Podlich. “Even topping off a fuel tank, which is recommended for winter storage of today’s ethanol-laden gasoline, could be considered a violation,” she added.
Also included in the draft EPA permit is the onerous requirement that every state must approve the federal permit before this September 30. Each state may add on its own regulations, potentially creating multiple requirements for boaters cruising between states. After the initial permit this fall, the EPA will then outline for the states how they can implement their own permit systems, which could result in additional state modifications of the permit requirements as well as fees for boaters.
To contact your federal legislators, learn more about the Clean Boating Act of 2008, or to make comments on the draft EPA permit by August 1 go to http://www.BoatBlue.org or http://www.BoatUS.com/gov.
BoatU.S. is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters with over 650,000 members. The Association has been working with the National Marine Manufacturers Association and other groups to seek a viable solution to the proposed EPA draft permitting system.
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