U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) this week introduced the Recreational Boating Act of 2007, a bill to exempt recreational boat owners from having to secure a Clean Water Act permit for the normal operation of their boats. The measure is in response to a recent court ruling directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create, manage, and actively monitor a Clean Water Act permit system that would affect more than 13 million recreational boaters in the U.S.
"Requiring family boaters to secure a Clean Water Act permit so that they can wash their boat, fish, or go waterskiing is ridiculous," Martinez said. "This permit requirement is unnecessary and onerous. If allowed to take effect, it will be costly and essentially unenforceable."
For more than 30 years, recreational vessels have been exempted from National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for discharges deemed normal to the operation of vessels. Recently, in an attempt to regular ballast water discharges from large commercial vessels, a U.S. District Court ordered that recreational boaters also obtain a Clean Water Act permit. The Court also directed the EPA to create regulations governing recreational vessels by September 2008.
"The proposed permit system would hit Floridians hard. Our state has more than 1 million recreational boats. Mobilizing the EPA to take on this needless task would be a tremendous waste of resources," Martinez concluded. "The court's order is a solution in search of a problem and I'm hopeful we can head it off before it takes effect."
The EPA has appealed the U.S. District Court for Northern California's ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals but should the EPA lose the case, millions of boaters will have to apply for a Clean Water Act permit simply to operate their boat. According to the EPA, "the universe of potentially affected vessels could include over 13 million recreational boats."
The Martinez exemption would cover normal, non-pollutant discharges such as bilge water, deck runoff, and engine cooling water. The exemption would not remove or rollback environmental protections that currently prevent garbage, sewage, oil, or fuel pollutants from being discharged from a recreational vessel.
Joining Senator Martinez in introducing the bill (S.2067) are senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Trent Lott (R-MS), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and John Cornyn (R-TX). Companion legislation has already been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Gene Taylor (D-MS) and Candice Miller (R-MI).