Legislation to extend the current moratorium on a permit requirement for commercial and charter fishing vessels and other commercial vessels under 79 feet long, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Barbara Boxer, D-California, has been signed into law. The bill, signed by President Obama late Friday, provides these commercial vessels a three-year moratorium extension from permits for discharges under the Clean Water Act.
Two years ago, in the 110th Congress, bipartisan legislation introduced by Murkowski was enacted to place a two-year moratorium on the permit requirement while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Coast Guard were directed to conduct a study to evaluate the impacts of discharges incidental to the normal operation of such vessels. The results of that study will determine whether the discharges should be regulated by EPA through National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.
The two-year moratorium expired on July 31, 2010; however, the study has proved to be difficult and time-consuming and the results have yet to be verified.
"I am pleased that the President signed into law this bill prior to the July 31 expiration of the earlier moratorium," Murkowski said. "In Alaska, the 9,700 vessels that make up the commercial and charter fishing fleets would have been adversely affected if the moratorium had expired."