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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big win in Washington for recreational boaters

Though many recreational boaters have been unaware of the impending disaster that proposed legislation on ballast water would have caused, it looks like we may have finally dodged the bullet. According to Soundings Trade Only, here's what happened:

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., unequivocally committed themselves to resolve the issue before a September 2008 permitting deadline.

“A recent court ruling has cast doubt on whether recreational boaters — people going out for a day of fishing, or waterskiing — can continue to operate without a permit from the EPA,” Nelson said in a statement. “They've never been required to have such a permit, and there's no reason for that to change. You shouldn't have to ask the EPA before you take your boat out on the water.”

Environmental groups and several states’ Attorney Generals successfully argued in a U.S. District Court case last fall that ballast water should not be exempted from government regulation as a pollutant because it introduces harmful invasive species into U.S. waters. Large ocean-going ships use ballast water for stability, taking on water to weigh the vessel down.

However, the court’s ruling also includes boat-engine cooling water, bilge water, gray water and common deck runoff. The court directed the Environmental Protection Agency to develop what the NMMA says is “a complex and costly permitting scheme” for the nation’s estimated 18 million boats by September 2008.

“I don’t think they should have to get these permits,” said Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in a statement. “I’ve committed with Senator Nelson to make sure we fix this before that time. We are going to make sure that individual boaters do not need permits — that’s as simple as it gets. That’s my commitment, and it will happen.”

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