U.S. District Court Ruling Threatens Recreational Boating

Published online: Aug 10, 2007 News
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"As it stands now, a permit will be required for `normal operational discharges' on every recreational boat-even your dinghy-in every state where you boat," said BoatU.S. Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. "This is an attempt to apply a complex permitting system designed for industrial dischargers to recreational boats that will not yield significant environmental benefits."
Instead, BoatU.S. is pushing for passage of H.R. 2550 "The Recreational Boating Act of 2007." It would continue a 34-year-old exemption applied to recreational boats and release the EPA from having to implement an expensive and bureaucratic national permit system for all recreational boats by September 30, 2008.
The original lawsuit was brought against EPA in an effort to control the spread of invasive species contained in commercial ships' ballast water tanks. The tanks, which add stability, are filled overseas and then discharged in U.S. waters when cargo is uploaded. Ballast water is a primary pathway for non-native species, such as the Zebra Mussel, to invade U.S. waters.
However, 99 percent of recreational boats do not have ballast tanks, nor do they cross oceans in any significant numbers. For over three decades the EPA understood that everyday deck runoff, bilge water, engine cooling water, or gray water from sinks or showers, was not the same as commercial vessels discharging millions of gallons of imported ballast tank water. As a result, it exempted these normal operational discharges from the Clean Water Act permit system. But in 2006 the District Court ruled that EPA overstepped its authority, and started the clock on the September 30, 2008 permit implementation deadline.
BoatU.S. is urging all boaters to contact their legislators to co-sponsor H.R. 2550 which is a common sense solution designed to make the previous exemption for recreational boats permanent. "It's important to know that H.R. 2550 does not weaken any existing environmental regulations for recreational boaters. The main sources of potential pollution from boats-oil, fuel, sewage and trash-are already regulated and will remain so," added Podlich.

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