Yesterday Congress passed legislation exempting small boats from federal environmental regulations for water discharges, and it is now headed to the president for his signature.
Included in the Coast Guard Authorization Act adopted by both houses of Congress on Thursday, the provision allows small commercial vessels to continue to operate outside of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act rules regulating incidental water discharges.
Under the measure, water released during normal vessel operation including washing the deck or using onboard bathing facilities will be allowed for an additional three years, after the current exemption passed in 2008 expires later this month.
“This is a common sense exemption for our commercial operations like charter boat captains and commercial fisherman,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), a longtime advocate for small commercial vessel exemption. “I supported a permanent exemption for these fisherman, but Senate Republicans only allowed them three years.”
Nelson’s home state has been referred to as the “fishing capital of the world,” with a roughly $5-billion fishing industry largely comprised of the small vessels impacted by this legislation.