EPA needs your opinion on discharges from boats.
From todays Daily News
Boat owners may need permits
POLLUTION: California case could complicate matters for many Alaskans.
By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK
Published: July 20, 2007
Last Modified: July 20, 2007 at 03:04 AM
A judge's ruling might require federal regulators to create new pollution permits for millions of boats around the country.
All boat owners in Alaska, except the military, could potentially need a water-pollution permit to discharge deck runoff, bilge water and many other kinds of liquids that come off boats.
Some small-boat owners said Thursday they were stunned by the news. Commercial shippers and fishermen aren't pleased either.
For more than 30 years, small boats have been exempt from such permits, which the Environmental Protection Agency routinely approves for large-scale polluters such as seafood processors and wastewater treatment plants. But small boats have become entangled in a court case that environmental groups, six states and others filed against the EPA over ballast-water discharges from large ships. The litigants were trying to force the EPA to issue permits for ships' ballast-water discharges, which have introduced many invasive aquatic species to the U.S. coastline and the Great Lakes, according to federal scientists.
However, the Northern California district judge in the case declined to limit her ruling to ballast water. She threw out the Clean Water Act's exemption for water-discharge permits for many routine emissions from boats. Some of the more harmful pollutants introduced by boats into oceans and rivers -- trash and human waste -- would not require a permit under the court ruling. They are regulated under other rules.
So far, the EPA has identified 143,000 commercial vessels, such as fishing boats, cargo ships and barges, and up to 18 million recreational boats that could now require pollution permits under the court ruling.
State records show about 69,000 boats registered with the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles.
HEARING FROM THE PUBLIC
The EPA hasn't imposed new permits yet; it's just asking for public input. The agency is appealing the district court ruling and oral arguments are scheduled before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 14. The EPA has until September 2008 to impose the new permits under the lower court ruling.
Most Alaska boaters contacted Thursday said they didn't know anything about the case or the EPA's request for input.
Requiring a permit for deck runoff and bilge water sounds nuts, said Tom Garrett, an Anchorage small recreational boat owner.
"You can't regulate everything in this country," he said.
One of the Pacific Coast commercial fishing groups that petitioned the EPA to beef up its ballast-water regulations said Thursday he is concerned that the decision is now being applied to small-boat owners. "This could be extremely onerous when the discharges are essentially benign," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations.
The new permits would likely involve new fees for boaters and would create a lot of new work for regulators, some say.
"This could have a massive impact," said Sharmon Stambaugh, a program manager at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. She said the administrative backlog could be unmanageable unless boaters were able to get covered by a general permit, distributed to a large group of vessel owners rather than individuals.
The EPA has called a general permit for boaters "an attractive possibility" to limit costs and time requirements. However, even general permits require setting effluent limits, according to the agency. How would you determine acceptable amounts of pollutants contained in bilge water or runoff from a deck?
That question is puzzling the environmental compliance officer at Crowley Maritime Corp., which barges fuel to Western Alaska.
"Given the large amount of water that runs off our vessels, we're looking at a fairly significant administration burden," said Stephen Wilson, Crowley's Seattle-based director of environmental safety and quality assurance.
The EPA's public comment period ends Aug. 6.
The matter has raised some interest in Congress. A few months ago, two members of Congress proposed a law, the Recreational Boating Act of 2007, to retain the exemption for recreational boats.
Now that is in the daily Anchorage paper I am sure our two reps and one congressman will be getting an ear full. The appeal is going next month to the 9th Circuit Court, and knowing just how wacky those folks are the lower court rulling will either stay or get more restrictive.
The links to the info for making comments.
The link to EPA site explaining how this all came to be.
This is no good.
This ruling covers too many issues to be acceptable. How can you lump recreational boaters bilge pumps with a cargo vessels ballast water.
" Northern California district judge " Says it all.