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July 30, 2010

Small commercial vessels exempted from incidental discharge regulation

Legislation to protect fishing and small commercial vessels from excessive federal regulation for incidental discharges - such as deck wash, bilge water, and the condensation from air conditioning units - was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.

Senate bill S. 3372 extends an exemption for commercial fishermen, charter boat operators and owners of other commercial vessels less than 79 feet from EPA incidental discharges regulations, and protects these vessel operators and small businesses from the costly burdens of a regulatory regime designed for larger vessels.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Ranking Member, introduced identical legislation in the House, and the House passed that bill earlier this month. The bill approved yesterday now goes to the President for signature.

"With our economy still struggling to recover, the government must not enact arbitrary federal penalties which could discourage economic growth and job creation," LoBiondo said. "Vessels that operate without these permits could be subject to citizen lawsuits and daily fines that exceed $32,000 per violation. To make matters worse, the EPA has informed Congress that they do not have the resources to process the hundreds of thousands of permits that would be required."

Under the 1972 Clean Water Act, incidental discharges of fishing and small commercial vessels were not regulated until a court ruling in 2005 reversed this policy. The exemption allows the EPA additional time to properly study the impact discharges from small commercial and fishing vessels have on the environment and establish a more appropriate, reasonable regulatory framework. Under this legislation, the exemption is extended to the end of 2013.


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