Lawsuit could revisit marine industry emission standards
By Jonathan Sweet
September 27, 2013
Filed under News
A threatened lawsuit by the Sierra Club could mean trouble for the marine industry down the line.
In a recent letter, the Sierra Club and the California Communities Against Air Toxics notified the Environmental Protection Agency of its intent to sue the agency for failing to conduct a review of air toxics standards for 46 industries (including boat manufacturing) as required by the Clean Air Act.
Under Title III of the Clean Air Act, Congress instructed the EPA to conduct what is called a “residual risk review” of industries eight years after the rules for that industry was finalized, said John McKnight, director of environmental safety and compliance for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
For boat manufacturing, that means a review should have been conducted in 2009 of the 2001 finalized standards. The goal of the review is to see if new technology has been developed that require a change in the standards. As with 45 other industries, that never happened, McKnight said.
Once the Sierra Club files that lawsuit, the EPA will begin negotiating with the group. The case will almost certainly never go to court because the “EPA is dead wrong here” for not conducting the reviews, McKnight said.
The suit is expected to be filed by October 23, but its impact on the marine industry could be years off as the EPA negotiates and works through the dozens of industries that need to be reviewed.
“This can take many, many years,” McKnight said. “We’ve been down this road before with the marine diesel rule – it took 10 years just to negotiate it.”
At some point, though, the marine industry will get attention as the EPA looks for new technology that now exists, such as closed molding, and could reduce emissions, McKnight said.
In the act, Congress identified 187 chemicals as hazardous air pollutants, including several used in boat manufacturing – most notably styrene. The NMMA and a coalition of boat builders spent much of the 1990s negotiating with the EPA to shape the standards and reduce emissions from their facilities. It was a “huge undertaking,” McKnight said, and one that the industry will have to be ready for again.
“How ugly could this get?” he said. “Whenever you’re exposed to government regulation, you want to cut the best deal you can get.”
For now, there’s little action to take, but NMMA will continue to monitor the issue. It’s important not to be caught off guard when the time comes, McKnight said.
“It’s not like the sky is falling,” he said. ‘This is something we have to be wary of and watch it as it moves through the EPA process of negotiating a timetable.