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Rubio, Murkowski Introduce Legislation To Protect Small Commercial Vessels From Onerous EPA Regulations

Nov 19, 2014 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced a bill to temporarily exempt small commercial vessels from unnecessary regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for one year.

Given that the current small commercial vessels exemption from proposed EPA regulations expires on December 18, 2014, this bill aims to protect small vessels from these regulations until broader legislation, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, can be passed in the new Congress.

“We need to provide all shippers and other vessel owners engaged in interstate commerce with greater certainty that an overreaching and increasingly unaccountable EPA won’t crush their businesses with burdensome regulations,” said Rubio. “While I remain committed to passing broader legislation that addresses more of the problems the EPA is unnecessarily causing commercial vessel owners, this Congress should at least pass this temporary relief measure until we can pass a permanent solution next year. Once the new Congress convenes, one of the first pieces of legislation I will file will be these critical protections for our fishing and shipping fleet.”

“This one-year extension is an imperative for Alaska’s fishing communities; it will prevent extraordinary hardships on small, family fishing operations throughout coastal Alaska,” said Murkowski. “The EPA permit would impose operational limitations and physical modifications to vessels, many of which just do not make sense for fishing vessels, including trying to limit the ‘environmental impacts of rainwater or waves running off their deck.’ It’s tough enough out on the water, the last thing Alaska fishermen need are more EPA regulations.

“I appreciate Senator Rubio’s efforts to extend this moratorium through a larger bill he introduced earlier this year,” Murkowski continued. “But the urgency to look after our fishing fleet required we seize this opportunity to make this interim fix on its own.”

About The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act:  

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act would establish ballast water treatment requirements set by the Coast Guard in 2012 as the uniform national standard governing ballast water discharges by vessels. By 2022, the Coast Guard and EPA would be required to issue a revised rule that is 100 times more stringent than the initial ballast water treatment standard. And if a more stringent state ballast water treatment standard is determined to be feasibly achievable, detectable, and commercially available the more stringent standard would be adopted as the uniform national standard.  

The legislation would exempt incidental discharges by commercial vessels less than 79 feet, fishing vessels including seafood processors, and recreational vessels, as well as discharges that occur for research, safety, or similar purposes.  Not considered an environmental problem, these vessels have previously been exempted on a year-to-year basis.