We urge to write your Senators and Congressmen today to support EPA Permit relief legislation. To contact them an easy way, click here…
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Clean Water Act proposal in the Federal Register that will impose new requirements on recreational boaters.
Mandated by a court order in 2006 that focused exclusively on commercial vessel ballast water, the “proposed” rules include unprecedented, new regulations on American recreational boaters, demonstrating the urgent need to pass the Clean Boating Act of 2008 (S. 2766 and H. R. 5949) as these new regulations will take effect on September 30 at 11:59pm.
No Fee or Paperwork
In the beginning there will be no fees for permits, indeed there will be no “permits” as such at all, according to the 15-page “General Permit” rules. Instead, boaters will be granted blanket approval – so long as they obey the EPA rules. To our knowledge, this is the first time the EPA has granted a “General Permit” without requiring the subject of the regulation to file in order to qualify. Failure to obey the rules can lead to “permit” suspension and fines, mandated by Congress to be no higher than $32,500 per day. The fines, indeed the whole act itself, was never intended to be directed solely to boaters, rather to big business and cities who thought they were above the law.
The original Clean Water Act passed by Congress 35 years ago was designed to regulate serious polluters of American waterways including municipal sewage plants, chemical factories and waste dumps like the notorious Love Canal.
Fees Coming Later?
An EPA “Fact Sheet” says that the cost of administering the regulations will be $88 million annually, which can be recovered with a “compliance cost per permittee from $8.79 to $25.99 per year for motorboats.” The EPA says this fee will have “a minimal impact on all entities.”
EPA’s “Stealth” Strategy is Clever
Observers familiar with environment legislation are calling this “paperless permit” approach of the EPA a “clever” way to get laws codified without incurring the wrath of America’s 18 million boat owners. Once the EPA has weathered the storm of protest and criticism at the outset, these people say, the EPA will likely then promulgate more stringent regulations as time goes on, with or without fees and paper. In fact laws already on the books state that no subsequent regulations can be less stringent than the current ones. American boaters are now squarely in the same regulatory scheme as municipalities and corporations.
These same sources (including one environmental lawyer) tell us that soon any state that wishes can ask to set its own rules for boating permits, and then fees and paperwork are sure to follow. Boaters are sitting ducks for what will amount to an extra boating tax, in addition to state registration fees.
Statement from the NMMA
The National Marine Manufacturers’ Association (NMMA) issued a press release yesterday afternoon saying, “The EPA’s Clean Water Act proposal unnecessarily creates a cumbersome, complex and confusing permitting scheme for recreational boaters, throwing them into a regulatory regime designed for land-based industrial facilities like sewer treatment plants. As a result, America’s 18 million recreational boat owners will be required to observe a multitude of new rules and practices, yet they won’t be provided clear information as to how to comply with these new federal requirements by EPA, exposing them to a high degree of regulatory uncertainty, compliance issues and legal jeopardy involving citizen lawsuits and $32,500 per violation per day penalties.”
States Can and Likely Will Get Involved
“The EPA proposal also allows individual states to implement their own boating permits, creating the potential for mass confusion with a patchwork of differing state-by-state laws for boaters,” says the NMMA.
NMMA President Dammrich
“Now more than ever, it is critical that we unite—as an industry and as boating enthusiasts—and compel Congress to pass the Clean Boating Act of 2008,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA. “Boaters everywhere must reach out to their state and local representatives and ask that they support this key piece of legislation.”
BoatTEST.com’s Take on the EPA Rules
We find the EPA “General Permit” requirements an unholy stew of marina and boat maintenance “best practices,” common sense codified, incredible government intrusion, nonsense, and chilling possibilities. We think that these rules, while seemly simple “best practices” can be a Trojan Horse of increasingly annoying and needless regulations. Needless, because the amount of pollution of any type caused by recreational boats is a drop in the bucket compared to one bad rainstorm and an overflowing sewage treatment plant in Greenwich, CT, or the spraying of toxic chemicals along the coast to kill mosquitoes. Allowing the states to control environmental permitting for boats is a made-to-order new tax revenue scheme that many states hungry for cash will undoubtedly jump on, in our opinion.
Noteworthy for one reason or another are these passages extracted from the “Rules”--
• 1.6 Compliance
o “Noncompliance with the requirements of this permit constitutes a violation…each day a violation continues…” you can be fined up to $32,500.
• 2.1.3 Trash Management
o “All vessels must have appropriate receptacles for disposing trash…with secure lids.”
o “Prevent any trash or garbage, including food waste, cigarette butts…from entering any waste system.”
o “Secure loose items on deck…”
o “Do not dispose of fishing waste overboard while in a harbor or marina.”
• 2.1.7 Graywater
o “Minimize graywater discharges…”
o “Oils used in cooking may not be added to the graywater system or into any other discharge…”
3. Encouraged Best Management Practices
* “When possible use restrooms, showers…on shore.”
* "If possible, store graywater for…disposal on shore”
* "Use all soaps and cleaners sparingly.”
* "Purchase food in bio-degradable…packaging.”
* "Pack food in reusable containers…”
* "Use onshore fish cleaning station…”
* "Consider hiring a qualified, professional hull cleaner…”
* "Regularly scrub your deck with tap water and a soft brush…”
4.3 Duty to Provide Information
“The Director may request any information required to determine whether cause exists for…terminating this permit…” “You must provide any requested information…”
4.4 Inspection and Entry
“The vessel owner or operator shall allow EPA or any authorized representative to:
1. Inspect any vessel…and,
2. Sample or monitor…any substances or parameters at any location.”
BoatTEST.com pleads guilty to being old fashioned and persisting in our belief that the 4th Amendment (no unreasonable search or seizure) to the Constitution is still in force, the U.S. Coast Guard’s right to board notwithstanding. Congress did not intend for the Clean Water Act to be used against American recreational boaters, in our opinion. For that reason we feel it is imperative for Congress to set this matter to rights with S. 2766 and H.R. 5949.
To read the 15-page EPA rules document, click here for a pdf file…
To read the 45-page explanation of the rules document, click here for a pdf file…
Call to Action
To contact your Senator and Congressmen, click here… (If you are short of time, BoatTEST recommends that the above contact will be your most effect method to get action.)
To express your comments on the “proposed” rule making directly to the EPA, you can use several methods:
1. Go to their website and register your comments.
Once in the system, click on “search” and then key in Docket ID No.EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0056.
2. E-Mail the EPA.
Its email address for this matter is: [email protected]
. Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0056. (FYI—Your email address will become part of the public record.)
3. By Snail Mail
Water Docket, EPA, Mailcode: 4101T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0056.
Tips for Preparing your Comments:
1. Explain why you disagree with the provisions. Suggest alternatives.
2. Estimate potential costs or burdens and explain how you arrives at that figure.
3. Provide specific examples that illustrate your concerns.
4. Explain your views clearly.
5. Submit your comments by July 30, 2008.