Marine Group Asks for Quick Passage of Clean Boating Act

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) publicly thanked Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for introducing the Clean Boating Act of 2008 on March 13. The act restores a longstanding regulation that excludes recreational boaters and anglers from the federal and state permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act designed for land-based industrial facilities and ocean-going commercial ships.

"On behalf of America's recreational boat, engine, and marine accessory manufacturers, their hundreds of thousands of employees and the nation's 73 million boaters, NMMA offers its thanks to Senators Boxer and Nelson for working toward honoring their pledge to protect recreational boating," said Scott Gudes, vice president of government relations for NMMA. "We call on Congress to swiftly adopt this bill well in advance of the September 2008 permitting deadline."

For 35 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has exempted water-based, non-polluting incidental discharges that occur in the normal operation of a recreational boat, such as weather deck run-off and engine coolant water. The legislation recognizes that discharges from recreational boats, which are operated on average 31 days a year, are distinct from commercial ship discharges. To help protect the health of the nation's waterways on which recreational boaters and anglers depend, the bill also pursues whether reasonable best management practices need to be put into place for some recreational boat discharges.

Recreational boats are regulated under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Vessel Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and other federal and state laws.

The issue of new federal permits stems from a September 2006 U.S. District Court ruling that ordered EPA to regulate ballast water discharges, and mandated a September 2008 deadline to put it in place. Although the litigation was aimed at ocean-going vessels, the court's ruling struck down an exemption instituted in 1973 that applied to the incidental discharges from all vessels, including recreational boats. Large ocean-going ships use ballast water for stability and routinely discharge that water, introducing pollutants and invasive species in U.S. waters in the process.

"Unfortunately, the court's decision to overturn the entire exemption unintentionally tossed recreational boats into the same category as commercial ships," said Thom Dammrich, president of the NMMA. "It was clearly never the intention of the law, or the EPA, to treat your everyday boater the same as these large ocean-going ships and doing so would have a devastating effect on recreational boating in America."

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